Tales from Wasilla: A Redneck Black Bear Hunt

Black Bear, Prince William Sound, Alaska

Black Bear, Prince William Sound, Alaska

WC wants to be clear that he has done his share of hunting. WC grew up in a household where moose substituted for beef and where bear sausage was a staple. The only jerky WC ate until college was made with caribou. WC doesn’t hunt any more; perhaps empathy for animals came to him late, but WC prefers to leave the critters alone. Even so, ethical hunting doesn’t especially bother WC. But there are “hunters” who give the activity a bad name.

Like Andrew Renner and Owen Renner, father and son, of Wasilla, Alaska. Those are the perps who shot a sleeping black bear sow and her cubs on Esther Island last spring. The sow was a part of a bear study program; she was wearing a tracking collar.1 And, unknown to the Renners, the den was being monitored by a motion-activated game camera that captured their crimes. You have to have pretty feeble observation skills to miss a game camera. But then you have to have pretty feeble hunting skills to shoot a denning black bear. WC’s retired state biologist friends would call it a redneck bear hunt.

Andrew Renner isn’t a very nice person. His rap sheet runs to two pages, with multiple counts of domestic violence, numerous protective orders, a couple of dozen speeding tickets and some messy divorces. He’s been a meal ticket for Wasilla attorney Scott Sterling. But now he is a convicted felon. The senior Renner will serve three months in prison and pay a $9,000 fine. He’s forfeited the property that was used in his crime, including a 22-foot Sea Sport ocean boat and trailer, a 2012 GMC Sierra pickup, two rifles, two handguns, two iPhones and two sets of backcountry skis. His hunting license has been revoked for 10 years.

The kid, Owen Renner, already has a speeding ticket. He was a minor when he killed sleeping animals. Now he has been convicted of four misdemeanor counts related to the killing and transporting of the bears. He was sentenced to 30 days of suspended jail time and will also be required to perform community service and take a hunter safety course. His hunting license has been suspended for two years.

WC argues these thugs should never be permitted to hunt again. There are some hunting crimes that display such a total disregard for the law that the privilege of hunting should be lost for life. The criminal complaint reports that when Andrew Renner discovered the cubs, he was recorded on camera saying, “It doesn’t matter. Bear down.”

But it does matter. Poachers and scofflaws carry the risk of wrecking hunting for everyone. If there hadn’t been a game camera – and astonishingly bad observation skills – they’d have probably gotten away with it. Which underlines the fact that hunting is mostly an honor system; the State of Alaska trusts hunters to follow the law. When they don’t, when illegal hunting starts to impact big game populations, everyone suffers. When you kill a sow with cubs, the crime is compounded.

Andrew Renner has shown he is without a hunter’s honor. He should also be without a hunting license the rest of his life.



  1. This blog post is dedicated to WC’s buddy Milo Burcham. Those were his study bears.