Troy Downing

Troy Downing

Records in an investigation into U.S. Senate candidate Troy Downing’s alleged hunting violations show that during the time he received residential hunting licenses in the state, his time spent in Montana was “seasonal at best.”

That’s according to tax and phone records as well as public social media posts analyzed by a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden who investigated Downing and later issued several misdemeanor citations to the Big Sky Republican.

Details of the investigation’s findings were laid out as part of an application for a search warrant filed in April by Game Warden Brian Lloyd. The warrant was initially sealed. However, Gallatin County District Judge John Brown unsealed the information on Oct. 17 at the request of the Gallatin County Attorney’s Office, which filed a motion for it to be opened to the public after Downing was charged.

Downing is facing seven misdemeanors for unlawful purchase of or apply for resident license by nonresident. He was cited an eighth time for transferring a hunting license to another person and a ninth time for assisting an unqualified applicant in obtaining a hunting license.

Downing’s citations accuse him of illegally buying licenses in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. The citation for transferring a license accuses him of loaning a 2011 Montana elk license to another for killing a bull elk.

And the citation for assisting an unqualified applicant accuses him of helping his nonresident son Dylan obtain Montana resident conservation, deer and elk licenses in 2015.

A person must live in Montana for 180 days prior to buying a resident hunting and fishing license. The person also must register a vehicle in Montana, file state income tax returns as a resident and not possess or apply for any residential hunting, fishing or trapping privileges in another state.

Downing pleaded not guilty to the charges at an Aug. 23 appearance in Gallatin County Justice Court.

According to the affidavit filed as part of FWP’s application for a search warrant:

The investigation began in December 2013 when the Montana Department of Revenue asked FWP to look into whether Downing met residency requirements for Montana hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. DOR said it believed Downing had illegally purchased resident licenses.

Downing had purchased resident conservation and season fishing licenses in 2014 and 2015. And in 2015, Downing purchased a resident conservation and season fishing license, a resident general elk license, a resident general deer license and a resident hunting access enhancement.

Income tax returns showed that Downing filed income taxes as a non-resident in 2013 and 2014 but as a full-year resident in 2015.

A Google search of Downing turned up a personal blog titled, “Troy’s World-Random Rants and Related Run-On Retarded Rhetoric.” There were multiple posts “that suggested Troy Downing’s time spent in Montana is seasonal at best,” according to the FWP application for a search warrant.

In several quotes from blog posts written in 2009 and 2010, Downing mentioned spending time with his family in his Montana vacation home and wrapping up time in Montana and returning home to California.

A 2013 Lone Peak Lookout article titled, “Man of Vision” in which “the author states, ‘This part-time Big Sky resident’s latest ventures include throwing grape-stomping parties at his working vineyard on his southern California property,’” the application said.

Several posts on Downing’s social media accounts also suggested nonresident status in the state as well as evidence of hunting and fishing activities during 2014 and 2015. Lloyd also noted that, at the time, Downing’s wife Heather had purchased non-resident Montana fishing licenses.

Posts on Downing’s public Twitter and Facebook accounts had multiple references to Sleeping Indian Vineyard in Fallbrook, California, being “home” at the time he had received Montana licenses. Photos Downing posted also showed his son wearing hunter’s orange and camouflage near Big Sky.

Records showed that in 2015, Downing’s son Dylan, who only had a California driver’s license, had purchased a resident conservation license, resident general deer license, resident general elk license, resident state lands hunt/fish/trap license and a resident hunting access enhancement license.

The investigation showed that Dylan used Downing’s Montana driver’s license as proof of residency for all of those licenses.

“Troy Downing’s resident licenses were purchased within three minutes of Dylan Downing’s resident licenses using the same Montana driver’s license to prove residency for both individuals,” the application said.

Phone records showed that Downing’s cellphone number had a San Diego area code. And Downing’s property at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky has an owner’s address listed as a P.O. box from Bonsall, California, located within the greater San Diego area.

When Downing was contacted on Feb. 15 by Warden Lloyd to advise him of the discrepancies the agency had found, Downing said that he owned his home in Montana “longer than any other residence,” and that he voted and paid taxes in the state.

“Downing also stated that if someone wanted to count days, he is probably in Montana more than any other place,” the application said.

There will be an omnibus hearing in the case in Gallatin County Justice Court on Nov. 15 at 1:30 p.m.

Downing is seeking the Republican nomination to run against U.S. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018 along with State Auditor Matt Rosendale, state Sen. Albert Olszewki of Kalispell, James William Dean and Belgrade businessman Ron Murray.

Downing’s campaign chair is Lola Zinke, wife of U.S. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke.

Over the weekend, Downing posted a photo on Twitter of he and his family alongside Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, both wearing “Troy Downing for U.S. Senate” hats.

The Chronicle reached out to Christopher Williams, Downing’s attorney, but did not receive a response as of press time.

Freddy Monares can be reached at 406-582-2630, or by email at fmonares@dailychronicle.com.

Reporter

Freddy Monares covers politics and county government for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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