ALVA — Angry hunters and landowners have sparked a state investigation of a Coweta man accused of organizing guided hunts on private Oklahoma land he didn’t own or lease. Hunters have complained for years to Oklahoma law enforcement authorities about deer and quail hunts organized by James Adam "A.J.” Jenkins. The complaints have come from western Oklahoma landowners as well as hunters located in North Carolina, Maryland, Arkansas and several other states. "To do that with people that carry guns is pretty stupid,” said Rob Sample, an Arkansas man who said he was part of a group of 12 hunters who were duped into paying Jenkins $20,000 in advance last spring for a quail hunt this coming November. "We’re not that kind ... but he could sure put together a lynch mob really easily if he weren’t careful.” Sample, 50, said his group tried unsuccessfully to get its money back after one of Jenkins’ guides called and warned them that Jenkins had repeatedly gotten hunters in trouble by putting them in situations where they were trespassing. Jenkins, 38, denies trying to defraud hunters. "I know there are several complaints and those are ... being managed,” Jenkins said. "Overwhelmingly our business is a legitimate business where we do well with most of our customers and we want to fix any problems that we’ve had. There’s definitely not some coordinated effort to try to run hunts where people don’t belong.”
History of problemsControversy surrounded Jenkins long before Sample’s group met up with him. Hunters who had been dropped off by Jenkins or his hired guides were caught trespassing on private property in Woods County on three separate occasions in October and November 2007. In a sworn affidavit, game ranger Terry Swallow described a heated meeting he and fellow game ranger Ben Bickerstaff had with "21 mad hunters” who all had paid $800 for a three-day hunt, only to discover that hunters had been "put on property that they did not have permission to hunt.” "A.J. Jenkins showed up to see what was wrong and the confrontation became so heated that Ben had to get between Jenkins and one of the hunters,” Swallow wrote. Jenkins subsequently was charged with four misdemeanor counts of hunting without permission. In April of this year, prosecutors dismissed all four counts. "They didn’t have a case to prosecute those tickets,” Jenkins said. However, Westline Ritter, assistant district attorney, said prosecutors dismissed the counts to avoid the potential of creating a double jeopardy situation after receiving additional evidence of more serious violations that might lead to felony charges. "The D.A.’s office continues to receive numerous phone calls from across the United States of ongoing criminal activity including guided hunts under various names and companies,” Ritter wrote in her April request to dismiss the counts. Big Cedar Hunts and Sandy River Whitetails are among the business names Jenkins reportedly has used. "There is an ongoing investigation by the attorney general’s office,” Ritter said. Jenkins has a history with the Oklahoma court system. He received a deferred sentence in 2002 on a Wagoner County felony charge of obtaining merchandise by bogus check and has had other bogus check charges and charges of defrauding innkeepers dismissed after paying back alleged victims.
‘Miscommunications’Jenkins thinks the controversy surrounding him is being blown out of proportion. "There’s been a few miscommunications in the past, but those are not the norm,” Jenkins said. "We have done a very large volume of business and the wide majority of it has been without any issue.” Jenkins said refunds for bad experiences are considered on a case by case basis, and he will follow through on refund promises he has made. He said his hunting business is ongoing.
Upset huntersGary Quigg, a North Carolina bow hunter, said he was part of a group of 12 that went on a three-day "trophy deer hunt” set up by Jenkins. Most members of the group paid $800 each to participate. "It was a disaster of a hunt,” he said. "Multiple members of the group got yelled at and kicked off property that it turned out he did not have permission to hunt on.” Quigg said he and other hunters found themselves in dangerous situations after being placed out in small fields with other hunters they didn’t know about. John Groendyke, a state wildlife commissioner of more than 30 years, said complaints about Jenkins "have been going on for several years.” He said there is no licensing requirement for hunting guides, but the Wildlife Department would support one.