Lost hunter’s phone may hold clues

The Sweet Grass County Sheriff’s Office is hoping more clues are contained within the cell phone of Aaron Joseph Hedges, a Bozeman hunter whose remains were found Aug. 5 near Melville. 

Hedges was 38 at the time of his disappearance and was last seen in the Campfire Lake area of the Crazy Mountains where he was hunting elk with two friends. Hedges was initially reported missing Sept. 10, 2014.

Sheriff Dan Tronrud said the sheriff’s office has been unable to retrieve any information from Hedges’ Samsung smartphone thus far, but noted the department has had success with other phones in the past. 

“It just depends on how long they’ve laid out there and this one’s laid there for a long time, so it won’t power up for us,” Tronrud said. “Normally we can get them to power up and then we can pull some stuff off.” 

The sheriff’s office did purchase a new battery for the phone and Tronrud said Undersheriff Alan Ronneberg is planning to take the device to a data retrieval service in Bozeman later this week. If data retrieval proves unsuccessful, Tronrud will send Hedges’ phone to the Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI) in Great Falls. However, he said the phone wouldn’t be a priority for DCI because the case “doesn’t seem to be a crime.”

“We’re trying to do everything we can to try and not tie up a crime lab for something like that,” Tronrud said. “They would do it for us as part of our investigation, but it would be on the back burner.”

Tronrud is hoping to find Hedges’ last text messages and photos. 

“He kept it with him,” Tronrud said. “So that tells me he probably had enough power to know it was on.”

By Mackenzie Reiss / Pioneer Staff Writer


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