mountains of northeast Tajikistan near China's border in December
The 65-year-old electrician said he felt like he was literally on top of the world after he tracked, shot and killed a 400-pound (181-kilogram), big-horned ram with the coveted, spiraling horns at an elevation of 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). But he was mortified two months later when he opened up the box shipped to his home in Great Falls to find the horns were not the 58-inch (147.32-centimeter)-long ones from his trophy animal.
"I could tell right away," Vukasin told The Associated Press. "I was sick."
The native Montanan who grew up hunting deer on the eastern front of the Northern Rockies had stalked moose in Saskatchewan and red stag elk in New Zealand.
"But the thing I really wanted to do was a Marco Polo sheep hunt," he said. He poured over books, guides and websites before settling on the excursion halfway around the world.
"The biggest of the species is in Tajikistan. So I figured if I was only going to be able to do this once, I'm going top shelf," he said.
Vukasin and his guide, Yuri Matison, saw animals the first day but had difficulty tracking them partly because it's hard to breathe at that altitude, he said. But the next day he said he "felt lucky" to land a prize with a rack in "pretty good shape … not all busted up from fighting."
Granted," Vukasin said, "you can have bad weather or you might not see any animals or you might miss the shot. That's hunting.
"But to shoot the animal and take pictures of it and then not to get it, somebody has to be responsible."
Frederick didn't immediately return calls or email seeking comment. The Associated Press was unable to locate Matison.
Vukasin said he contacted an FBI agent in Great Falls, who indicated he probably was a fraud victim but there was little authorities could do unless they found a number of other hunters who'd also been duped.
FBI spokesman William Facer in Salt Lake City said on Friday the agency could not comment.
Linda Linton, a Reno lawyer, said she filed Vukasin's lawsuit there because Matison and Ameri-Cana advertise and do business there regularly at conventions of the Safari Club International and the Wild Sheep Foundation, the latter of which named Matison to its Mountain Hunter Hall of Fame in 2009.
Vukasin is seeking $75,000 in damages for lost money, "worry, anxiety, loss of sleep, physical and mental distress."
"I've been fighting them more than a year. I finally got fed up and decided to do something about it," he said, adding he's convinced others have been victimized. "I have this stuff sitting in my living room and every time I look at the horns, I just get that much more mad."