A convicted Colorado poacher will pay almost $20,000 in fines for illegally killing, then abandoning a bull moose in Grand County last November.
On April 9 in a 14th Judicial District courtroom, the case against Callan Hyatt,19, of Broomfield culminated when he pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor wildlife violations including hunting in a careless manner, failing to locate wounded game, failing to dress wildlife, illegal possession of wildlife and hunting without a license. The fine total included a $10,000 further penalty - also referred to as the 'Samson law' - for the illegal take of a bull moose. Hyatt received a warning for a felony charge of willful destruction of wildlife.
Pending the decision of a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Hearings Examiner, Hyatt could receive up to a five-year suspension of his hunting and fishing privileges in 47 Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact states.
Officials learned of the dead moose the day after Hyatt killed it when a hunter called in a tip to a local CPW officer. By that time, the animal's meat had spoiled. When confronted by CPW District Wildlife Officer Jeff Behncke, Hyatt admitted that while hunting elk, he saw movement in the trees and fired his rifle in the direction without properly identifying the target, subsequently wounding a moose. Hyatt did not possess a moose license. He did not pursue the wounded moose as is required by law, abandoning it rather than tracking it, field-dressing it and reporting the incident. The officer says Hyatt's poor choices are what prompted the serious charges.
"We understand hunting mistakes and accidents will happen, but we expect sportsmen and women to take immediate responsibility for their actions," said Behncke. "Thankfully the vast majority of hunters are ethical and do the right thing in cases like this; unfortunately, there are a few that may prefer to try and evade authorities. We offer everyone this advice; if you accidentally kill the wrong species, you should call us right away and field dress the animal immediately so that it does not spoil."
Behncke says doing the right thing can be the difference between a simple $70.50 fine, or a $20,000 citation, felony charges and the loss of hunting and fishing privileges.
While investigating, Behncke discovered footprints in the snow and recovered a .270 caliber bullet from the carcass. The officer began searching nearby hunting camps for more information. At the second camp he visited, the officer matched the boots Hyatt was wearing to the prints he had seen in the snow. He also learned Hyatt had a .270 caliber rifle in his possession at camp.
"We thank Colorado Parks and Wildlife for their detailed investigation that resulted in the successful discovery and prosecution of the defendant," said Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Dowdell of the 14th Judicial District. "A hunter has the absolute responsibility to confirm their target and ethically harvest a legal animal. This case represents one of the worst illegal killings and waste of a bull moose in Grand County in recent years. Those who seek to illegally kill wildlife will be held responsible for wasting this valuable resource of the State of Colorado."
Behncke says he is currently investigating the poaching of two additional moose and one bull elk shot and abandoned in Game Management Unit 28 in Grand County.
"A legal, bull moose hunter waits a minimum of four years to draw a license," adds Behncke. "In fact, many hunters never draw a license in their lifetime because of the very limited license allocations. This act essentially stole that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from a legal hunter."
CPW credits the hunter that called in to report finding the dead moose. "He had two young sons with him," said Behncke. "I think the father set a great example about how to handle a situation like this by reporting what he saw as soon as possible."
The public can report wildlife crimes anonymously by calling Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Rewards are available if the information leads to an arrest or citation.
Ramble On: A History of Hiking