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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS: > 2004

WILDLIFE OFFICIALS INVESTIGATE ACCUSATIONS OF TRAPPING DEER

Jun. 23, 2004

"THAT'S GOTTA BE TOUGH, TRYING TO GET A SHOT WITH ALL THOSE ANIMALS STANDING IN THE CORNER OF THAT FENCE." "OH YEAH, THAT'S REAL TOUGH, HA, HA."

A secretly made videotape of a hunting incident in Southern Utah has raised ethical questions and triggered an investigation by wildlife officials.

It appears to show deer and elk deliberately trapped ... until a prize buck is shot and killed by a California hunter. A hunter, who paid big money for the kill.

John Hollenhorst is here ... to tell us more.

The hunting outfitter vigorously denies allegations of trapping. He says this videotape... which we received anonymously... is misleading.

But he admits what happened was bad. And a top wildlfie official says he finds it very distasteful.

The incident took place just outside Alton in Kane County. It's private farmland where a California hunter paid about 11,000 dollars to shoot a trophy deer.

Last September, other hunters shot this videotape as the Californian and two guides went after an especially desirable buck deer.

OFF-CAMERA VOICES: "THEY GOT HIM TRAPPED, DON'T THEY?

In off-camera conversations, the videotapers are heard accusing the hunting party of cornering deer and elk along an 8-foot-high fence for at least an hour or two.

OFF-CAMERA VOICES: "THAT'S SAD MAN, IT MAKES YOU SICK." "NOT A VERY NOBLE DEATH IS IT?"

Eventually the prize buck of the herd dropped to the ground.

BANG! OFF-CAMERA VOICES: "THEY NICKED HIM, DID THEY? "THEY KILLED HIM."

But outfitter Wade Heaton says the deer had plenty of running room. A vast acreage is contained within a series of fences that are mostly low enough for deer to jump over. A partially completed 8-foot-high fence was only a partial barrier to the trophy buck.

WADE HEATON/COLOR COUNTRY OUTFITTERS: "HE WAS IN NO WAY TRAPPED. THERE WAS LOTS OF GROUND FOR HIM TO COVER. HE JUST PICKED A PARTICULAR CORNER THERE THAT HE COULDN'T GO OUT OF."

He says the incident stretched on because the first shot only wounded the deer. The rifle malfunctioned and it took time to get another rifle and finish the job.

WADE HEATON/COLOR COUNTRY OUTFITTERS: "NO ONE IS PARTICULARLY HAPPY ABOUT IT. IT WAS AN UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN AND THANK GOODNESS THAT IT WON'T."

JOHN HOLLENHORST REPORTING: "THE PEOPLE WHO SHOT THE VIDEO REFUSED TO SPEAK TO US ON CAMERA. BUT ONE OF THEM TOLD US IT WAS OBVIOUS THE DEER WERE TRAPPED BY THE FENCE, AND THEIR EXIT POINTS CUT OFF BY PEOPLE AND VEHICLES."

OFF-CAMERA VOICES: "THOSE GATES RIGHT THERE HAVEN'T BEEN THERE ALL SUMMER AND NOW THEY'RE PROPPED UP."

The videotapers claim that exit points were blocked by temporary gates, put up just before the hunt.

WADE HEATON/COLOR COUNTRY OUTFITTERS: "HUUNHHH. YOU KNOW I REALLY, UH, I COULD GIVE YOU MY OPINION ON THAT. BUT I REALLY DON'T KNOW. SOME OF THE OTHER HUNTERS IN THE AREA THAT WEREN'T PART OF OUR GROUP, I HEARD THEY WERE DOING THAT AS WELL. BUT I REALLY CAN'T CONFIRM THAT EITHER."

The case is tricky from a legal standpoint: How do you define the difference between trapping in fact... versus trapping in effect.

And it's an ethical quandary too: how different is this from a group of hunters pressuring a herd of deer up a box canyon. A common practice.

The Division of Wildlife has completed an investigation and it's now in the hands of the Kane County Attorney.


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