Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS: > 2003


Deer kills could bring fines, jail

Denver Post

By Theo Stein

Denver Post Environment Writer

Sunday, December 07, 2003 -

Six men have been accused of killing five mule deer bucks at night on private land in one of southern Colorado's biggest trophy poaching cases.

Three of the bucks bore antlers large enough for their killing to qualify under the state's Samson's law. The law, which carries a $10,000 penalty per violation, was named for a giant bull elk poached near Estes Park in 1995.

All six could face fines of $30,000 for the alleged Samson's law violations alone. The other charges carry penalties that include a year in jail, loss of hunting privileges and thousands of dollars of additional fines.

Law enforcement officials said the men are accused of "jacklighting" the deer on consecutive nights at the end of October in Custer County.

"Jacklighting" involves the use of a powerful light to freeze a deer in its tracks so it can be killed more easily.

Wildlife officers were alerted to the crime by passers-by who saw two carcasses on the side of a road with their antlers removed. The men took only the antlers and heads, officials said.

Fremont County District Attorney Norm Cooling said his office could have filed felony counts for wasting edible game but elected to go forward with misdemeanor charges because prosecutors have a better chance of conviction on those charges.

"We are certainly taking this seriously," Cooling said. "I wouldn't want to be one of those guys, staring at penalties that include jail time, thousands of dollars in fines and loss of hunting privileges."

Hunters contacted by The Denver Post said the court system needs to be heavy-handed with game-law violators.

"Poachers steal from all of us," said Paul Navarre of Fort Collins, a member of the Colorado Bowhunters Association board of directors. "These game thieves should receive the maximum fines, jail terms and loss of hunting privileges if possible. Law-abiding hunters demand that the game laws of Colorado be enforced."

One of the men charged, Kurt Oliver Leach, 38, of Pueblo West, owns a sporting goods store that sells hunting licenses for the Division of Wildlife. Al Trujillo, the division's Pueblo-area wildlife manager, said the agency may revoke Leach's right to sell hunting licenses if he is convicted.

Leach is charged with five counts of illegal possession of wildlife, which carries a $959 fine per count.

Michael D. O'Neal, 38, of Penrose faces 15 charges: six counts of illegal possession of wildlife, five counts of waste of edible game and one count each of hunting without a license, hunting by artificial light, hunting on private property and hunting out of season. He could be jailed, fined more than $38,000 and lose his hunting privileges for life in Colorado and other states.

Also charged were William Terry Landrum, 46, of Penrose; Troy M. Evans, 36, of Pueblo; Stephen Edward Cochran, 43, of Wetmore; and Christopher Sean Tallant, 37, of Grand Junction.

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