Deer kills could bring fines, jail
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
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
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.