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Hunter Pleads Not Guilty In Fatal Shooting Of Colorado Bowhunter


“When he saw white in the pines, he took a shot at what he thought was an elk.” 


Ronald Morosko of Pennsylvania, has been charged with the following crimes after fatally shooting a Colorado bowhunter last fall, whom he mistook to be an elk; manslaughter, a Class 4 felony and hunting in a careless manner (misdemeanor). Morosko was released on bail and returned home to Pennsylvania. On Friday Morosko’s defense attorney entered a not guilty plea and the case is now set for trial beginning May 16th. 

This case has prompted proposed rule changes to the blaze orange/hot pink clothing requirements for bowhunters which were roundly rejected by both bowhunters and the wildlife commission who voted 11-0 to table it. That’s all well and good but there’s so much more to be discussed here thanks to this extremely unfortunate and completely avoidable accident.

First off, it has been well recorded that Morosko did not take proper precautions before discharging his weapon and slaying Gregory Gabrisch. One of the foundational rules of firearm and hunting safety is to positively identify both your target and what lies beyond it. It appears that Morosko failed on both counts regarding this iron clad rule, thus the charges he has chosen to plead not guilty to. I’m not sure which is more disturbing, the fact that Morosko “…took a shot at what he thought was an elk.”, or that he is pleading not guilty. 

Now, I fully appreciate the tenets of our justice system and the benefit we all enjoy of being presumed innocent until proven guilty but I have to question Morosko’s conscience here. I mean, the guy took a potshot and killed another hunter, what is there to argue? Perhaps there is more to the story and for Morosko’s sake, I hope there is, otherwise the man is defunct of moral responsibility. 

The other issue, that I’ve seen very little discussion about, is how the state of Colorado needs to be rethinking running archery and muzzleloader elk seasons concurrently. Is it a good idea to have these seasons overlap? Anyone who has spent much time hunting elk during the rut has “called in” another hunter. This usually means a fellow bowhunter but in states where archery and muzzleloader or early rifle hunts overlap that may not be the case and treads dangerously close to peril.  

It seems to me that running archery and firearm hunts consecutively is a bad idea. For bowhunters it robs them of one of the big reasons for bowhunting in the first place… less competition and quiet in the woods, not to mention you’re now at a major disadvantage pursuing game. For firearm hunters a consecutive archery season also adds pressure to animals and since most of these tags are hard to come by, the limited pressure that such a tag should afford is tarnished by other hunters in the field pursuing the same animals. Either way the hunt is diminished and a hazardous element is needlessly intermingled. 

It’s always puzzled me why Colorado runs concurrent archery and muzzleloader seasons. Perhaps this unfortunate case will make the state rethink this practice and change season dates to accommodate all types of hunters so that avoidable events like this never happen again. 

I’m curious to hear what you have to say about this one. 

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  1. If you ever hunted Mt st Helen’s during rifle it is mandatory to wear orange. I have been shot at more than a handful of times wearing blaze orange hat and jacket. Not sure orange clothing is the fix. Overlapping season muzzle loader and archery both in camo could be an easy fix by either splitting units so they aren’t hunting same areas. Or alternate areas yearly.. Or change dates so they do not overlap. Or make hunters from out of state take a safety course in the state they intend to hunt. Being shot at only means your either in the game or hunting in an area with too many other hunters. Killing another human while hunting is negligence and reckless endangerment on the guilty person(s) part. Thought he was shooting at an elk, hmm maybe I KNOW I was shooting at an elk. Thought and KNOW are big differences when your hunting. The mts aren’t the “Hood” and just start popping off some rounds at THOUGHTS.

    • Men in no way look like elk. Bowhunters usually wear camo. Smoke pole hunters know they may be around. To kill a man because you thought he might be an elk should earn you jail. I would expect it if I did it. No worming out of it.

  2. Michael Gilliam

    If this guy gets off, at the VERY LEAST HE NEEDS TO HAVE HIS HUNTING PRIVELEDGES TAKE FOR LIFE. You NEVER shoot at something that you haven’t identified. That is unless it’s late at night and someone is coming through your bedroom window or in your living room.

    • Why would the need for identification be any different in your living room or window? Family members, friends, and sometimes professionals like policemen get shot mistakenly in the dark every year. You ALWAYS identify your target before you shoot no matter where you are. Even if it’s the identification of an unknown person about to do you harm.

  3. Seems to me that requiring muzzleloader hunting requires a drawn tag…whereas, an Archery over-the-counter tagshouldnever occupy the same season dates! I doing so, the state of Colorado is just asking for accidents to happen, Easy solution: make the second week in September muzzle loader only…or…have a pre-determined units muzzleloader only (no archery). This may mak some hunters angry…but it would be a much safer hunting season for all!

  4. I remember hunting in eldorado county in California years ago, a handful of non English speaking gun bearing adults youths were making their push up the mtn side I was on. I could see them creating a large 1/2 circle like a group would trying to push a pheasant field. I have no doubt they would have fired at any bush movement, I was quick to clear that area.
    How can you discharge your muzzle loader at a white spot? Shoot the elk in the butt? How can you not identify the elk, shot placement, etc.? No doubt this Moroska should never had been allowed to own a weapon. It doesn’t matter what seasons are combined he’ll it could have been a dog, deer, wolf, hiker, etc. this incident is total neglegence. I fear with our border policies we will see more shoot and see behaviors. I have been uncomfortable with the mix of muzzle loader and archery, I’d be game for gapping archery around muzzle loader.

  5. Everyone should think twice before whipping out your Montana decoy in any season specially your turkey decoy. I’ve hunted Colorado for 35 yrs and have always hated the overlapping season’s. I’m a avid hunter of both bow and muzzleloader.It would be nice to see muzzleloader moved to the end of September. The biggest problem is that you have both elk,deer and bear hunters with muzzloader tags all coming in at once when your trying to just bow hunt.

  6. Charles McMurrough

    This plea, not guilty, is an abomination. He is most certainly guilty. Prosecute him according to the law. No plea bargaining.

  7. Most Colorado Early Season bow hunters are not willing to lose nine days of their 29 day elk and deer season regardless if there are rifle bear hunters, ML rifle elk and deer hunters, Moose hunters, high country rifle deer hunters, Mt. goat and sheep hunters hunting parts and overlapping the Early Season archery elk and deer season in September. The CPW has stated that they want to preserve the “quite time” , ie, the two weeks after the September Early Season and prior to the first rifle elk season and not move the ML season there. Bow hunters do not want to split September into two archery seasons and many are willing to “work around/deal with” the ML rifle season. Some bow hunters may elect not to hunt during the archery/ML over lap, some may elect (not mandated) to wear Hunter Orange as recommended in the Colorado Big Game Brochure. The Colorado Bow Hunter Assoc. will collaborate with the CPW to develop best education/ hunting/safely practices during the nine day over lap with the ML season. While the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission did not vote for Status Quo, they did table the issue for future review. The subject of separating out the ML rifle season, from the Early archery season will be reviewed during the next Big Game Season Structure in three years, review will begin in two years. I have been hunting Colorado’s Early elk and deer season for over 30 years, and while there has been a large increase of bow hunters, ie, 54,000, during that season, ie, 50% nonresidents, and 50% resident hunters, I seem to do just fine with harvesting elk. There has been a movement to limit he number of non resident hunters or even make all licenses, Limited Draw. The Colorado Bow Hunters Association continues to survey its membership for their recommendations. If you bow hunt Colorado, join the CBA and have a voice in the decision making process.

    • Amen. Thanks to Colorado for not jumping the gun on this. Should we stop people hiking during the gun season because there could be an idiot in the woods that may mistake them for the game? Put the blame where it the problem is…a Hunter that broke the number 1 rule in hunting. Don’t let one Hunter change 30 years of safe practice. Splitting the seasons would only rob bow hunters of precious hunting time. Colorado averages 11 deaths EVERY year due to skiing. Are we going to ban skiing? How about lightning deaths? Hypothermia deaths? There have been 3 incidents between ml hunters and bow hunters In 30 years (I think 2 deaths). You will never pass laws to protect every situation. Hold people accountable for wrong doing and punish accordingly. The bow Hunter can always wear orange if he is worried about the minute risk.

  8. Hunter orange is a moot point. Colorado is loaded with backcountry hikers too. Are we going to make them wear orange? Secondly, this isn’t an issue of overlapping seasons, it’s about breaking a basic tenet of Hunter safety- be sure of your target and what’s beyond, regardless of weapon choice, season, or game pursued.

  9. Randolph Holford

    In my opinion the overlap of seasons is not causal nor is the presence or lack thereof of Hunter Orange. This is simply an inexcusable act of carelessness. The offender was unsafe, is unsafe and will always be unsafe. Unfortunately under our current system of jurisprudence he will probably not suffer much but the minimum sentence should be a lifetime revocation of his hunting rights.

  10. While I do live in CO and I am a life long bowhunter I do think its a good idea to let muzzleloaders have the ability to have a season of their own, even if it is during the archery season. But, with one key caveat: keep their weapons as primitive as possible i.e. keep the “no scope” rule and anything else that will reduce the temptation to take long range shots. As to the safety of the two groups hunting together I’m ok with it. Accidents can and do happen. However, shooting blind because you “think” it’s an elk or whatever is NOT an accident. Make an example of this guy and once convicted get the word out to any muzzy hunter that the Stae will prosecute you when it’s clear you were careful.

  11. Lisa J RAWINSKI

    I agree with Paul on this. Do the statistics…take 54,000 bowhunters afield, times number of days they hunt, times the number of years with no fatalities, and then compare 1 fatality per millions of hunters days. The fatality rate is miniscule and one most bowhunters are willing to take. Also, separating seasons is a bad idea because it would reduce the 30 day bowhunting season we now enjoy. ML season would be cut out of bowhunting days with no additional days added. Same goes for bowhunters wearing orange…this is WAY over reacteed to. Again the fatality rate is miniscule. JR Member Colorado Bowhunters Association

  12. Every comment submitted above on this topic is accurate and true ! That’s part of the issue.

    All Comes down to personal responsibility in the end. Throwing any number of solutions at the problem have merit and likely some increase in a potential lessening effect that cannot be discredited.

    However, it will never be feasible to regulate a humans decision to release a bow string or pull a trigger no matter the expanse of all these suggestions.

    Separating the solutions is a method as is aggregating.

    Some have said for years put all muzzle and early rifle, high country rifle, early bear rifle seasons etc at the end of archery last week of Sept and move archery start date up a week into 3rd week of August. Any circumstances that don’t fit into that structure then could have unit demarcations or other requirements such as Orange etc

    • It’s personal responsibility issue, the reason this is a big deal is that it’s really a rare occurrence, Not that it matters much to that man’s loved ones. As of for the hunter in question, he should have man up and owned the fact that yeah he did it and asked the court for forgiveness right then and there. It would cost him less in the long run with the loss of time spent in prison, my guess it would have be a short stay. Now he is going to get hung out to dry as he should.

  13. Where there is an overlap of archery and any type of firearms season in the SAME unit it must be required that the Archer along with the firearms hunter wear blaze orange or hot pink. Here in WI, if there is a youth hunt or another type of firearms season that occurs in the same unit at the same time, both archery and gun hunters are required to wear the orange or pink. Since this requirement our deaths related to accidental shooting of another hunter have dropped dramatically.

  14. Morosko sounds like he is of the “sound hunter” style, hear a branch break and shoot into the bushes. Very popular back east and I note he is from Penn State.

    I’m not sure how you are going to squeeze in another, separate season. Colorado’s seasons are already numerous and short enough (money, money, money).

    The good thing is that Colorado requires a “primitive” style gun; iron sights, (no scopes) and black powder or substitute, no smokeless powder, high pressure, extended range guns. So at least your have to get somewhat close.

  15. It’s a lot of idiots like hunters from Wisconsin and back East that sit in tree stands and indicate it’s fine to wear Orange – not Western states hunters that know how to spot and stalk – NO spot and stalk east of the Rocky Mountain states these tree hunters sit in trees. They are very unskilled hunters outside the western states. They should indeed wear Orange. As should every hiker in my hunt unit, or mountain bike rider or bird watcher that is out there – a Mask and Orange for anyone in the outdoors when any or every season is going on ! That fair for Everyone !

    Let’s see a guy wearing Orange do a stalk on a Pronghorn, laughable !

  16. This is the THIRD Colorado bowhunter that has been shot by a muzzleloader hunter that I know of in the past 20 years. I blame a lot of this on the Colorado Division of Wildlife/CPW or whatever they call it these days and I think they’re culpable. How insane is it to run archery and muzzleloader seasons concurrently? How can you make one group wear blaze orange and put them in the same season as guys in camo? Sure, the guy who pulled the trigger made a big mistake, but that mistake could NOT have happened if the seasons didn’t overlap. They could have prevented this tragedy and didn’t learn anything from the past two deaths. Muzzleloaders have to wear blaze orange, supposedly for safety. You can’t argue that they need to wear it but other hunters in the field at the same time don’t. Bowhunters don’t and shouldn’t have to wear blaze orange because bowhunting is a lot closer range and more difficult sport than any type of rifle hunting is. Colorado also has CENTERFIRE RIFLE bear and cow elk hunting at the same time, and in the same areas where bowhunters are hunting in September. There are over a dozen rifle seasons that overlap archery. CPW needs to get their act together and stop this insanity before they get more hunters killed. If I were a family member of one of the dead bowhunters I’d be suing the CPW for negligence. Bowhunters have been telling them for years to push the muzzleloader season later, after archery season and they have claimed it’s not a safety issue…..then why require blaze orange at all for anyone? There is no rifle elk hunting in the first two weeks of October in most units, and elk are often still rutting. Put the muzzleloader season there and make it a limited PRIMITIVE season, not another re-invented modern rifle season. High performance, modern muzzleloaders belong in the rifle season just like crossbows in Colorado. Crossbows aren’t even allowed in the muzzleloader season and they’re no more accurate or deadly than a muzzleloader. No other state perpetuates this nonsense that I know of, and I’ve hunted all over the west. Glad I’m moving to Montana soon, after 65 years in Colorado.

  17. Not only archery/ muzzleloader overlap, there’s also rifle bear hunter out the same time! I’ve never understood the idea behind overlapping seasons where orange is required!

  18. This is all the plan to CANCEL hunting in Colorado. The F&G has created a scenario that is dangerous, lethal to some, and that will give Left the Ammo to end HUNTING because it is too costly for human lives. Maybe CO. hunters should take voting day off from hunting and go vote to save their state.

  19. You all need to wake up and stop blaming everything and everyone else around you. This is what the left wants. It’s like gun crime – you don’t blame the gun, you need to convict the killer, start holding people accountable!!! People die everyday, whether it’s a car accident or other accidents. Like is RISK!!!

    On another topic, I want to ask you bow hunters out there a question. Do you think your $1k-2k compound bows with sites are more affective than the long bows or the compound bows? Of course you do, that’s why you use them. If your all such great hunters then put the compounds away and hunt with a long bow or recurve. That’s real bow hunting…. You like to trash the in-line Muzzloaders for using newer equipment – yet, you do the same!!

    • A couple typos—- Life is Risk ! Period!

      Also, Do you think your technological advanced compound bows are more accurate, faster etc…. Then the long bow or recurve bow? You bet you do, and they are.

  20. Brandon Sigfried

    Colorado is overhunted, many residents says its unsafe and its likely the reason why we have a declining resident archery population. See all the numbers thru CORA requests in this article. https://publiclandjurisdiction.com/no-state-treats-resident-hunters-worse-than-colorado/

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