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Moose Poaching – Know Your Target!

Sometimes when we are in the outdoors, accidents happen. At that juncture in life we each have a choice on doing the right thing or trying to cover it up.

Unfortunately some hunters make a poor judgement call at times. One such case from the ‘18 hunting season in CO has been in the news recently. A young man 19 years of age was caught and charged with almost $20,000 in fines for poaching a moose. He stated that when he shot, the animal was too far away to be positively identified while he was hunting elk. After realizing he made a mistake, rather than notifying the authorities, he neglected to report it and an anonymous source turned him in. Thankfully he admitted to it, but the damage had already been done, both to his reputation and those of law-abiding hunters in the eyes of the non-hunting public.

Aldo Leopold, often called the father of modern wildlife conservation, stated “A peculiar virtue of wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers.”

As hunters we are more than just killers. We are sportsmen. What’s in a name, you may ask? In the August/September issue of Eastmans’ Hunting Journal in 2016 I wrote a fairly long article related to this issue. We have so much responsibility as representatives of hunters at large when we are out in the field, and we have a tendency to forget just how much others are watching our behavior. I know I am guilty of this.

This article isn’t meant to brow-beat this hunter. It is meant to remind us all to be on our best behavior in the field and if we make a mistake, fess up to it. It is ALWAYS easier to deal with a situation head-on than to avoid it in the hopes of it going away. My dad always told us kids, “If you can’t find time to do it right the first time, when will you find the  time to go back and fix it?”

Iron sharpens iron so let’s all help each other maintain accountability in the field. Our reputation to the non-hunting public is at stake and with the growing unrest in this great country, we can’t afford too much more egg on our face.


Get prepared. Stay prepared. Hunt hard!

About Brandon Mason

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  1. Reminds me of a time long ago that I accidentally killed a spike buck mule deer when I carried an antlerless permit. The spikes were 3 inches long on the buck. I contacted my good friend and also conservation officer and told him what had happened plus all the specifics. He asked me if I had read the rules that defined an antlerless deer in the State of Colorado. I replied that I wasn’t up to speed on that. He then told me that to be considered a legal antlerless deer it had to have spikes less than 4 inches in length. Obviously I was relieved that my deer was in fact legal in all respects but that did not negate the fact that I did not look close enough at the deer before I pulled the trigger.

    • Nathan MacDonald

      I think the penalties should be even stricter. If people knew they would be in prison for a year and huge fine and loss of hunting privileges they might not poach animals and if they made a mistake they would own up to it. In the United States, there is no excuse for poaching animals, except out of greed, laziness, and bad ethics.

      • We all mess up time to time. Noone is perfect, if you find that person bring them to me I want b to see them walk in water. And we need take in affect you don’t know what you would do unless your standing in his shoes. Then if it was would it be rite for me to say I wish the penalty was stronger for you.. just reminder it’s easy to judge unless your being judged !!

        • That is the problem you just justify his irresponsibility with “No one is perfect” BS. He was poorly trained and if he can’t tell the difference between and Elk and a Moose then he should not be hunting. If he is not mature enough to be patient and verify his target, then he should not be hunting or next time it could be a person. Perfect? In this aspect I am perfect I have never in 40 years of hunting made the mistake of killing a wrong animal. I have passed on several animals I could not verify. If people are not held accountable they will not learn and giving them an out like “NO one is perfect” that does not do anyone any good.

  2. I hate to say it but it is so difficult to catch people out in the wilds committing acts of disrespect to animals and their fellow human beings that fines need to be harsh for the few people who are caught in the act. Accidents happen but this young man should have fessed up.Because he did not notify fish and game we have to wonder what his motives truly were and so he pays the price one way or the other.

  3. John Slugz Kelly

    Nicely written Brandon. !!
    More than ever today ” Iron sharpens iron”

    • Well said John ! Our pastor uses that phrase quite often. Great job Brandon !

      One of my bosses told us one time, we are our brothers’ keeper, if we see them doing something unsafe, we should point it out to them, so as to help protect them & others from injury.

      Iron sharpens iron, TrueType caught my attention & made me want to know more about the writer

  4. The penalty was too light. There is a significant difference between a bull moose and an elk. I don’t buy this young man’s story one bit. In my opinion, poaching, when you know the cost if you get caught is about the same if you were lucky enough to ever draw the tag then pay the fees, outfitter, etc. is no deterrent to committing the crime. The fine, losing hunting privileges, plus some jail time is much more appropriate and will make one think before they go down that road.

    • Fred ordifmeyer

      Loss of hunting “privileges” is appropriate. A $20k fine for a 19 year old is way out of line-volunteer hours would suffice. Locking him up in a cage is something only a sick sadist would recommend.

      • Agree, jail time was not needed (not sadistic or completely out of line either as he knew what he did was wrong and could have saved himself a lot by admitting his mistake – a hunter that can’t tell the diff between an elk and a moose or takes a shot at a distance they can’t tell the diff, should NOT be hunting period), but this whole country needs to RE-LEARN responsibility for your actions and that you will take and be held responsible for your actions. Congress needs that lesson more than anybody.

  5. Had he turned himself in the fine would have been less. $20K for a limited (Colorado’s Moose pop is pretty small – and licenses as rare as the Powerball winners) and trophy animal, might seem high to some and to a 19 yr old I am sure it is, but were it less, some with means would think nothing of it. Doesn’t say, but should also be at least 5 yrs or no hunting and that would mean about 40+ other states would not let you either. Fine kinda fits the crime.

  6. First an elk in Missouri now a moose in Colorado. The hunter not having positive identification of what he was shooting at is even worse.

    • Exactly! If you don’t positively know what your target is then don’t pull the trigger. Taking an animal’s life then saying “oops” doesn’t cut it in my book. Know your target or don’t hunt.

  7. I think that people should really take the time in figuring out what a moose is compared to an elk at least. Before going out and hunting it. I mean really it is not that hard to tell the difference. A moose has a hump on it’s back. Even if you can’t see the antlers learn what the body looks like. I want to be able to shoot a moose someday and if people are going to be irresponsible with hunting privileges then younger generations are never going to get the opportunity to hunt amazing animals like this.

  8. I think it was about right. He is 19 years old and scared shitless that he had done something that he knew he was in trouble for. He said his intent to poach wasn’t there and that it was a mistake. He made a mistake and is learning a very expensive lesson by paying a hefty fine.

  9. Never point your muzzle ay anything your not willing to destroy.
    Be sure of your target and what is beyond.
    2 out of the first 4 gun handling rule broken. Then lied about it.
    He’s sorry now he got caught?
    I think $20,000 is not enough, it would cost me more to hunt that moose!


    I think the fine it about right and loss of hunting in about 40 states for at least 5 years would make this young man thing hard and long before pulling the trigger the next time. He may have just killed the Moose that I have been putting in for about 20 years now and that upsets me.

    • Tom Dissinger

      I think the punishment about fits this crime. He should have come clean from the get-go. He’ll have a very long time to think about what he did, and the price he’s paying.

      • Looking at the crime and punishment should be considered although scales of justice was tipped in the wrong direction. Evaluate that poaching crime in comparison to crimes against people or their property doesn’t pan out.

        • Sorry but it was a crime against people and Their property. Millions of hunters/taxpayers and I for one have been applying for a CO moose tag for 18 yrs. Our whole political system is fubar, that is an entirely different discussion. One thing at a time – deal with what you can as soon as you can.

  11. if you cant identify a moose from an elk with modern day optics, id say you need to set the gun down and pickup bowhunting. once you have mastered this skill and can truly identify your target game species, then at this point maybe consider going back to rifle hunting. smh. although he did the right thing in the end

  12. We were taught in hunter safety years ago, know your target & beyond. This young man shot at an animal so far away, he could not properly identify it, so why shoot ? Besides that, the moose & the elk are not the same color. I don’t know the whole story, but I believe he got what he deserved & maybe needed to forfeit hunting for a while.

  13. I for one would want to know a little more about this young man before making judgement. Although I never made a hunting mistake like he did at 19 years of age or any age, I certainly did some stupid things and when you are scared, you do not always make the best decisions. I have fortunately lived long enough to sit back and try to look at all angles. Does this person have a history of doing things unlawful? Did he ever have adequate training to be in the field with a weapon such as having a hunting mentor? Has he sincerely expressed his apologies for killing the moose? Yes, the fine is an adequate penalty. If he is a good guy and just maybe he is, then it would be pretty cool to have someone step up and show him the way and turn his bad situation around. If he has a negative history, well then maybe he should have lost some hunting privileges for a couple of years.

  14. 19 years old… Do you really think he will actually pay this $20,000 fine? I doubt it. And are there any consequences if he does not pay it??? I doubt that also.

    • He will end up paying it over time for sure. Once you are ordered to pay a fine of restitution you are then on probation. If you get behind on your set payments they begin to suspend your driver licenses and so on until you face jail time. Its nothing but a downhill battle if you stop paying. I hope this young man understands that its like a huge credit card debit that keeps coming with no way with jail time to enforce it.

  15. Michael bowlin

    It seems that alot of people like to point the finger without having all the facts. If yu weren’t there yu really don’t know what the situation was. And just cause he might have been found guilty in a court of law don’t mean nothing. Dont bring in emotion only facts. Money or jail wont bring the moose back.

    • He killed the moose illegally via stupidity (his description) then admitted to it once he knew he was caught – should have taken ownership up front and fine might have been much less. We don’t need more facts than that. So laws mean nothing and we are no longer entitled to our individual opinions? You (this is how you spell “you”) must be a Hilary, socialism and/or communism supporter? And, who put “yu” in charge?

  16. Poor article! Very little actual information on the poacher or the animal! Just he shot it, and was fined! Big deal! I’ve been hunting for over 50 years so I already know all the other bullshit in the article! Your magazine & this blog gets worse all the time!

  17. Great comments and discussion. Lfr Gracias, the info reported in this article was about all i could find on the case. You mentioned that our blog and magazine get worse all the time. Any suggestions you can offer to make things better are appreciated. Thanks!

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