California Hunter Cited for Illegally Shooting Moose on Grand Mesa

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The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) is reminding hunters on the Grand Mesa in Western Colorado that moose have been reintroduced in the area. Hunters are urged to confirm their target before pulling the trigger.

Earnest "Dean" Deaton, 64, of Los Gatos, California was cited by DOW officers on Monday, Oct. 17, after admitting to the weekend shooting of a moose calf near Hightower Mountain. Deaton was charged with illegal take of moose (CRS 33-6-109), failure to pursue wounded game (33-6-119.1), waste of game (33-6-199.2), and hunting outside an established season (33-6-120). He waived his right to trial and paid $6,384 in fines.

Deaton was also assessed 55 points against his hunting and fishing privileges in Colorado. An administrative hearing process will determine if Deaton's hunting and fishing privileges will be suspended and for what length of time.

A project to introduce moose on the Grand Mesa was started by the DOW in 2002, with the first moose arriving in January. There are currently 21 moose on the Mesa.

In an effort to educate hunters about the new moose population, the DOW sent letters to hunters with limited elk licenses in Grand Mesa hunting units for the 1st Rifle Season, which began last Saturday. DOW and Safari Club International volunteers also posted hundreds of signs to warn hunters about the presence of moose.

As Deaton's hunting party was setting up their camp the day before the season started, they were visited by DOW volunteers who were distributing a flyer explaining how to distinguish between a moose and an elk.

"They told us that a few minutes after they got the flyer, a pair of moose walked through their camp," said DOW District Wildlife Manager Renzo DelPiccolo. "This certainly wasn't a case of hunters that weren't aware that moose were in the area."

Wildlife officers were assisted in making their case by watchful hunters from Colorado and Tennessee who had seen the moose grazing on a hillside and witnessed it being shot. The hunters were able to give officers information about a vehicle seen leaving the area. A truck at Deaton's camp matched the description.

"The situation would have been different if Mr. Deaton had contacted us immediately after the incident and turned himself in," added DelPiccolo. "We can work with people who immediately admit a mistake in the field, but the situation is always complicated when suspects leave the scene and try to hide their involvement."

In this case, officers had to track Deaton and his hunting companions down at their camp. They spent more than three hours interviewing the hunting party before Deaton was willing to admit his involvement.

"There is no way that we can see everything that happens in the field," said DOW Regional Manager Ron Velarde. "But thanks to some help from other hunters we were able to move quickly and resolve this case."

Hunters who witness illegal activities are urged to contact the local DOW office, call Operation Game Thief toll free at (877) COLO-OGT, or dial 9-1-1.