Colorado Convictions for Bighorn Sheep Killed

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A Colorado outfitter has pled guilty for hunting in a closed area about 70 yards from the shoulder of I-70 near Georgetown. Terry Sandmeier, 49, an outfitter from Fairplay, Colorado, was guiding the recipient of the 2006 Auction sheep license, Byron Sadler, 64, of Lake Jackson, Texas on October 24, 2006 when they shot and killed a bighorn sheep ram off of the nearby frontage road. Bighorn Sheep hunting has been prohibited within a 1/4 mile of I-70 since 1986.

Mr. Sadler paid $60,000 for the tag in an auction sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Society. Auction and raffle licenses are issued by the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) and have existed for bighorn sheep for a number of years. The legislation that created the sheep licenses established two licenses, one to be sold at auction and one to be sold through a raffle to generate funds for research and habitat.

Concerned hunters from Wisconsin spotted the two individuals parked by the side of the highway and alerted the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s office. A DOW officer was dispatched to investigate and found that a sheep had been shot in violation of the closure. Mr. Sadler was issued a citation and paid fines of $4537 for hunting in a closed area. The sheep that was shot was seized by DOW and will be used for public education.

Since Mr. Sadler was guided by someone who knew the area and the regulations therein and because the violation was not related to the license, the DOW allowed him to continue hunting and he filled his tag during a hunt elsewhere in Colorado.

Mr. Sandmeier was charged with hunting in a closure, illegal possession of wildlife and the Sampson surcharge of $25,000, which is imposed for killing a trophy-size bighorn sheep of ½ curl or larger. Mr. Sandmeier and the Clear Creek district attorney’s office in the 5th judicial disctrict reached a plea bargain where he pled guilty to hunting in a closed area and paid $4558 in fines and $5442 to Operation Game Thief on May 15, 2007. In a second case, Gary Thurow, 54, of Parker, Colorado, shot a bighorn ram on October 4, 2006 using a valid license he had drawn for the Georgetown sheep unit. However, when Mr. Thurow brought his sheep in to the DOW offices for mandatory checking and identification plugging, his nervous behavior and inability to pinpoint the hunt location inspired further investigation.

DOW Officers investigated and found that Mr. Thurow had previous criminal convictions that prevented him from possessing weapons and was currently on probation stemming from a 2002 felony case in Jefferson County—a probation that also prohibited the possession of a firearm.

After securing a warrant, DOW officers executed a search of Mr. Thurow’s home, where they found several firearms, documentation of which Mr. Thurow is prohibited from owning, as well as other evidence related to the October hunt. Investigators also found raptor parts, which are unlawful to possess by federal law. By the end of the search and interview, Mr. Thurow admitted to hunting inside a closure, as he had shot the ram near Highways 6 and 119.

Gary Thurow was arrested for felony possession of a firearm in Douglas County and was charged in Clear Creek County with hunting in a closure, illegal possession of wildlife and forgery (for lying on the location of the bighorn sheep kill). He pled guilty to all three charges and made a $2,500 donation to Operation Game Thief. He received 2 years in Department of Corrections for violating his probation for his 2002 Jefferson County case and 6 months for forgery.

Both cases were made possible with the cooperation and assistance of the Georgetown Police Department, the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office, the Clear Creek County District Attorney’s Office, the United States Fish & Wildlife Services and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Operation Game Thief is a Colorado Division of Wildlife program, which pays rewards to citizens who turn in poachers. You can call us toll-free within Colorado at 1-877-COLO-OGT, Verizon cell phone users can dial #OGT, or contact us via e-mail at Operation Game Thief.