Broomfield teen gets $20,000 fine for moose poaching in Grand County
A Front Range teenager that was convicted last week for poaching a moose in Grand County will be required to pay almost $20,000 for his violations of state hunting laws.
Callan Hyatt, 19, of Broomfield pleaded guilty April 9 to five misdemeanor wildlife violations for his illegal killing of a bull moose in southwestern Grand County on Nov. 16. State officials cited Hyatt for the act the following day.
Hyatt will be required to pay nearly $20,000 for his poaching activities and could see his hunting and fishing privileges suspended in 47 separate states for up to five years.
According to investigators from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Hyatt was hunting elk in the Kinney Creek drainage near Hot Sulphur Springs when he saw movement in some nearby trees and fired his rifle in the direction without properly identifying the target. Hyatt’s shot struck and wounded a bull moose, which subsequently died from its injuries.
“Hyatt did not possess a moose license,” officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed. “He did not pursue the wounded moose as is required by law, abandoning it rather than tracking it, field-dressing it and reporting the incident.”
The day after Hyatt shot the moose, another hunter, who was hunting in the same area with his two young sons, discovered the abandoned kill. That man notified state officials of the carcass, which prompted the initiation of the investigation. According to state authorities, the moose’s meat had spoiled by the time wildlife officers arrived on the scene.
The initial investigation into the poaching incident revealed a boot print in the area where the animal was shot. A .270 caliber bullet was recovered from the moose carcass.
District Wildlife Officer Jeff Behncke initiated an investigation of the poached moose and began searching nearby hunting camps for information.
“At the second camp he visited, the officer matched the boots Hyatt was wearing to the prints he had seen in the snow,” wildlife authorities said. “He also learned Hyatt had a .270 caliber rifle in his possession at camp.”
Officials said Hyatt confessed to Behncke that he had fired his rifle into nearby trees while hunting without properly identifying his target ahead of time.
Wildlife officials referred to Hyatt’s actions as “poor choices” and noted that the seriousness of his charges, and his fines, could have been avoided if he had handled the situation appropriately after wounding the moose.
“We understand hunting mistakes and accidents will happen, but we expect sportsmen and women to take immediate responsibility for their actions,” Behncke said. “Thankfully the vast majority of hunters are ethical and do the right thing in cases like this; unfortunately, there are a few that may prefer to try and evade authorities.”
Behncke noted that Hyatt’s decision not to follow appropriate protocols, even after his mistaken shot, was the difference between a significantly smaller fine, of $1,000 or less, or the $20,000 in fines Hyatt will be required to pay. Behncke said state authorities will typically work with hunters who report their own mistakes to limit the severity of fines.
If hunters self-report they have mistakenly killed the wrong gender of a species for which they hold tag they will normally receive a citation for accidental take and be fined $70.50. If hunters self-report they have mistakenly killed the wrong species, such as in Hyatt’s case, they are normally cited for careless hunting and fined between $500 and $1,000, according to Behncke.
“We offer everyone this advice; if you accidentally kill the wrong species, you should call us right away and field dress the animal immediately so that it does not spoil,” he said.
Hyatt pleaded guilty to hunting in a careless manner, failing to locate wounded game, failing to dress wildlife, illegal possession of wildlife and hunting without a license. Hyatt also received an additional $10,000 fine for violations of the state’s so-called “Samson Law,” anti-poaching provisions that focus on the illegal taking of large bulls.
Colorado issued just 452 moose licenses in 2018 and many hunters wait years, or even decades, to obtain a license through the state’s highly competitive draw system.
“Many hunters never draw a license in their lifetime because of the very limited license allocations,” Behncke said. “This act essentially stole that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from a legal hunter.”
Behncke still has three ongoing poaching investigations related to last fall’s big game season in Grand County. Behncke is still investigating the illegal killings of one cow moose, one bull moose and one bull elk. All three animals were illegally killed last fall in Game Management Unit 28 during rifle hunting seasons.
The cow moose was killed in the Mule Creek drainage while the bull moose and bull elk were both killed in the Beaver Creek drainage.
Investigators ask that any citizens who have information about these poaching incidents contact Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648.
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the national Trout Unlimited group received the funding and to clarify exactly what the money will pay for.