Game Law Violations

Report from Colorado

The Samson Law

Some of you may not be familiar with the Samson Law in Colorado. Here is an account of the first use of this law two years ago.

A southern Colorado man was facing more than $5,000 in fines as a result of being charged with shooting a trophy antelope with a rifle during archery season. The incident occurred August 16, west of Pueblo.

Colorado Division of Wildlife officer Ron Zagar was on a routine patrol when he spotted an individual dragging a large buck antelope toward a truck parked along a roadway. Zagar questioned the man, who had a valid archery hunting license, about how he got the animal.

"Ron's field experience dealing with a wide range of human behaviors told him that something wasn't right with this one," said Pueblo Area Wildlife Manager Al Trujillo.

Zagar determined that the animal was killed with a firearm and cited the man with a violation of the Samson Law prohibiting the illegal hunting of trophy-sized game animals in Colorado.

The case was the first time someone has been assessed additional penalties for poaching a trophy-sized animal. Typical fines for possessing wildlife taken illegally are around $1,000. But because the buck antelope's horns measured 15-and-a-half inches, the citation includes a $4,000 surcharge.

The additional fine is the result of the so-called Samson Law passed by the Colorado legislature. The Samson Law came about as the result of a poacher shooting a 1,000-pound elk near Estes Park. The new measure places mandatory fines on top of existing penalties. The added amounts range from $4,000 for an antelope up to $25,000 for a bighorn sheep. The surcharges are levied only when a trophy-sized animal is taken.

"The Samson bill is a valuable instrument on the wildlife books. People have said they don't want to see their wildlife resources plundered and have taken a hard line to deter poaching," Trujillo said.

The fines for poaching trophy-size animals, as defined by the following measurements, are:
• Pronghorn antelope with a horn length of 14 inches or more $4,000
• Bull elk with six or more points on an antler beam $10,000
• Whitetail deer buck with an inside antler spread of 18 inches or more $10,000
• Mule deer buck with an inside antler spread of 22 inches or more $10,000
• Any bull moose $10,000
• Any mountain goat $10,000
• Bighorn sheep with a horn length of one-half curl or more $25,000

The Division of Wildlife urges people to call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-332-4155 if they have information about illegal hunting or fishing. Callers may remain anonymous, and Operation Game Thief offers rewards if information leads to a citation.

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