When hunting, it is often the case that animals do not go down immediately after being shot. Either a high lung shot on deer or elk or a crippling shot on a duck or pheasant can send the animal sailing or running for quite some distance before the animal is finally downed. It may actually require the hunter to take another shot to finish the animal. “Pursuit of Wounded Wildlife” is heavily regulated in Colorado and the associated statutes governing hunter behavior in this situation contains several rules and penalties. Before going out into the field and risking the chance of getting a ticket for wanton waste, trespassing, or failing to recover a downed animal, familiarize yourself with the rules governing what to do in this situation.
Wanton Waste and Retrieving Wounded Game
First, CRS 33-6-119 states that “it is unlawful for a person who shoots at, wounds, or may have wounded game wildlife to fail to make a reasonable attempt to locate the game wildlife suspected of injury and take it into his or her possession.” If you believe that you may have wounded an animal, it is your duty to make a reasonable attempt to locate that animal and either take it into possession or reduce it to your possession (fire a finishing shot to kill the animal). Failing to do so may result in a Colorado Hunting Violation and possible suspension of your hunting and fishing license privileges for up to 5 years.
A reasonable attempt is one that you can show that you made; Reasonableness may be subject to interpretation of the game warden that you encounter later on. The only actual definition of reasonableness comes later in the statute: “If the hunter is unaware of the location of wildlife after shooting at it, failing to go immediately to the location of such wildlife when the shot was fired is not a reasonable attempt to locate game.” Even if, after a reasonable attempt to do so, you do not locate the game but you are reasonably sure that you fired a killing shot, the animal should be counted in your daily bag limit.
Trespassing and Recovering Downed Game
If you do locate the animal, but it has crossed onto private land that you do not have permission to hunt, you must make a reasonable attempt to contact that landowner before you attempt to retrieve your deer, elk, pheasant, or duck. CRS 33-6-119 states, “If wounded game goes onto private property, the person who wounded the game shall make a reasonable attempt to contact the landowner or person in charge of such land before pursuing the wounded game.” This situation includes where the game is not yet dead and requires a finishing shot. Prior to firing your finishing shot and reducing the animal to possession, you must make a reasonable effort to contact the landowner. Follow the links here for a discussion on Wanton Waste.
If you are charged with any violations of Colorado hunting laws, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney regarding your rights and defenses. Often, it may seem more economical to simply pay the fine, but unforeseen consequences such as loss of your hunting and fishing privileges in 48 states, including Colorado, or restrictions on your right to possess a firearm in the future. Wanton waste and trespassing can carry potential felony penalties in Colorado and should be properly evaluated prior to paying the fine and pleading guilty. Hunting Violation Lawyer Nathaniel Gilbert has defended hunters accused of wanton waste, trespassing, and numerous other hunting and fishing violations and can help evaluate your case and discuss your rights and defenses.