Civics 101: Just Because the Deer You Illegally Shot Didn't Die Right Away Doesn't Mean You Didn't Kill It


U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The state appellate court ruled yesterday that when Dean Richard shot a deer illegally, the fact that the fatal blow was delivered by someone else to the dying buck was irrelevant to his guilt in an illegal hunting case.

In 2005, Richard was out hunting in Columbia County, located in the sparsely populated southeast corner of the state, when he took a shot at a three-point buck (the points, for all you vegetarian animal lovers, refer to the number of points on each antler.) At least he thought it was a three-pointer, he told the court. It turned out to be a two-point buck, so shooting it wasn't legal.

Someone witnessed the shooting and called it in. Two wildlife officers stopped Richard on his way out of the park. He told them he had shot a deer and was looking for help to retrieve it. It was too dark to do anything about it at the time, but the next morning, wildlife officer Michael Johnson found the deer, downed through not quite dead. He put it out of its misery, cut off the head and showed it to Richard. Showing only two points, Richard was charged in Columbia District Court. He was convicted by a jury of his peers of illegally killing the animal and imposed a $2,000 fine.

Richard appealed his case, not on the facts of the incident, but saying that even if he did shoot the deer illegally, he wasn't the one who killed it. Officer Johnson was. The appellate court ruled that because Richard didn't raise such an issue at trial, he was too late--the big game version of "you break it you buy it."

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