A West Virginia man stands accused of illegally taking a trophy elk, which wildlife officers say was shot on private land Nov. 3.
Michael A. Hylton, 49, was issued a summons and has posted a $500 bond. A court date was not immediately available.
He is accused of hunting without permission, illegal possession of a bull elk and illegal possession of a 5-x-6 bull elk, or trophy animal, which could constitute a violation of the Samson Law and carry a $10,000 fine.
On Nov. 3, a tipster called Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Operation Game Thief hotline to report possible hunter trespass on Sawtooth Ranch, Ouray County.
The individual told CPW Officer Kelly Crane a man called her anonymously to report “guys from West Virginia” had shot elk on the ranch, in the vicinity of the Nate Creek trail, without permission and were trying to drag them onto public land, according to an affidavit in the case.
Crane contacted the ranch’s manager to inform him, then waited on the trailhead until a truck bearing West Virginia plates drove up.
Hylton and others were in the vehicle. He told her he had shot a 5x6 bull elk that morning, near Turkey Rock, on Nate Creek trail; he said he had not killed the bull on private land, but eventually admitted to crossing a fence, the affidavit said.
Crane seized the elk meat and antlers, then went to speak with the ranch manager to confirm where the elk was killed.
The manager said he was not able to find the kill site, however, while speaking to Crane, he received a call from the person who had first called the tip line.
The tipster said he was certain West Virginia hunters had killed elk on the ranch, described the area near Turkey Rock and identified one of the hunters as Hylton, Crane wrote in the affidavit.
About an hour later, CPW Officer Matt Ortega visited Hylton’s camp. Hylton reportedly again said he crossed a fence to retrieve the elk and four others helped him dress and pack it out. The other four said they had crossed a fence to help Hylton bone and pack out the animal.
The following morning, Sunday, the Sawtooth Ranch manager found the elk carcass and informed Crane.
The bull was about 400 yards inside of the ranch’s boundaries, with no blood trail leading there from public land. Additionally, there were several footprints around the carcass and to and from the public land.
Although the affidavit says the ranch manager wanted to pursue charges against all five hunters, as of last report, Hylton was the only person CPW accused of hunting violations.
The Samson Law imposes additional penalties and fines on those who are convicted of illegally killing trophy game. It is named for Samson, a 1,000 pound elk that was illegally killed near Estes Park in 1995.
Operation Game Thief pays rewards to people who report poaching, when such information leads to a conviction. The line can be reached at 1-877-265-6648; by #OGT on Verizon phones, or by email at email@example.com.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is an award-winning journalist and the senior writer for the Montrose Daily Press. Follow her on Twitter @kathMDP.