Poaching conviction nets thousands in fines for Douglas County family
Accused acted as hunting guides for unlicensed hunters
Three Douglas County men were convicted of illegal possession of wildlife following a year-long investigation by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials. The three are family members who were advertising illegal hunts on the online trading post Craigslist.com.
In an investigation triggered by a tipster, parks and wildlife investigators found that Gary Morrow, 55 and Jacob Morrow, 28, both of Sedalia, and Zachary Morrow, 24, of Highlands Ranch, were advertising illegal hunts on Craigslist.com, offering the use of their hunting licenses to paying clients, according to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Investigators say Gary Morrow and his two sons advertised big-game hunts in 2009 and 2010, offering clients a chance to hunt trophy Colorado elk and deer without a license for fees of up to $3,500. Clients were assessed an additional “kill fee” of up to $2,500 if a trophy animal was taken during a hunt.
Brothers Zachary and Jacob Morrow would act as salesmen, finding and closing agreements with clients, using trophy heads in Gary Morrow’s Sedalia residence as inducement to book a hunt. During the investigation, one of the Morrows sent photographs of an illegally-taken bull elk to an undercover investigator in an effort to sell a hunt.
Clients who bought a hunt were guided during the hunt by a member of the Morrow family who had a legal hunting license. The client would be given the chance to kill an animal, which the Morrows would claim as their kill. The investigation disclosed the men sold hunts to two people, both from Colorado. The buyers were taken on hunting expeditions in the Sedalia and Larkspur areas, investigators said.
During the investigation, Gary Morrow admitted the three men knew that what they were doing was illegal. In Colorado, it is against the law to hunt without a valid license and it is illegal to allow a third party to use a hunting license issued to someone else.
"This is an egregious case of fraud perpetrated against law-abiding hunters," said Bob Thompson, the Acting Chief of Wildlife Law Enforcement. "These men are not sportsmen — they're criminals."
In a plea agreement reached with prosecutors, Zachary Morrow was sentenced to two years of probation and fined $21,837. Morrow’s fine included a $10,000 Samson surcharge because one of the illegally-taken elk was a trophy bull. Zachary Morrow was forced to surrender bull elk heads and ordered to perform 75 hours of volunteer service with a wildlife-related agency. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped seven additional charges, including three felonies.
Gary and Jacob Morrow reached an agreement for two years of probation, fined $9,247, surrendered their trophy bull elk heads and ordered to perform 75 hours of volunteer service with a wildlife-related agency. In exchange for their guilty pleas, prosecutors dropped multiple poaching-related charges, including four felonies.
The Morrows face suspension of their hunting and fishing licenses for a period of one year to life. The suspension hearing before the Colorado Parks and Wildlife examiner will take place at a later date.
The investigation was conducted by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Turn in Poachers program, which offers preference points and, in some cases, an over-the-counter hunting license to reporting parties when the report results in a charge of illegal take or possession. To be eligible for the license or point rewards, the reporting party must be willing to testify against the accused.
The TIP program is in contrast to the agency’s Operation Game Thief program, which pays rewards to all reporting parties whose report results in a charge, including anonymous reports.
Residents and hunters who are aware of poaching or other violations of Colorado’s wildlife laws can report that information to Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648. Callers to Operation Game Thief can remain anonymous.
For more information about Colorado’s wildlife division, visit http://wildlife.state.co.us