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Thursday, October 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

‘Bullwinkle’ elk shooting case dropped by judge; hunter wants trophy returned

From staff and wire reports

HUNTING – Trophy hunter Tod Reichert, 77, of Saikum, Washington, no longer is charged with using his special Washington raffle tag for shooting a bull elk locally known as Bullwinkle in a restricted area near Ellensburg.

The case against Reichert and his guide, David Perkins, was dismissed in Lower Kittitas County District Court on Thursday. Judge James Hurson issued a ruling saying the language in Washington’s 2015 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet was too vague.

Reichert was charged with second-degree unlawful hunting of big game in a field that was not permitted for hunting branch-antlered bull elk. Perkins was charged with second-degree aiding unlawful hunting. Charges against both were dismissed.

The incident occurred on Dec. 1, 2015, in Game Management Unit 334 near Ellensburg where Bullwinkle, as some locals called him, frequented irrigated fields, rural yards and often posed for photos. Witnesses say the hunter was roughly 60 feet away from the bull when he shot and killed it.

In his ruling, Hurson said there was no specific definition of the phrase “branch antlered bull elk” in the Fish and Wildlife Department’s regulations. Department officials should have made the rules clearer if they did not want hunting of elk in GMU 334, he said.

In his ruling the judge reasoned:

  • Bullwinkle was shot in an area that allowed hunting of “true spike bull” elk during the hunting season.
  • “A ‘true spike bull’ is defined as a bull elk that has ‘both antlers with no branching originating more than four inches above where the antlers attach to the skull.’ ”
  • There is no specific definition in the regulations defining the phrase ‘branch antlered bull elk.’ ”
  • Thus: “A defendant should not need to guess what a statute or regulation was meant to mean. A statute is unconstitutionally vague if the criminal offense is not defined with sufficient definiteness that ordinary people can understand what conduct is proscribed.”

The Kittitas County Prosecutor’s Office plans to decide in the next month whether to appeal.

Reichert reportedly bought 313 of the 2,726 raffle tickets going for $6 each for the 2015 Eastern Washington elk permit, which he used to tag Bullwinkle.

Among his trophy auction bids are $40,000 for the 2007-08 New Mexico Governor’s Tag, $19,000 for the 2001 Oregon Governor’s Tag, $16,000 for the 2003 edition, and an unpublished amount for the 1999 California tule bull elk tag.

In 2007, Reichert, who made his fortune by starting a shake mill, bought Washington’s first East Side Governor’s Tag and killed a trophy elk in the Umatilla National Forest. However, he was later indicted for hiring a helicopter service to spot elk for the hunt, which is unlawful in Washington and most other states. He was also charged with lying to wildlife authorities about the guiding services he hired.

Reichert’s sentence included a $5,000 fine and a two-year ban from entering a national forest.

Reichert successfully bid $75,000 to claim the 2016 auction elk tag for Washington.

He also scored the Pennsylvania 2016 elk auction tag for $85,000. He used the tag on a large typical bull he killed in September during the peak of the breeding season, state officials confirmed.

Steve Hormel, Reichert’s Spokane attorney in the Bullwinkle case, says the Western Washington hunter hopes to get back the antlers that came off the trophy bull as well as the hide, which has been frozen since it was confiscated by state Fish and Wildlife police.

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