First it was Cecil the lion. Now, it’s this famous elk. However, there’s more to this story.
In a story reminiscent of Cecil the Lion, a famous elk from Kittitas county, Washington was shot and harvested by a hunter last December. Normally, this isn’t news but this particular elk was a local legend. It lived in a pasture and allowed tourists to feed it by hand and take as many pictures as daylight would allow. Nicknamed “Bullwinkle”, he was the star of show. However, how quickly things changed.
Before we get to the details of the hunter that filled his tag on this locally famous elk, it was estimated that Bullwinkle was close to 10 years old. He made it to this ripe old age by living primarily in Ellensburg 334, a game management area that is closed to hunting for branch-antler bulls. As you could guess, this bull easily stood out among the acres and acres of rolling alfalfa fields and open pastures.
So how did this bull get harvested if it was in a game management zone? Well, this is an interesting story. Tod Reichert, 76, of Salkum, Washington, yes that Tod Reichert, is the man who pulled the trigger. After the fact, Reichert was charged with second-degree unlawful hunting of big game. This just might be where the story began.
Details about this case are hard to find. Most of the defense and all of the prosecution are holding their stories for court scheduled on May 31st. What has been uncovered, and what will probably be brought out in court, is that Reichert is a very wealthy hunter. As a matter of fact, since 2007, he has spent over $200,000 attempting to win the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s special eastside elk auction tag which would allow him to take any elk in 300 or 500 land management areas in regards to area restrictions. So, he took Bullwinkle, despite the fork only restrictions in that zone.
Where this story takes a turn, at least according to this report, locals may or may not have guided Reichert to the elk for a fee. After the elk was down, these same locals loaded up the elk up in a truck and drove it to a management area where taking a bull like that was legal. It was there that it was field dressed. By then though, the cat was out of the bag.
This isn’t the first time that Reichert has been on the questionable side of game laws. He actually has a laundry list of hunting trophy elk in morally or ethically gray ways. Rumors of helicopter spotting for elk, illegal in Oregon, has come into question. He actually pleaded out of that conviction and received two years of hunting probation.
So where are you on this story? Did this wealthy hunter pay locals to guide him to a trophy elk and he just got confused and shot a giant in a pasture? Or, did he know what he was doing and wanted the trophy regardless of the laws?
The details will most definitely come out in court.