Poached Elk
Travis Smola

Cycling Poacher Fined $53,000 for Illegal Colorado Elk Kills

A bicycling poacher is required to pay $53,000 in fines.

A Texas man who thought he was being sneaky in his bicycling poaching scheme is finding his wallet a lot lighter after being fined $53,000 in Colorado.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife says 50-year-old Raymond Muse of Chireno, Texas poached at least five elk and one mule deer in Jefferson County. Authorities say his poaching activities were focused on the towns of Conifer and Evergreen.

Muse avoided authorities for years due to the sneaky way he hid his activities. Apparently he would drive around the suburban environments there to locate a buck or bull, then stash hunting equipment and clothing nearby and drive away. CPW says Muse would park his vehicle in a public place and then ride a bike back to the stashed gear before beginning his poaching activities.

In many cases, CPW says much of the poaching was happening in the backyards of the homes in the area.

He may have kept getting away with it, but CPW had been getting reports of poaching activity in both towns for years. They just couldn't catch a break in the case. At least not until last September, when a resident finally caught Muse red-handed after observing the poacher on his property with a headless elk.

The resident called authorities and Muse fled the scene when Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies arrived. CPW Officer Scott Murdoch was called in from there, and even though he and the deputies failed to find Muse, they did locate some of his equipment, backpacks and a cell phone at the scene.

Search warrants for the backpacks and cell phones finally gave CPW a name to go on in the case.

A little later, CPW officers searched another area of suspected poaching activity and found the head of the elk, a 6x6 bull. Muse had also left behind more hunting clothing, a backpack and a compound bow at the second location.

AFter looking at Muse's cell phone, CPW was able to learn he had illegally taken other animals. When they checked the records, Muse had purchased an elk license, but only once. Further, the license wasn't valid for the area the animals were poached.

The evidence was enough for CPW to get a search warrant for the home of Muse's sister in Conifer in December 2018. It was there where more evidence and some illegally taken animals were found.

At that point, the investigation was expanded to work with the Texas Game Warden's in Nacogdoches County, Texas, where Muse was from.

CPW thanked the Texas Game Wardens in a press release for helping obtain some of the key testimony in the case from people in the Lone Star State who knew about Muse's poaching activity.

When all the details of the case were finally worked out, two associates of Muse were also charged with illegal possession of wildlife for possession of one bull elk. Those two people were fined $1,372.50.

Muse, of course, got the toughest charges in the case. Of the five bulls he allegedly poached, three were considered trophy size by Colorado, which means stiffer penalties for those animals under the state's "Samson's Law."

In the end, Muse received deferred judgement on a felony willful destruction of wildlife charge after he pleaded guilty. On December 5, he pleaded guilty in Jefferson County District Court to 11 other misdemeanor charges related to the case. Muse was placed under two years of supervised probation in which he cannot possess a firearm or other weapon. The judge also stripped him of his hunting and fishing rights, but the full length of that suspension will be determined by a CPW administrative hearing. This will also strip his rights in 48 other states as part of the Wildlife Violator Compact.

Muse was also ordered to complete a hunter education program, pay $500 to CPW and another $500 as a donation to Colorado Operation Game Thief. He will also have to serve 96 hours of community service. But the big hit to his pocketbook will be in the fines. The court ordered Muse to pay staggering $53,000 in fines, making it one of the biggest poaching penalties in a while. Hopefully that will make him think twice about poaching again.

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