A first-time hunter has admitted to shooting a bighorn ram last fall in the Salmon River region of Idaho even though he had no idea what he was shooting at.
Paul Cortez had never been hunting before last fall when he joined a group of mule deer hunters and, after becoming confused, shot a bighorn ram for which he had no license. In fact, Cortez has never owned any hunting license.
Cortez says he mistook the animal for a wolf, and then confused it for a mule deer. Even after seeing the horns and having no clue what he was looking at, he shot and killed the animal.
Later, authorities inspected his camp and found the carcass and a bullet which he had buried in the sand along with the guts of the sheep in an attempt to hide evidence. Cortez told officials that he had planned on buying a tag in town later on.
But as many of you know, you can't buy over-the-counter sheep tags in Idaho. The permits are a once in a lifetime opportunity and are awarded each year through a random lottery.
Idaho law states that Cortez will be facing a minimum of $1,500 in fines and possible jail time. He could be fined up to $10,000 if the state classifies the sheep as a "trophy" and may lose further hunting privileges.
Penalties against poaching have increased over the last few years for good reason. Sadly, though, there seems to be no solution for ignorance. It's obvious that Cortez had no idea what he was doing and what he was supposed to be hunting for.
He apparently made no attempt to do things legally and then blatantly tried to hide what he'd done. The hunting party that accommodated Cortez could have made clear what the rules were and what the animals look like but at the end of the day it's up to each hunter to know the regulations themselves.
And anyone unaware of the difference between a bighorn and a wolf has no business walking around with a loaded weapon taking aim at animals which law-abiding sportsmen wait a lifetime to pursue.