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Hunter faces backlash after killing moose in front of wildlife watchers near Brainard Lake

Posted at 6:47 PM, Sep 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-09 14:31:45-04

There's growing controversy about a bow hunter who shot and killed a moose over the weekend within feet of several wildlife watchers.

The incident occurred near Brainard Lake in the Roosevelt National Forest, not far from the town of Ward, Colorado.

The outrage stems from how and where the moose was taken down, near a popular trail where several witnesses were watching as it happened.

"These are basically pets," said Kim Lehman, a campground host near Brainard Lake. "They're tame. They're not afraid of humans at all."

So when one was taken down by a bow hunter just feet from the road, it touched off a firestorm of social media rants.

"There's no hunt in that kind of kill," said Lehman.

"This was a trophy hunt," said Virginia Miller who is also a campground host.

After the bow hunter hit the moose, it ran through a willow brush and eventually dropped near several wildlife watchers.

"I don't think it was the gentleman's intention to have the animal go in the direction of where the wildlife watchers were," said Jennifer Churchill, spokeswoman for the northeast region of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "Forest service land is huntable. And this was a clean and legal kill."

"Nothing illegal at all," said Miller. "Totally unethical and immoral."

"It's like going into a zoo and saying, 'Wow, I like that lion. I'm going to kill him,'" said Lehman.

Churchill says despite the fact there were witnesses, the kill was completely legal and the hunter had a valid archer tag for moose -- one of just 260 moose tags issued in the state of Colorado this year. Nearly 19,000 hunters applied.

"It is unfortunate that there were people in the area who witnessed this and were offended by it," said Churchill. "But it's also important to understand that we have multi-use lands in Colorado."

Lehman hunts and fishes herself.

"That's not hunting," she said. "Hunting is when you go out and sit in the woods and wait for them, or track them or be part of their environment and take them down."

"People saw that. People were enraged," said Miller. "People were stunned. People were traumatized."

Churchill insists the hunter did everything by the book, and in fact, there were CPAW officers nearby who noted it was a clean and legal kill.

"If he had waited, he may not have had another opportunity to take this moose," said Churchill. "We are talking about, kind of, a hunt of a lifetime."

"My hunting was always for food, and we ate everything we killed when I was a kid," said Lehman. "And this was obviously a trophy hunt."

"He was 10 feet away when he shot him," said Miller.

Churchill says Colorado law states bow hunters must be within a certain distance before taking a shot, and they must also be at least 50 feet off any road or highway.

"The sport was taken out completely," said Miller.

"Moose have no natural predators in Colorado," said Churchill. "Hunters help manage wildlife populations. We would not have wildlife in Colorado were it not for hunters."