A poacher in eastern Oregon had a strange excuse for authorities when explaining why he shot a bull elk illegally last fall and then left it to waste. He confessed that he abandoned the carcass because he was scared of wolves in the area, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
By violating Oregon’s wanton waste law, 42-year-old Cody Murril of Elgin compounded his legal troubles for killing an elk out of season. Murril pleaded guilty in January, and a judge in Union County Circuit Court sentenced him on March 27 to 10 days in jail. In addition to jail time, Murril’s hunting license was suspended for one year and he was fined $440. He also had to forfeit his .308 rifle, which was likely worth around $1,400, according to ODFW.
“The ten days in jail is more jail time than we typically see in fish and wildlife cases,” said Sgt. Chris Hawkins, a fish and wildlife officer with the Oregon State Police who led the poaching investigation.
Murril’s string of wildlife violations began while hunting illegally in the Wenaha unit near Promise on Sept. 30. Deer season wouldn’t open until the following day, and the unit’s general elk season was still weeks away. But as part of the guilty plea he submitted on Jan. 20, Murril admitted to prosecutors that he disregarded the season dates. He said he “intended to poach a cow elk for the meat, but mistakenly shot a bull as darkness set in.”
With the 5×6 bull on the ground, Murril waited until later that night to recover the animal. When he got there, however, the bull’s carcass had already been partially scavenged. Afraid that a pack of wolves was responsible, Murril left the carcass there overnight.
Murril later admitted that he also returned to the scene of the crime the following day to remove the bull’s antlers, but gave up when he broke his saw. (If Murril had succeeded in retrieving the antlers, this would have been an additional violation of Oregon’s wanton waste law, which prohibits exclusively taking antlers from big game carcasses. It also states “no person shall waste any edible portion of a game mammal.“)
“On September 30, 2022, I did knowingly take a male bull elk and on the same date I knowingly wasted edible portions of the elk,” read Murril’s guilty plea according to court documents.
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Murril might have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for a group of deer hunters who stumbled across the elk carcass on Oct. 3. After they called in their discovery, Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife troopers tracked down Murril’s truck using game camera footage and visited Murril at his home for questioning. He initially denied everything and the officials departed. But later that night Murril contacted the troopers and confessed.
The hunters who tipped off the authorities were given the option of receiving either $500 in cash or hunter preference points, according to ODFW. They chose the latter.
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