The case has been dismissed against the 77-year-old charged with illegally hunting Bullwinkle the Elk, the local celebrity in the Ellensburg area.
The case of the shooting of Bullwinkle the Elk, the local antlered celebrity in the Ellensburg area, was dismissed Thursday in Lower Kittitas County District Court.
The state regulations were too vague, ruled Judge James Hurson.
And so Tod Reichert, 77, of Saikum, a tiny unincorporated community in Lewis County, no longer faces a charge of unlawful hunt of big game in the second degree.
Bullwinkle was one of the names given the animal by his admirers. He was the biggest of five bull elk that didn’t mind at all when gawkers drove up to the hayfields in which the animals lazed about. It was as if they were posing for photos.
It was in one of these fields that he was shot on the morning of Dec. 1, 2015.
Some locals didn’t think this was what the sport of hunting was all about.
Leon Mankowski lives a short distance from where it all happened.
“KABOOM!” he remembers hearing. The elk used to splash around in a pond he had built in his garden. “I’m guessing he probably got 50, 60 feet away from that elk when he shot him. Now that’s hunting in the middle of the field? Disgusting is what it is.”
Reichert made his fortune starting a shake mill from scratch. He liked to use his money in auctions for hunting trophy permits: $214,200 in this state since 2007.
The state says its auctions generate money for “the management of the hunted species.” But essentially the hunt goes to the highest bidder.
To get Bullwinkle, Reichert spent $50,000 at a state auction, and then also bought 313 of the 2,726 raffle tickets going for $6 each for an Eastern Washington elk permit. He won one and used that raffle permit to kill Bullwinkle.
Reichert had been offered a stay of proceedings if he paid a $12,000 civil penalty, forfeited hunting rights for 12 months and performed 24 hours of community service.
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Instead, Steve Hormel, his Spokane attorney, fought the case on several grounds and won on the vagueness argument.
According to the state, the field in which Bullwinkle was shot was in an area not open to “branched antler bull elk” hunting. As male elk mature, their antlers branch out, last one season, fall off, and the process starts again the next year.
You have to keep reading and reading the decision as the judge discusses such things as what is a “true spike bull.” It gets complicated.
The field in which Bullwinkle was shot was in an area that allowed hunting of “true spike bull” elk during the hunting season.
Wrote the judge, “A ‘true spike bull’ is defined as a bull elk that has ‘both antlers with no branching originating more than four inches above where the antlers attach to the skull.’”
Continued the judge, “There is no specific definition in the regulations defining the phrase ‘branch antlered bull elk.’”
So, concluded the judge, “A defendant should not need to guess what a statute or regulation was meant to mean.”
You’re tracking all this, right?
This was not inexpensive litigation.
The Kittitas County Prosecutor’s Office says it’ll decide in the next month whether to appeal.
Paul Sander, the chief administrative deputy prosecutor, says about the ruling, “Fishing and hunting in Washington state is a highly regulated activity and as such there are virtually countless ways an ill-informed participant can run afoul of the law.”
He said “several hundred hours of attorney, staff and law enforcement time” has already been spent on the case.
Mankowski, who drove to where Bullwinkle was shot that December and saw him already loaded into a truck, used to hunt.
To say the least, he was baffled about the judge’s ruling.
“This is just so much B.S. They have pictures in the regulations (Page 49) about which is a true spike bull and which is a branched antlered bull,” says Mankowski.
Maybe word had gone out among the bull elk about Bullwinkle, he says.
“Hardly any elk came down since Bullwinkle was shot. No elk, zero, came down this year,” says Mankowski.
Hormel says his client hopes to keep hunting, “as long as his health stays well enough.”
To shoot Bullwinkle, Reichert had Dave Perkins, a guide, as an approved companion for a disabled person.
Hormel says it was Reichert who pulled the trigger.
Perkins had been charged with second-degree aiding and abetting unlawful hunting. Judge Hurson also dismissed those charges.
Hormel says about Reichert, “He was maligned. I think the manner in which information was presented wasn’t fairly done. He’s an honest man, law abiding.”
The attorney says Reichert hopes to get back the antlers that came off Bullwinkle, and Bullwinkle’s hide.
The state currently has possession of those two items. The hide is frozen.