CPW investigation leads to arrest of an illegal outfitter
TRINIDAD, Colo. - After a lengthy and detailed investigation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife law enforcement officials have arrested outfitter James Hirschboeck, 53 of Trinidad, charging him with 13 counts of providing unregistered outfitting services for big game wildlife, two counts of providing an illegal hunt for big game wildlife for profit, one count of menacing with a deadly weapon, four counts of hunting on private property without permission and one count of unlawfully taking and possessing a 5x6 bull elk.
With the help of the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CPW officers arrested Hirschboeck at his home on Oct. 30.
According to investigators, Hirschboeck was not registered with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies - the state agency that licenses and regulates outfitting services. However, he allegedly charged hunters nearly $3,000 each for outfitted hunts.
“Hunting in Colorado has esteemed tradition; it’s ethical and it’s big business. Most of our hunters do it because they have a great appreciation for the outdoors and our wildlife,” said Dan Prenzlow, CPW southeast regional manager. “This case is just an example of one bad apple, but it showcases Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s unwavering commitment to ethical wildlife management and to protecting the reputations of our legal outfitting partners.”
Local wildlife officers received numerous complaints from more than 15 out-of-state hunters and four Las Animas County landowners in 2014, and earlier this year regarding Hirschboeck and his company, Colorado Elk Adventures. CPW officially opened its investigation in February this year. During the 2015 second rifle season, CPW investigators went undercover and booked outfitted hunts with Hirschboeck’s company.
On Oct. 17, the investigators met Hirschboeck in the local Wal-Mart parking lot and followed him to his lodge where there were 12 other hunters who had also paid Hirschboeck for guided hunts. Upon arrival, the investigators observed that Hirschboeck’s property was strewn with alfalfa hay; a practice typically used for baiting deer and elk.
The investigators spent three days under the guise of hunting, documenting evidence, and speaking with the guides and other hunters.
"It was obvious that many of the hunters were not happy with the services Hirschboeck provided as they were not as described in advertisements or conversations with Mr. Hirschboeck," said Bob Holder, CPW lead investigator for the arrest. “These sportsmen and women complained to me or took other avenues to vent their frustrations. Those other options included contact with legal counsel. At least 10 hunters left early and only two received refunds on their hunts, to my knowledge.”
During this time, investigators also witnessed Hirschboeck threaten a third hunter with two hammers and a mace after he had confronted Hirschboeck about illegally hunting on private land and asked for a refund. The investigators also received first-hand accounts of how a bull elk was killed by one of the hunters on private property, then dragged to the area Hirschboeck had leased.
The investigators finished their undercover work on Oct. 20. Search and arrest warrants were issued and CPW, USFWS and the sheriff’s office made the arrest. Hirschboeck is facing thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail time.
“The vast majority of hunters and legal outfitters are excellent stewards of our state's natural resources," Holder said. "Cases like these rob everyone of those resources and CPW will not tolerate anyone who takes advantage of our hunters and fishermen, or those who disrespect our wildlife.”
CPW encourages hunters who are interested in making use of an outfitter’s service to do their research. Hunters should ask for a copy of the outfitter’s license and verification of insurance. Hunters can also verify an outfitter’s license and can view or register complaints on the DORA website: https://www.colorado.gov/dora/licensing/Lookup/LicenseLookup.aspx.
The Colorado Outfitters Association is also an excellent source of information on reputable outfitters. Their website is: http://www.coloradooutfitters.org.
Any member of the public who suspects illegal hunting activity or crimes against wildlife, should call Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648. Tips can be given anonymously.
More information on this case will be released as it becomes available. Media can request a copy of the arrest affidavit by contacting the Las Animas County District Court at (719) 846-3316.
CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 42 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, big-game management, hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and nonmotorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW's work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.