Hunter cited for firing gun near Rockport State Park | ParkRecord.com

Hunter cited for firing gun near Rockport State Park

When Hilary Reiter was driving to Park City on Sunday evening from her home near the Rockport Reservoir, she endured what she calls a "truly traumatic" experience, when she thought she witnessed the illegal killing of an animal.

Reiter later learned that the incident was, in fact, legal after the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conducted an investigation. But, she said, she wanted to share her story with others to encourage an open dialogue between hunters and non-hunters. Reiter said the public needs to be educated about how to recognize the difference between legal hunting and poaching.

In a Facebook post shared with The Park Record on Tuesday, Reiter wrote that she saw three men standing on the side of the road. She said they were intently watching four deer in a field near the reservoir and began shooting at the animals as she was driving by.

"I rolled down the window and hysterically screamed back at them to stop shooting," she wrote on the social media site. "Then I began screaming 'run' to the deer. They started running while shots were firing, and then it pains me to admit that my screaming caused them to freeze. I saw one get shot as a result, and I am largely to blame."

"I didn’t know if anything I saw was potentially illegal. I was just trying to save the deer,” Hilary Reiter, Summit County resident

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Reiter said she called the Summit County Sheriff's Office in tears to report the incident and inquire whether it was considered poaching — wanton destruction of protected wildlife. Poaching often refers to killing an animal, bird or fish protected by Utah state law outside of a legal hunting or fishing season, or killing an animal, bird or fish during a legal hunting or fishing season, but without the proper license or permit.

DWR handled the investigation and deemed the incident, which occurred on the final day of the general rifle buck deer hunt, legal. However, one of the hunters was cited for not wearing orange and firing a rifle within a mile of a state park facility.

Hunting with rifles, handguns or muzzleloaders in park areas designated open to hunting is prohibited within one mile of all park facilities, including buildings, camp or picnic sites, overlooks, golf courses, boat ramps and developed beaches, according to Utah's Big Game Filed Regulations Guidebook. Hunting with shotguns or archery tackle is prohibited within one-quarter mile of the mentioned areas.

"It turned out to not be a poaching incident," said Trevor Doman, a conservation officer in the Northern region of Utah and public information officer for DWR.

The hunter reportedly exited his vehicle and shot the animal while standing off to the side of the road, Doman said. An investigation revealed that the deer had crossed onto state park property when it was shot, he said, adding that the hunter was allowed to keep it.

"The season was still open and the hunter had a valid tag," he said. "The hunter had done everything correctly that way, except for what he was issued citations for."

Penalties and fines for not wearing orange or firing a rifle within distance of a structure in Summit County vary depending on the case.

In an interview on Thursday, Reiter said she considers herself new to the county and unfamiliar with hunting. She lived in Old Town for 15 years and only recently moved near Rockport Reservoir.

"I still consider myself a Park City person," she said. "We live in a bubble there because hunting isn't allowed. I think that we are not very educated about hunting when we do leave the city limits and there are plenty of people that don't want to see it.

Reiter said there are certain rules and regulations she doesn't agree with or fully understand, such as the legality of shooting near the road.

"I know that I find it pretty disturbing, but that's just an opinion," she added. "I just think there is not a lot of conservation about hunting around here. I didn't know if anything I saw was potentially illegal. I was just trying to save the deer."

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources asks that anyone with information regarding the illegal killing of an animal to contact Utah's Turn-in-a-Poacher Hotline at 800-662-3337.

For more information about the Utah Division of Wildlife and poaching, go to https://wildlife.utah.gov/law-enforcement.html.