Steamboat Springs A hunter shot his guide Friday evening on a ranch just east of the Moffat County line in Routt County.
Routt County Undersheriff Ray Birch said the guide has been released from the hospital and the investigation of the shooting is ongoing. Birch said the hunter could be charged with careless hunting, a misdemeanor, after the investigation is forwarded to the Routt County District Attorney’s Office in the next couple of weeks.
Birch said 65-year-old Thomas Scarfe, of Delaware, shot 30-year-old Jerry Cox, of Meeker, between 5:15 and 5:30 p.m. Friday on a private ranch in the 27900 block of Routt County Road 67. He said Scarfe mistook Cox for a coyote from about 120 yards away and a .308-caliber round from a Remington 700 rifle grazed Cox’s right shoulder and back.
“We’re very fortunate this wasn’t a fatal circumstance,” Birch said. “If we have something to learn from this incident, mistakes were definitely made.”
He added that there was no reason to think Scarfe shot Cox intentionally.
Birch said while the time period was within the legal hunting time, 30 minutes after the sun set at 4:51 p.m., it was dark or getting dark. He said Cox wasn’t wearing blaze orange, which is required for hunters but not their guides. And Birch said Scarfe didn’t follow the No. 1 rule of hunting and identify his target before shooting.
Because proper safety measures weren’t taken, Birch said the Sheriff’s Office considers the incident careless or negligent, as opposed to an accident.
Calls to Scarfe and Cox weren’t returned Monday.
Don Myers, owner of Myers Hunting Services, of Hamilton, said Monday that Cox, his son-in-law, had been a guide of his for “quite a few years.” He said it’s up to his guides whether to wear blaze orange to lead hunters, which Myers Hunting Services has been doing since 1992.
When asked about Cox’s condition, Myers said he was doing fine.
“This is a difficult time for our family,” he said. “We’re looking forward to Thanksgiving. We can thank god that our family is safe and we’re all together.”
Moffat County Sheriff’s Office Lt. K.C. Hume said deputies responded at 5:39 p.m. to a residence off Colorado State Highway 317. He said a man was taken by ambulance to Craig Memorial Hospital and deputies later determined he was shot in Routt County.
Birch said Routt County sent a deputy to interview Cox and Scarfe and others.
According to witness accounts, Birch said Cox was guiding Scarfe on an elk hunt on the ranch with another hunter and guide. Birch said it was Scarfe’s first big-game hunt after he completed the state-law required hunter safety course two weeks before.
Birch said Cox was walking toward Scarfe to bring him in because it was the end of the day when Scarfe mistook him for a coyote and shot him from about 120 yards away. Birch said it was light enough for Cox to see Scarfe.
Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins said any hunter with a big-game license, who had not shot any game, could shoot a coyote. Sunday was the last day of the elk rifle season.
Haskins also confirmed that while state law doesn’t require that guides wear blaze orange, it’s “highly recommended.”
“I’m shocked a guide would be out there in the field without blaze orange,” he said. “Generally, they’re experienced hunters. To put yourself in that situation is almost unheard of. But with that said, it doesn’t excuse the hunter.”
Haskins said an administrative process by the Division of Parks and Wildlife to evaluate whether the hunter gets to keep his license could follow the criminal investigation. He said Division of Parks and Wildlife also could conduct its own criminal investigation of the shooting. He added that there likely wouldn’t be any repercussions for Myers Hunting Services.
Birch said careless hunting is punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of between $100 and $1,000 and a hunting license assessment of 20 points, which could lead to it being revoked.
“We can count our blessings in this case that (Cox) left the hospital, but when we talk about this and a fatal situation, we’re talking about inches,” he said. “We want people to be safe.”
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com