February 26, 2005
By Bob Keefer
SPRINGFIELD - City Councilor Dave Ralston pleaded no contest this winter
to shooting a black tail deer out of season and then borrowing another
hunter's tag to place on the carcass.
Ralston paid fines of $299 for each of the two offenses, which are legal
infractions similar to a speeding ticket. He also had his hunting license
suspended for two years.
The matter came to light this week in a routine check of records at Lane
County Circuit Court.
On Friday, Ralston said he shot the out-of-season black tail buck by
mistake in October while hunting elk - for which he had a proper license and
tag and which were in season - near Cougar Ridge, south of Oakridge. Ralston
said he mistook the deer for an elk in the fog.
He denied trying to cover up the deer's shooting by borrowing the tag
from another hunter and said he was just trying to ensure that the deer's
meat was not wasted.
"It was a convoluted series of things that were really unfortunate," he
Oregon State Trooper Matt Falk investigated the case after receiving an
anonymous tip in November, court records show. Ralston pleaded no contest to
the charges in December.
Ralston told Falk that he mistook the deer for an elk from a distance of
about 150 yards, the trooper's report says. After realizing he had shot a
deer, Ralston told the trooper, "I walked away from it and went back to my
truck. I sat in my truck and thought about it. I just didn't know what to
Eventually, Ralston told the trooper, he got in touch with a Veneta
hunter with a deer tag and gave him the entire deer carcass. They moved the
deer the following day, during the legal hunting season, the report says.
The other hunter was also cited, and 17 packages of deer meat were seized at
"I just got drawn into it," Ralston said Friday. "I was accused of
borrowing the tag. I didn't borrow the tag. I got some really bad advice and
it just snowballed."
He said he pleaded no contest to the charge of borrowing the deer tag so
he could move ahead with his life.
In his report, Falk said he asked Ralston why he didn't simply report the
accidental shooting to state police.
"I am a public official, you know," Ralston told the officer. "I just
couldn't have the embarrassment."