Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS: > 2005


February 26, 2005

By Bob Keefer

The Register-Guard

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 said.

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 do."

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 his home.

"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."

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