Even if you thought it was an elk (really?), you don't just bail and say nothing about it.

But even in the isolated Montana wilderness, it was good news that another set of eyes was watching what was happening and took the initiative to report it. While we've included details of the punishment for you, judging by Montana hunters' responses to previous stories of this nature, many will still feel that it's too lenient.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports that a Deer Lodge man pleaded guilty to several charges after illegally killing a bighorn sheep in the Highland Mountains. Harold Horine shot a bighorn sheep ram in November without a license. He did not report the kill to Montana FWP, and he left the meat to waste.

A witness observed the violation and made contact with FWP by way of the 1-800-TIP-MONT hotline, after finding the dead sheep abandoned. Game wardens interviewed Mr. Horine, who said he mistook the sheep for an elk. It's unclear whether he had an elk tag, but since he was hunting where he wasn't supposed to be anyway, it's pretty much a moot point.

Horine pleaded guilty in Madison County Justice Court to hunting without a valid license, unlawful possession of a game animal, failure to obtain landowner permission when hunting, and waste of a game animal.

He was ordered to pay $5,245 in fines and restitution. His hunting, fishing and trapping privileges were suspended for two years, and his ability to apply for special permits was suspended for 12 years.

You wonder when, if ever, the guy would have just come forward and confessed on his own. That sure could have lightened the punishments.

But, given everything else he was doing illegally, the guess here is never. Good on the conscientious Montana hunter who reported the kill.

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