A lone bowhunter was shot and killed by a black powder rifle hunter near the Kilpacker trailhead in Colorado’s San Juan National Forest on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021.
A search party spent 10 hours looking for Houston resident Gregory Gabrisch, 31, who fell victim to what is being called an accidental shot. He was deceased upon discovery.
Authorities identified the muzzleloader hunter as Ronald J. Morosko, 67, from Elizabeth, Pennsylvania. Morosko was hunting with companion Slade Pepke at the time of the incident. Gabrisch was not a part of their hunting party.
According to an arrest affidavit, Morosko and Pepke had been calling in elk and got several responses from multiple bulls. Pepke directed Morosko into a treed area to set up for a shot. Morosko reported hearing a bull elk bugle, scrape, and continue to approach him.
“When he saw white in the pines, he took a shot at what he thought was an elk,” Dolores County Sheriff Don Wilson wrote in the affidavit.
Morosko is currently charged with criminally negligent homicide but was released from Montezuma County Detention Center on Saturday, Sept. 20 after posting $10,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in Dolores Combined Court today, Sept. 21, for an arraignment.
“The incident is currently under investigation with our partners at Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, and San Juan National Forest law enforcement,” Dolores County Sheriff Don Wilson said in a news release posted to Facebook on Friday.
Hunting laws in Colorado state that most hunters are required to wear at least 500 square inches of fluorescent orange or pink material above the waist. But this law does not apply to bowhunters. According to the affidavit, Morosko said he was wearing dark brown camo.
Colorado is currently in the midst of a seasonal overlap during which muzzleloader hunters and bowhunters can be active at the same time. Additionally, the September rifle season for bear is also taking place. These seasonal intersections have raised some controversy in Colorado’s hunting sphere, but an incident like this is new for the region.
“Injuries and altitude issues are very common but something like this is not,” Jenn Vinson of Dolores County’s West Fork Volunteer Fire Department told KDVR News. WFVFD was just one of many emergency response units that arrived at the scene. No information has been released about who made the emergency call.
Bowhunters work hard to sound like elk, especially during the rut. Hunters will bugle or cow call aggressively and tear through brush loudly in attempt to impersonate a rival bull or hot cow. These sounds are meant to draw elk into archery range, but they could also fool other hunters and draw them in, too. This situation is proof positive of the importance of confirming a target before pulling the trigger.
MeatEater sends our sincerest regards to the family and friends of Gregory Gabrisch for their tragic loss.