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Jim Karpowitz, then a new employee with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, vividly remembers words spoken more than 32 years ago from a seasoned veteran wildlife conservation officer. "Before you ever write a ticket, ask yourself if you could have made the same mistake."

Karpowitz, director of the state wildlife agency for the past five years, surely did. He requested he be cited after he illegally shot two sage grouse, pleaded guilty this week and was fined $138. He wrote the roughly 500 employees of the DWR to acknowledge his mistake, a result of shooting the birds in Morgan County, not in Rich County for which he was permitted. Accompanied by two members of the Utah Wildlife Board, Karpowitz shot the birds on Sept. 29 at the Deseret Land and Livestock Ranch and the county border is unmarked on the private property.

"This incident demonstrated to me how easy it is to unintentionally violate a law while hunting," Karpowitz wrote in the e-mail. "I also hope that if any of you find yourself in a similar situation that you will take prompt action to rectify your mistake. I can tell you that even though this is very embarrassing, it feels good to have taken responsibility for the error I made and to hold myself accountable. I apologize if I have caused embarrassment to any of you, the Division, or the State of Utah."

Karpowitz, a hunter for 44 years, immediately called wildlife law enforcement officers and requested that he be issued a citation for hunting outside the legal boundary of his permit. The birds were confiscated and the citation was issued by an officer Karpowitz has known his entire career.

"I was happy because I had the sage grouse and now we could all go hunting for blue grouse," Karpowitz said Friday. "One of the other guys pointed out that we were in Morgan County and I told him I wished he had let me know before I shot the grouse."

Michael Styler, the head of the Utah Department of Natural Resources and Karpowitz's boss, said Karpowitz informed him immediately of the infraction.

"He handled everything the way he should have handled it and did everything he should have done," Styler said.

"We all make mistakes and what you should do when you make a mistake is exactly what Jim Karpowitz did. He faced the consequences rather than trying to hide the mistake."