This is the time of year when poaching complaints pick up, illicit "hunters" bending or breaking the law to take down a buck or doe. Our local environmental conservation officers (ECOs) had a few interesting cases in Saratoga County in recent days, as early black powder season came and went and Northern Zone rifle season kicked off. The stories below, including a couple of particularly interesting ones from a decoy effort, are from the DEC.
-- Don Lehman
Too Much Temptation – Saratoga County
On the evening of Oct. 17, ECOs Steve Shaw and Ryan Kelley received a phone call from a concerned citizen in the town of Moreau stating that he had witnessed a man in a vehicle driving up and down a driveway and then heard a single gunshot. Shortly thereafter, the caller saw lights in a wooded area. All of the activity occurred approximately one hour past legal hunting hours. When the ECOs arrived to investigate the complaint, they located an antlerless deer hanging in a tree near the front door of a nearby residence. A man at the residence was questioned by ECOs about the specifics of the deer taking. He initially stated that he had shot the deer legally a few hours earlier behind his place of employment, but ultimately admitted to taking the deer on the property involved in the complaint. He stated that, “I didn’t even see a deer last season and the temptation was just too much for me. I couldn’t help myself even though I know what I did was wrong.” The man was charged with killing a deer except as permitted by the Fish and Wildlife Law, hunting during closed hours, hunting with the aid of a motor vehicle, and taking deer with the aid of an artificial light. The deer and gun were seized as evidence. All charges are pending in the Town of Moreau Court.
Deer Decoy Detail – Hamilton County
On Oct. 20, the last day of the Northern Zone early muzzleloader hunting season, ECOs Scott Pierce, George LaPoint, recent Academy graduate Joshua Harvey, and Lt. Matt Clemens set up a deer decoy outside of the village of Indian Lake. As the day was drawing to an end, ECOs LaPoint and Harvey watched as a slow moving vehicle came down the road. The windows of the vehicle were open, and after spotting the decoy, the driver put the vehicle in reverse. A muzzleloader was seen poking out the front passenger window and the driver was observed plugging his ears just before a loud bang rang out. The two vehicle occupants were issued tickets for possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle and discharging a firearm across a public highway. After dark, LaPoint and Harvey watched as another vehicle approached. The driver used a spotlight to light up the decoy. The passenger opened the vehicle door and shot at the decoy. When he realized it was a decoy, he jumped into the vehicle as LaPoint yelled, “Police, you’re under arrest! Don’t move!” The driver sped away, only to meet Lt. Clemens and his vehicle a short distance down the road. Both men were issued tickets for use of lights while in possession of a firearm, loaded gun in a motor vehicle, and discharging a firearm across a public highway. The driver was also ticketed for failing to comply with a lawful order and unlawful possession of marijuana.
“I thought you would have been here yesterday” – Saratoga County
On the morning of Oct. 21, the opening day of the Northern Zone gun season, ECO Steve Shaw received a phone call from an upset hunter in the town of Northumberland. The individual had witnessed another man shoot a small buck on his posted property from a climbing tree stand. When the complainant confronted the shooter, he was told, “I came into the property in the dark, how am I supposed to know where the posted signs are?” The shooter provided the property owner with his first name and 12-digit hunter ID number. ECO Shaw investigated the complaint with the property owner and confirmed that the suspect was on posted property when he discharged and killed the deer. ECO Shaw then attempted to locate the suspect and soon realized the shooter had provided the property owner with an incorrect hunter ID number. The following day, ECO Shaw and ECO Ryan Kelley continued to investigate the complaint, searching the hunting license database for all individuals in the town with the same first name provided by the shooter. On their first attempt, they located the subject. As he opened the door at his residence, the subject stated, “I thought you would have been here yesterday.” The man was charged with killing a deer except as permitted by the Fish and Wildlife Law and trespassing. The deer was donated and all charges are pending in the Town of Northumberland Court.
Illegal Hunter Nabbed – Herkimer County
While on patrol on Oct. 16, ECO Jeff Hull heard a call over Herkimer County dispatch of a subject shooting from the road in the town of Webb. Within minutes, the Chief of Police for Webb Police Department had detained a subject matching the description. The hunter denied shooting at a deer. However, once on scene, ECO Hull located a dead, 7-point buck and a strong blood trail. On the far side of the disturbed soil where the deer had been shot, the officer found a spent muzzleloader sabot. Using the hair, soil, sabot, entrance and exit wounds on the deer, ECO Hull determined that the subject discharged his firearm from the woods on the nearby hill, not from the road. He was approximately 350 feet from a nearby house when he shot the deer. The hunter was issued two misdemeanor tickets, one for discharging within 500 feet of a dwelling, and one for taking protected wildlife except as permitted. The buck was seized as evidence.