The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has recently published press releases affecting New York hunting sportsmen and women and out-of-staters who enjoy our great outdoor resources.
The DEC is entrusted with protecting these resources, as well as ensuring those who utilize and/or harvest any of these resources do it legally and safely.
Our Environmental Conservation Officers, in conjunction with neighboring states (Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont) set up saturation patrols to target illegal deer shooting with artificial light, better known as “deer jacking.” This poaching usually happens in rural areas at night. The operation began in October and ran through the first three weeks of November. Since this is the time hunters are in the woods, both uniformed and undercover ECOs are usually out there in the deer woods — in cars and on foot. This report covered 13 counties in the Capital Region and the following are just a few of the violators caught and the fines and jail time that could be given if they are found guilty.
The officers here were quite busy with 14 individual violators. Surprisingly, there were four violations for possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle which, if convicted, can result in a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail. Other violations included taking a deer without a permit and hunting with a rifle in a non-rifle zone. And one bowhunter found out that discharging a bow within 500 feet of a residence, over bait, and shooting a doe without a permit may cost him $2,500 in fines and up to one year in jail.
There were only two incidents in Saratoga County, but they could cost the four violators quite a bit of money and jail time. On Oct. 20, two 18 year olds, a male and a female, and a 16-year-old male were caught shining a spotlight on a doe and firing a rifle out of a car window from the road. The charges included using a light while possessing an unsecured gun, illegally taking protected wildlife, taking big game without a license and attempting to take game with the aid of a motor vehicle. If found guilty, the two males are subject to up to $4,000 in fines and three years in jail and the young lady $2,250 and two years in jail.
The other violators caught in Saratoga County were two men charged with shinning a light on lands inhabited by a deer while in possession of a firearm. The sentence could be up to $1,000 in fines and up to 90 days in jail.
Two men are facing a total of $14,000 in fines and 270 days in jail for taking deer with the aid of an artificial light, possessing a loaded gun in a motor vehicle and taking wildlife from a motor vehicle, all misdemeanors. Additionally, one of the violators was also charged with shooting two deer over bait and hunting without a big-game license, using a gun during the archery-only season. That’s a very expensive venison dinner.
The New York State Police and DEC caught an 18-year-old taking deer using an artificial light, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling and shooting across a public highway. But that wasn’t all — he also took a doe in closed season. If found guilty, these misdemeanors will cost him up to $6,000 and one year in jail.
A trio of men in their mid-20s were charged with deer jacking using an artificial light from a vehicle with a firearm which they discharged over a public highway, and taking a deer during the closed season. All these misdemeanors could cost each of them $6,000 in fines and a year in jail.
Only one bad boy in this county — an 18-year-old Schenectady man who was charged with illegal possession of a doe and taking a deer with a firearm during the bow season. If found guilty, he faces a maximum of $4,000 in fines and up to two years in jail.
An ECO responding to a trespass complaint in the Town of Indian Lake discovered bear bait in the area, and after a month-long investigation, three men from Suffolk County were caught and charged. One, a 48-year-old, was charged with illegally feeding bear and deer and placing a salt lick on lands inhabited by deer and bear, ATV infractions and illegally discharging sewage. The second, a 58-year-old, was charged with illegally feeding deer, shooting deer over bait and failure to carry a hunting license and carcass tags while hunting. The third man was charged with illegally feeding deer and shooting deer over bait. The first faces penalties of $38,750 in fines and 90 days in jail; the second, fines of $750 and 45 days in jail. No. 3 faces up to $500 in fines and 30 days in jail.
The oldest violator of the hunting laws was a 74-year-old who, in November, was caught taking deer and shooting over a bait pile. He appeared in the Gallatin Town Court, apologized for his actions and paid a $750 fine.
Many of these violators are caught due to the watchful eyes and ears of citizens concerned about our environment. Anyone who sees or hears what is believed to be a violation should call the DEC Turn in Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) hotline — (800) 847-7332. To report the violation online, click here. Remember, never put yourself at risk getting this information.
DEC reports that since 1960, the number of hunters has declined approximately 20 percent, while the hunter shooting incidents has declined over 70 percent. The past five-year average is 5.3 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19.3 in 1960.
During the 2011 hunting season, which matched 2009 as the safest year, there were 26 reported personal injury-related shooting incidents, four fatal. All of the fatalities occurred during the deer season, and only one was self-inflicted. Commissioner Joe Martens said that the 3,000 plus dedicated volunteer New York State Sportsman Education Instructors have played a vital role in training first-time hunters and are one of the major reasons these hunting incidents continue to decline. Anyone who takes one of these courses and passes the exam leaves with a good knowledge of hunting ethics, firearms and firearm safety.
I haven’t received the individual accounts of these 26 hunting-related incidents, but am willing to bet that one or more of these three phrases were in most of the shooter’s statements: “looked like,” “sounded like,” and/or “I thought.” When I took my hunter education class many years ago, I remember being told, “When you are hunting with a firearm, do not be 100 percent sure, be 150 percent sure when you pull that trigger.” Whenever there is any doubt, do not shoot.
If you would like to see all the information on these violations and violators, click here.
NYS 4H SHOOTING SPORTS
New York State 4H Shooting Sports has been a leader in introducing safe and responsible use of firearms and archery equipment for quite some time. This includes their hunting and trapping courses which are all held at their training center in Ballston Spa. Last year, almost 500 individuals completed their safety courses and received certificates. Having sat in on some of these classes, I know those who attend are ready to enter the hunting woods.
Each year, this local organization hosts a fundraising banquet and auction to cover the cost of its great youth shooting sports program. It’s an event all sportsmen and women should attend. This year’s banquet will be held on April 21 at the Towers Hall building of the Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center, Lake George. Those attending who would like to make it a weekend will be able to make overnight reservations that will include a Sunday Breakfast buffet at the Fort Henry.
Prizes include a variety of outdoor items, including a number of guns (rifles and shotguns), sportsman packages, carvings, prints, hunting and photo safaris.
Doors will open at 4 p.m. for the silent auction, ticket drop, games and live auction preview. The grand buffet dinner with beef, chicken and seafood selections will begin at 6. For further details and/or a banquet application, click here.
FISH WITH ME
Everyone who writes my name at the bottom of their reservation to the NYS 4H banquet will be put in a hat. If drawn, that person and a guest will spend a day bass fishing with me. Chances are very good the winner will see his name in a future Gazette Fish Tales story.