Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Game Warden Files--A Neighborhood Dilemma

In spite of the fact that it was my day off, I'd been out all morning chasing complaints.  The South Zone deer season was going full swing and the North Zone still had muzzle loading and bow season open.  I'd just pulled into my driveway when a pickup pulled in behind me.  It was one of my neighbors and he had a problem.  Well, he had a problem all right, but not the one he thought he'd had. 

He had his two young sons with him, about 8 and 10 years old, and had shot a small buck.  When he got up to it, he saw that one side of the small 8 point rack had come detached and was on the ground where the deer had fallen.  As he grabbed the deer to field dress it, the other side of the rack came off also.  He dressed the deer, tagged it as the 8 pointer it was and came looking for me. 

There was no question in my mind that the deer had been a lawful kill, in that it was an antlered deer ready to shed, but the tag indicated that he'd killed it in the Northern Zone and there was only a center-fire rifle in the truck--not a muzzle loader.  I asked where he killed it and he gave me a description in enough detail that I probably could have walked right to the tree he'd been sitting was well inside the North Zone.  Then I had to ask what he'd killed it with.  He motioned toward the truck and the 30-06 on the rack--that's when he realized he was probably in trouble.  Sure enough, he'd not paid attention to the game guide and had essentially taken a deer out of season.  It had not been intentional, but here he was with an illegally taken deer and I had to do something about it. The big question was what.

I knew the guy was not a bad guy, certainly not a poacher, so rather than write the misdemeanor of taking a deer out of season, I wrote him a ticket for taking wildlife other that as permitted. That was the difference between a crime and a violation; a possible $2000 fine or a maximum $250 fine. I told him to show up in court prepared to pay the maximum, as I was going to tell the judge the whole story. 

I sent him to court on the night the softer-hearted of the two judges in that town was sitting. My neighbor explained to the judge just what he had done and that he was prepared to pay the maximum fine as we had discussed. The judge accepted his guilty plea but said he didn't have his EnCon Law book with him so he didn't know what the maximum fine was. The good judge set the fine at $20. 

I ran into this fellow and his boys fishing that next spring and he could not thank me enough for "treating him right." He also understood the lesson his boys needed to have about being held accountable for a wrong--and that being honest up front was always going to have a better outcome than lying. 

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