Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Game Warden Files--The North and the South

For the purposed of big game hunting New York is divided into to main divisions, North Zone and South Zone. The North Zone season opens in October, the South in November. In Fulton County the line is easily distinguished as it runs down State Highway 29 from one end of the county to the other. The Adirondack Park boundary runs just a few miles north of the road through much of the county so the line divides the county into two distinct environments. To the north, the land is more heavily wooded and hilly, to the south it's somewhat flatter and more of it is open farm land. For the real hunters, it tend to mean a difference in the methods of hunting; to the violators, it hardly matters. Road hunters don't really care.

Bob Gosson was coming down from Hamilton County to work a complaint where a nice buck had been shot from a pickup truck on the road. The deer had been in a cornfield in the South Zone and only North was open. The pickup had been driven into the field, two men got out, threw the deer in the back of the truck and took off. We ran all the leads down to dead ends for that night and called it quits. Like many cases, those who saw the most, were not willing to put their names on statements and we were afraid we'd lost this one.

Bob wasn't available the next day when Trooper Rich Bittner called with some information that he'd picked up about the case, so I went with the Trooper to interview another suspect. Though this guy wouldn't involve himself in shooting it, he admitted that he'd been there when the other two had dragged the deer into the woods on a back road in the North Zone. He wouldn't put his name on a statement; but he gave us the names of the two men involved and the fact that they had tagged it as though it had been taken in the North Zone. He also knew that it was already at a local butcher shop. While we were there talking to him, we noticed that he had a pile of guns in the corner of his home--more on that later.

Many hours later I caught up with the man I'd thought to be the passenger of the truck, but not the shooter. He told me that yes, he and the other guy had killed a nice buck, but it was in the North Zone--he'd even take me into the woods and show me the gut pile. After verbally sparring for quite some time, I told him I'd already seen the gut pile and had tissue samples to send out along with the samples from cornfield. It was just a matter of time before the DNA match came back. I also told him that when he was found guilty, he'd have to pay the state for the cost of the tests. This was a time when the DNA evidence was just starting to take hold and though it was doable, it was costly and took a very long time to get results. Fortunately for the good guys, the perception from the TV shows made it look like it was an overnight thing; so he was eager to get it over with.  He admitted that he'd shot the deer and said he'd take full responsibility for it, but wouldn't give me a written statement or mention the other guy in the truck.

He wanted to go to court and settle it right then. Since it was court night in that town anyway, I had the Sheriff's Office call the judge and ask him to come in a bit early to take care of this guy. We were in, settled, payed up and out the door before the normal court activity began. I then went to the butcher who had his deer. Since it had been illegally killed, it was property of the state. I told the butcher that the deer would be donated to a church that held a big sportsmen's dinner and he cut the deer up for me; after all, he'd already been payed.

In the interest of tying up lose ends, I would often run the names of all involved through the Sheriff's Office in-house records.  If I found any old cases on them, I'd see if there had been a conviction that prohibited owning a gun. I found an old case on our witness and Trooper Bittner and I went back to pay him another visit. We charged him with criminal possession of a weapon 4th degree, as we did many, and sent him to court over that.  If memory serves correctly, he got a court release for the old offense and got his guns back.

No comments:

Post a Comment