Hunters work year-round to prepare property, but trespassers and poachers can ruin everything

I’ll admit it. I like to hunt deer when the season is in. 

There are actually a lot of us who enjoy going out into the fields and forests, finding a suitable sitting spot (or unfolding a lawn chair), and watching and waiting for an unsuspecting deer to wander by. The enjoyment we get is not in the kill, but is instead found in the overall experience of the day.

But there is one group of hunters, a rather large group if the truth be known, that take their deer hunting very seriously. These guys and gals eat, sleep, breathe and otherwise live for deer hunting. And not just any deer, either. Most of them want the biggest bucks, with the biggest racks of antlers. Nothing else will do.

Many of these dedicated hunters have their own deer hunting areas, either wholly owned by one person or a group. Or, they may have a long-term lease on property dedicated to whitetail deer management. Regardless, they all love hunting deer to the point that, once the big game hunting season ends, they are already busy planning how to make the next season even better, hopefully with even bigger bucks to stalk.

It might be hard to believe, but many of them share some of the same problems as many other hunters. Trespassing is always the most common violation, and can stem from many different reasons. Big trophy bucks love to wander, crossing roads and open fields in their travels. Some hunters might see these critters and go after them, regardless of the presence of posted signs. 

Poaching deer on posted property is another serious problem for managed property owners to contend with. While the managers do not actually “own” any of the deer residing on their land at any given time, they certainly have the right to a “proprietary interest” in taking or protecting any deer while it is on their property. And they, by right of ownership, can lawfully exclude any other person from trespassing on that land and/or poaching those deer.

It has to be more than a tad frustrating for a deer hunter/habitat manager to watch a trophy buck go from velvet bumps in May to 10 or 12 points on tall, wide-spread antlers in September, only to find a stranger/trespasser standing over that same buck, now dead, in October. After all, the manager is the one who cut the brush in winter, planted the food plots and desirable shrubs in the spring, set out several trail cameras and built new blinds or tree stands in the summer, and did all in his power to encourage that buck to bed down on his property.

Frustrating? Yes, it is all that and more. 

But trophy deer hunting is the toughest kind. And land owners who manage for deer have to expect to have trespassers and poachers, usually people who do not own any wooded property, to do their own thing whether it is lawful or not. 

Just chalk it up to human nature because that is exactly what it is.

* * *

And now for some more tales of outdoor dummies. And to lead this segment off in one of the dumbest I can remember writing about. 

It seems that, on Dec. 20, an unnamed citizen was walking in the Nature View Park on Tonawanda Creek Road in Amherst. The ground was snow covered, and there were clear signs that a deer had been killed a few feet from the walking trail, dragged through some brush, and brought into the garage of a home bordering the park. 

ECO Chuck Wilson responded to the complaint and found a broken hunting arrow frozen in the snow nearby. Upon closer inspection, he found that the area was scattered with corn. He followed the trail to the neighboring property. 

The officer observed a tagged doe deer head and a five-gallon bucket of deer entrails on a nearby table. The tag indicated that it had been killed in Ontario County on Nov. 19, but not reported through the state Game Harvest Report system. 

ECO Wilson contacted ECO Mark Mazurkiewicz to assist in the investigation and they interviewed the owner. He admitted to shooting an 11-point buck on Dec. 17 with a bow and arrow. ECO Wilson determined that the arrows in the homeowner's quiver were identical to the broken arrow found in Nature View Park.

The homeowner also admitted to placing corn in his backyard to feed his chickens, and the buck had been shot while feeding on the corn. The officers found the 11 point buck, which had not been tagged or processed, hanging in the garage. The homeowner was issued tickets for unlawful killing of a wild deer, hunting deer in an area closed to big game hunting, hunting deer with aid of a pre-established bait pile, failure to follow mandatory tagging requirements, and failure to report a deer harvest as required. 

The buck was donated to the venison donation program.

* * *

On Dec. 24, ECO Steve Gonyeau received a tip concerning a Facebook post showing two hunters with more than 20 rabbits allegedly taken in southern Washington County. The picture showed the tailgate of a pickup truck, and rabbits stacked across the back of it. 

Through social media contacts, the two hunters were quickly identified and, with the assistance of ECO George LaPoint, they were located and interviewed. Both hunters stated it was an epic rabbit hunting day and that they didn't realize there is a hunting limit on rabbits. The daily cottontail rabbit limit is six. 

Both hunters were issued tickets for taking over the limit of rabbits, returnable to the Easton Town Court. If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

* * *

And here is a happier note. On Dec. 20, ECOs Chris Freeman and Darci Dougherty were traveling along State Rt. 242 in the town of Napoli when they were flagged down by a local farmer who was frantically trying to keep an injured Snowy Owl from entering the busy road.  

The owl’s right wing was broken. ECO Freeman was able to capture the distressed owl by covering it with his jacket. They made arrangements for the owl to be picked up by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. The owl has since undergone surgery on its broken wing and is currently recovering in the rehabilitator’s care.

Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoor Writer. Contact him at