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Big fines levied in local deer jacking case

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    Back in action, ECOs James Davey (left) and Jeff Cox seize eight illegal bucks.
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    Eight illegal bucks poached in Columbia County.
June 9, 2018 12:00 am

According to the Police Benevolent Association of New York State, Chatham Town Justice James Borgin-Forster imposed a significant penalty in a criminal case related to “jacking” trophy deer in Columbia County.

Deer jacking is the illegal killing of deer with a firearm while shining them with artificial light. The bright light temporarily freezes deer, making them easier to shoot and is considered by sportsmen, as well as conservation officers, to be the most unsportsmanlike, illegal method of taking deer.

In this case, three local men were slapped with fines totaling more than $16,000 for jacking big bucks back in 2017 using lights, rifles, crossbows and thermal sensing devices. The penalties were levied stemming from a case that began on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, when off-duty Environmental Conservation Officer Jeff Cox received an anonymous tip that someone had illegally shot a buck after dark the previous evening in northern Columbia County.

ECO Cox met his partner, James Davey, who tragically one year earlier was gravely injured after being shot while responding to a similar report of shots fired after dark. The two went to the home of Hunter Ordway, 19, of Chatham. They found him preparing several antlered deer for processing and display.

The officers then interviewed Jeremy Schemerhorn, 41, also of Chatham, and Ryan Bishop, 24, of Niverville, who admitted their involvement in the case.

Remarkably, just a few hours after receiving the tip, ECOs Cox and Davey had seized eight deer. The trio were charged with taking deer with the aid of an artificial light (deer jacking), taking deer with the aid of bait, plus other lesser offenses.

The animals were all bucks and included one big 10-point trophy; three 8-pointers, one 6-pointer, two 5-pointers; and one spike.

Ordway pleaded guilty on April 25 to six misdemeanor counts involving the illegal taking of deer including taking deer over the limit and hunting deer with the aid of an artificial light and was sentenced on May 23 to $12,400 in fines and court costs.

Jeremy Schemerhorn pleaded guilty on March 5 to three misdemeanors involving the illegal taking of deer and paid a total of $3,225 in fines and court surcharges.

Bishop pleaded guilty on February 28 to four violations; hunting deer over bait, failure to tag deer, failure to possess an archery license and failure to wear a backtag while hunting and paid $675 in fines and court surcharges. In addition to the fines, Schemerhorn and Ordway are subject to revocation of their hunting license privileges.

Illegal hunting and the adequacy of penalties to serve as a deterrent has attracted significant scrutiny and interest by members of the State Legislature in an effort to appropriately punish those who engage in poaching.

Last year, legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (Washington County) and Senator Joseph Robach (Monroe County) was signed into law which increased mandatory minimum fines for certain wildlife offenses. This year, a bill introduced by Senator Gallivan (Erie County), S6911, seeks to make hunting while revoked a misdemeanor. Its companion bill in the NYS Assembly introduced by Assemblyman Ryan (Buffalo) is A9049.

An even more important piece of much-needed legislation that remains pending in the legislature would protect ECOs who are severely injured in the line of duty.

The measure, sponsored by Senator Golden (Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Abbate (Brooklyn) would make ECOs who are severely injured in the line of duty eligible to apply for a “three-quarters disability retirement.” Astoundingly, ECOs hired after a certain date are the only police officers in New York who are not eligible for this vital benefit.

Given the dangers they face strapping on a gun and a uniform to protect us and our natural resources, as evidenced by the shooting of ECO Davey just 18 months ago, fixing this legislatively would seem to be a no-brainer. Despite that, it failed to clear both houses of the legislature last year and ECO Davey remains ineligible for these disability benefits.

The bill has passed the Senate and remains pending in the Assembly.

PBA Vice President Jason DeAngelis, a 15-year veteran of the Environmental Conservation Police states, “Our police officers need to know that state leaders have their backs when confronting armed criminals, masquerading as sportsman. And, when injured, as James Davey was, that a viable retirement is available allowing for a complete recovery.”

Davey suffered a devastating injury when he was shot through the hip with a 30-30 rifle on Nov. 29, 2016. He returned to active duty on Nov. 27, 2017 — less than one year after the incident.

“A first responder is a first responder is a first responder. We owe them our thanks. Knowing that they can do their jobs and New York will be there for their families is important. The Senate is committed to doing the right thing for those who protect us. Whether it be walking a beat in Brooklyn or covering a territory in Columbia County, public safety is public safety, and we owe it to those families to give them peace of mind,” said Senator Golden.

Assembly member Didi Barrett (Columbia and Dutchess Counties) said, “The nearly fatal accident that occurred when DEC officer James Davey responded to an afterhours hunting incident in my district points to the need for both equitable benefits for injured conservation officers as well as greater deterrents for those who would hunt illegally. I have advocated for both, as a sponsor of legislation to increase penalties for illegal hunting (A.8459), and as co-sponsor of legislation to give 3/4 disabilities benefits for injuries sustained during the course of duty, (A.7600). With the help and advocacy of the Police Benevolent Association of New York state we will continue to fight for these measures to protect and support our dedicated conservation officers.”

As a retired ECO, and as a member of the public at large who supports all law enforcement officers, I urge you to contact your local assemblyman in support of A7600C before the session ends on June 20, to correct this inequality.

News and Notes

— The Annual Kids Fishing Derby sponsored by the Cairo Fish & Game Club and the Greene County Federation of Sportsmen will be held again at the Bavarian Manor on Saturday, June 23. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and fishing goes from 10 a.m. to the siren blast at noon. Prizes for largest, smallest and most fish in two divisions will be awarded but all kids get a prize for participating. Be sure to hang around and pay attention when your number is called and all the prizes are given away.

— The 22nd annual Lake Taghkanic Bass Tournament kicks off its season on the black bass opener, June 16. Push-off is at West Beach at Lake Taghkanic at 4 a.m. Fish until 11 a.m. with a 5-fish limit which must be alive at weigh-in. Gas motors are not allowed on the lake, but electric trolling motors are according to state regulations. Fish finders and live bait are allowed. For more information, call Bill Johnson at 518-537-5455. More dates to be announced soon.

— The Hudson Fish & Game Club is running an indoor/outdoor flea market at their location on Fish & Game Road off State Route 9H on June 16, 2018. If you get hungry while buying or selling at the event, wood fired, slow roasted 1/2 chicken dinners will be available for $10. If you’d like to set up a table, space is still available. For more information, call Duane at 518-567-6222 or Rich at 518-821-1211.

— The Roe-Jan Creek Boat Club presents its Annual “All You Can Eat” Father’s Day Steak Bake on Sunday, June 17. Grounds open at the club at 1 p.m. and dinner is served at 3 p.m. The cost is $165 for adults, $7.50 for kids 12 and under. For tickets, call Barbara at 518-828-7173 or the clubhouse at 518-828-5924.

— Remember to report poaching violations by calling 1-844-DEC-ECOS.

Happy hunting, trapping, and fishing until next time.

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*If you have a fishing or hunting report, photo, or event you would like to be considered for publication, you can send it to: huntfishreport@gmail.com