Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What Is Wanton Waste?: A Disturbing Case Study

Likely The Buck Involved In First Day Of Season Incident: Still Capture From Video Taken At Long Range-Canon Xl-H1
 I came to the conclusion many years ago that not all things that are legal are ethical and just recently I had this point forcibly brought home to me.  On the last Saturday of rifle deer season a hunter shot a buck on state game lands near my home.  I noticed that he left carrying only a backpack with the deer's head with antlers attached, strapped to the backpack. It didn't seem likely he could be carrying the entire deer, so I checked the area out after he left and found a deer carcass that had been there for sometime. It had been hidden under the leaves, but the wind, rain and varmints had caused the deer to be partially exposed so that I could easily see it. This deer had the head removed and the tenderloins or "backstraps".  The remainder of the deer was left to rot, or for the varmints to eat.

Buck Killed Earlier In Season-Most Likely The One On The First Day
This brought to mind that I saw another hunter standing over a dead  buck  in this same spot on the first day of rifle deer season. In fact he was using same stand to hunt from as the hunter on this past Saturday, but it definitely was not the same individual. This hunter attached a tag to the animal and left, dragging the animal behind him, headed toward the area where I found the carcass on Saturday, which makes it seem likely that he dragged the animal to this spot, which was just out of sight of me, removed the head and tenderloins, and then buried the remainder under the leaves. 

It seemed certain that the other deer was hidden nearby, so it was time to call for professional help.  At this point I  called a PGC Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer, who made arrangements to go with me to the area next morning.  On Sunday morning, the DWCO, a neighboring landowner, and I went to the area and in no time found the deer that was shot on Saturday.  This animal was also hidden under a pile of leaves and was only a short distance from the other.  It too had only the head and tenderloins removed. The bottom line was that we had two deer that had been killed and buried under the leaves, with only the head and backstraps removed from each.

Head Removed From Buck Killed On Last Saturday Of Season

Backstraps Removed From Buck Killed On Last Saturday Of season
The Deputy gathered pertinent evidence before leaving the area and he and I felt confident that this was a "good" case.  Leaving most of the animal to rot had to be wrong, or was it? The first doubts arose when I researched  this and found quite a bit of discussion on blogs and forums on the internet about this subject.

A Particularly good discussion can be found at the Fair Chase Hunting Blog, and a continuation of this discussion can be found by clicking here, Wanton Waste And Going Above And Beyond Fair Chase .

Another excellent discussion can be found on the Hunting PA Forums . Particularly relevant are comments by Retired Pennsylvania Game Commission  Bureau Of Wildlife Protection Enforcement Division Chief , John Shutter (John S forum user name). In a comment dated Nov.2, 2011, Shutter States, "Neither State or Federal law forces game to be utilized, I don't know how that would be possible, both simply require the game to be retrieved if reasonably possible and removed from the field. After that, it is a matter of conscience and common sense."

 Here is the pertinent section of the Pennsylvania Game and Wildlife Code, which reads as follows:

 Sec. 2305. Retrieval and disposition of killed or wounded game or wildlife.
(a) General rule.--It is unlawful for any person who kills or wounds any game or wildlife while engaged in any activities permitted by this title to refuse or neglect to make a reasonable effort to retrieve, retain or lawfully dispose of such game or wildlife.

They key to the entire situation is "lawfully dispose".  It was the opinion of Fulton County District Wildlife Conservation Officer, Kevin Mountz, and Southcentral Regional Law Enforcement Supervisor, Roland Trombetto, that removing only the antlers and backstraps is "lawfully disposing" of a deer killed on state game lands, as long as the animal is killed in season, with a legal weapon, and the hunter has a valid tag, which he uses on that animal.  According to Mountz, at that point he owns the animal and can dispose of it as he pleases. There is no section or portion of a section requiring a person to utilize any portion of an animal which they legally harvested. It would possible to charge them with littering if they removed the carcass from one spot and dumped it in another, but in this case it was left in the same general area where it was killed.  (I would assume but do not know for a fact, that a private landowner could bring charges for leaving wildlife parts on their property, but according to Mountz  and Trombetto, "we do not arrest people for leaving deer parts on state game lands"-with the caveat that it must be where the animal is killed and not transported to another spot and dumped).  Legally speaking, at the end of the day all that mattered was that the buck was tagged.

I had not ran into this in my many years as a Deputy for the PGC, and always assumed that it was illegal to waste an animal in such a manner.  In fact most who shoot deer out of season, or shoot more than the law allows, use the argument " I needed the meat" as justification for their actions, or someone might say in reference to an illegal deer shooting, "well, it's OK as long as they use the meat", but in this case we have persons who most likely legally killed two deer, but did not want the meat.  This interpretation of the law led me to ponder what the ramifications would be if one had a valid antlerless deer tag and did the same thing. What, if any, portion of the deer is the hunter required to retain?

On reading  Section 2305 and hearing the explanation from my former superior officers, I could see no point in pursuing the matter further, which at this juncture would be establishing that the animals were tagged, and I have no doubt that they were, so the matter was dropped, but it is one that will leave a bad aftertaste for years to come.

A major problem is the message that this sends to the public.  The law needs to be re-written or at least additional regulations promulgated under Title 58 to cover this type of situation.  In a time when the sport of hunting is under increasing attack from all quarters, this type of behavior only serves to reinforce negative views of the sport.  How can one justify shooting an animal for the antlers on its' head and a few pounds of choice meat, while the vast majority of the animal is left to rot and how can a state conservation agency condone this type of activity?  It appears that the state of Alaska does not and Pennsylvania should follow suit!  Here is the pertinent section of the Alaska Law:

Title 5 Fish and Game
Part 3 Game
Chapter 92 Statewide Provisions
 (a) Subject to additional requirements in 5 AAC 84 - 5 AAC 85, a person taking game shall salvage the following parts for human use: 

Article 20 Definitions (17) "edible meat" means, in the case of a big game animal, except a black bear, the meat of the ribs, neck, brisket, front quarters as far as the distal joint of the radius-ulna (knee), hindquarters as far as the distal joint of the tibia-fibula (hock), and the meat along the backbone between the front and hindquarters; in the case of a black bear, the meat of the front quarters and hindquarters and meat along the backbone (backstrap); in the case of wild fowl, the meat of the breast; however, "edible meat" of big game or wild fowl does not include meat of the head, meat that has been damaged and made inedible by the method of taking, bones, sinew, incidental meat reasonably lost as a result of boning or a close trimming of the bones, or viscera;

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Willard: This is stupidity at it highest. I'm sorry to even know this was done.

Erin said...

Disgusting. If they didn't want the meat, the could donate it to a food pantry. Leaving it to waste like that is unacceptable. To have such beautiful animals be killed just for the antlers is mind blowing. I could gladly trade them the antlers off my deer for the meat.

Steve Ferendo said...

Maryland is the same way. If a hunter abandons his kill all he can be charged with is "littering". Good luck getting things changed.

Anonymous said...

Boy, I couldn't stand that kind of treatment and if I had the power would have the people arrested for it. But the state probably gets a lot of money in selling licenses and would not permit anyone to be arrested.

I gave up hunting and fishing three or four decades ago and have no known "sportsmen" friends in my dwindling circle of friends.

Tom said...

Good day Willard
You will know my feelings on such matters I'm sure.. I have always enjoyed you blog for the information and your views as much for your pictures... so glad you are still blogging and fighting the good fight..
All the very best Willard for Christmas and the New Year to you and your family..

V.L. Locey said...

Darn, that kind of waste makes me so mad!

Dale said...

I find this disgusting that a person that would claim to be a sportsman could destroy a beautiful animal for basically the antlers alone. This ranks right up there with destroying elephants for tusks, bears for the claws, and baby seals for the pelts. These actions reflect very poorly on hunting. I am a hunter myself and I find these actions totally sickening.

Ritchie said...

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Marci Geise said...

This is so sad. Thanks for shedding light on what is happening. I know you will be responsible for making a change for deer and elk. Thank you for all you do.