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Deer Poachers Arrest

Hunting Regulations Icon Rhode Island Hunting

By Kyle Murray, Environmental Police Officer, RIDEM

On October 12, 2016 at approximately 1900 hours I was traveling down Matunuck Beach Road in South Kingstown when I observed several fresh dirt tire tracks coming from the entrance of Field 3 South Shore Management Area.

The wooded portion of Field 3 SSMA is currently open to white tail deer hunting, archery only, thirty minutes before sunrise to thirty minutes after sunset, daily.

Following this, I drove into the field and did not observe any activity. Seeing several fresh tire tracks was odd for two reasons: the field receives low hunting pressure from deer hunters, and a few days prior, this area had a heavy rain storm which would have washed away old tire tracks. Legal shooting time on this day had ended at 1838 hours and it was now well after sunset.
I decided to park my vehicle in the field along the hedge row near the entrance and blacked out all lights in my patrol vehicle. At approximately 1924 hours, the middle section on the east end of the field started to light up and the light was increasing. When I looked over my right shoulder at the southeastern end of the field, I observed a vehicle traveling north in the field. I could make out two headlights and a third light coming from the driver’s side window. I believed the third light to be a spot light because it was moving in a side to side motion. I immediately put my patrol vehicle in gear and started heading right toward the vehicle which was in violation for the Artificial Illumination of Game. When I was approximately 30 yards away from the truck, I turned on my patrol vehicle’s running lights and spot-lighted the truck. I observed two males inside, later identified as John Jones and Joe Smith. Jones was the operator and Smith was the passenger.
I then exited my patrol vehicle and Jones exited his vehicle, a red Chevrolet pickup truck. I identified myself and told Jones to get back in his vehicle and he complied. I asked if there were any weapons in the vehicle and Smith replied, saying there was a gun. I then asked where the gun was and if it was loaded. He pointed to a 12 gauge pump shotgun next to his left leg in between him and Jones. I instructed both subjects not to move and called dispatch for assistance. I was located near the passenger side door and I called Jones out of the vehicle. Jones came around the front of the vehicle and I placed him in custody. The handcuffs were checked for tightness and double locked. I then told Smith to exit the vehicle. When Smith was out of the vehicle, I told him not to move. I walked Jones to my patrol vehicle, and while doing this, Jones asked why he was under arrest. I proceeded to tell him he was under arrest for Jack Lighting Deer. He then replied, saying that the deer continually damage all of the crops in this field and that he needs to feed his family. I proceeded to place him inside my truck and asked him where the shells for the gun were. He stated there was a box in the middle of the floor and there were a few shells on the seat. I then secured the door of my truck with Jones inside. Smith was also taken into custody. I did a terry pat down on Smith where a large pocket knife was seized. Smith was then placed on the ground near the suspect’s truck.
Once the scene was secured, I took pictures of the shotgun, shells, and Mag light in the original place where they were located inside of the truck. I obtained the shotgun serial number AT12492009, and the shotgun was made secure and unloaded. The Mag light and box of shells were then seized and secured with the shotgun. While collecting the hunting equipment, I smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle and I asked Smith where the marijuana was in the vehicle. He stated in the center console. I then retrieved a marijuana blunt from the console. There were also .22 magnum bullets in the console, a common weapon used by deer poachers. The remainder of the vehicle was searched for any other weapons. However, no other weapons were found, and at this time my backup arrived.
I then read Jones his Miranda rights and told him he was under arrest for Jack Lighting Deer. The backup officer read Smith his Miranda rights as well, and I told him he was under arrest for Jack Lighting Deer. Jones’ truck was then shut down and secured. I transported Jones to the Field Office for processing.
During the transport I asked Jones why he was out poaching deer. He stated that the deer do thousands of dollars of damage to his crops. I then said, “So you where shining the light, was the other guy going to shoot?” He responded saying, “No I shoot the deer; nobody shoots my gun. He’ll hold the light when we’re gutting it out.” Jones also stated that he shoots deer with a .22 magnum rifle and .270 rifle. He stated that he doesn’t use the .270 rifle much because it makes too much noise. Both rifles are prohibited methods to harvest deer. He also stated that he remembered poaching deer in that same field with his father when he was a little boy. Jones does not possess a hunting license and claimed he had already poached a deer this year.
It should be noted, the Matunuck area has numerous shots fired calls at night every year, and several deer carcasses have been found shot and abandoned. At 2018 hours the transport ended at the field office, ending mileage 32726. Smith was transported back to the field office by the backup officer. Jones and Smith were then processed and arraigned by the Justice of the Peace. Both men were charged with Artificial Illumination of Game – Jack Lighting, and Hunting without a License. The Justice of the Peace informed both men of their mandatory court appearance at District Court. Jones was also cited for Possession of Marijuana 1 Oz or Less, and Possession of Buckshot.
The shotgun, Mag light, extended choke tube, (7) OO Buck shells, and 1 Rifled Slug shell where photographed and logged as evidence at the Field Office.
Both men were sentenced in court, where they paid $100 to the Violent Crimes Fund and forfeited the shotgun, light, and other equipment. The offense of hunting without a license was dismissed pending proof of a Hunter Education Course. The citations for the marijuana and possession of buckshot were also dismissed as part of this plea agreement.