New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Crackdown on Deer Poaching Nets More than 100 Individuals
December 8, 2009
Contact: Yancey Roy, NYS DEC (518) 402-8000
“Operation Jackhammer” Targets Violators in Hudson Valley, Catskills, Capital Region and Adirondacks
A major initiative to crack down on illegal deer hunting from the Hudson Valley to the Canadian border has led to charges against 107 individuals for more than 250 offenses, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Jackhammer,” focused on the illegal taking of deer by use of artificial light – a practice commonly known as “deer jacking.” This involves night hunting where poachers shine a spotlight on a deer feeding in fields to “freeze” the animal long enough to shoot it — killing deer when they are most vulnerable. Typically, deer jacking occurs in remote rural areas, late at night. Due to these late hours and secluded areas, there are few, if any, witnesses to this crime.
This fall, DEC undertook the largest coordinated anti-deer jacking initiative in the state’s history. Operation Jackhammer utilized more than 100 Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) from the Hudson Valley, Capitol Region, the Catskills and the Adirondacks. During a six-week period, ECOs were assigned to saturation patrols in targeted rural locations, with stakeouts taking place at all hours of the night. The investigations largely covered the weeks before the start of deer season, when, historically, DEC fields numerous complaints about deer jacking.
“Traditionally,” Commissioner Grannis said, “DEC investigated deer jacking complaints on a piecemeal basis, responding to reports as they came in. We changed that with Operation Jackhammer, putting together a coordinated effort to not only target lawbreakers but also to determine just how widespread this dangerous and illegal practice is. What we found was surprising. Deer jacking occurs more frequently than the public may suspect. I’m proud of the success of our officers – who put in long hours at night, dealing with armed individuals and often without backup help. Their work sends a strong message that poaching will not be tolerated.”
“DEC takes seriously the crime of nighttime deer poaching for many reasons – safety, foremost,” said Henry Hamilton, DEC Assistant Commissioner for Public Protection. “Deer jacking involves someone firing off a high-powered rifle in the dark, not knowing what or who is behind their target. Sometimes, it involves shooting across roads. But also, poachers typically trespass across private lands, violate hunting ethics and rob legitimate hunters of opportunities.”
“Deer hunting is a long-standing tradition and an important part of New York’s outdoor heritage, providing recreational opportunities and food for sportsmen and sportswomen and their families,” said Howie Cushing, president of the New York State Conservation Council. “Most hunters play by the rules, but deer jackers don’t. This illegal practice allows them to take unfair advantage of New York’s resources.”
During the six-week operation, DEC officers charged 107 individuals with 187 misdemeanors and 87 violations. This included 27 instances of hunters killing deer at night while using a spotlight or other artificial light and 48 instances where a hunter was caught using a light but had yet to kill a deer. Typically, other related charges were filed in these instances, such as carrying a loaded gun in a vehicle, hunting after hours and firing a gun within 500 feet of a house.
By region, 102 misdemeanors and 37 violations were filed in the Adirondack Park and surrounding North Country. In the Capital Region and northern Catskills, there were 71 misdemeanors and 46 violations. In the southern Catksills and Lower and Mid-Hudson Valley, there were 14 misdemeanors and four violations.
Approximately 40 guns were confiscated and 42 illegally-taken deer recovered.
Turn in Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) Hotline
DEC encourages anyone with information on environmental crimes and violations are urged to call its 24-hour hotline, 1-800-TIPP-DEC or 1-800-847-7332. Callers may request to file complaints anonymously.
“Taking of Deer with the Aid of an Artificial Light” is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $250 to $2,000 and/or incarceration for up to one year, as well as possible revocation of hunting privileges for up to five years.
“Operating an Artificial Light on Lands Inhabited by Deer While Possessing a Firearm” is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $200 to $1,000 and/or incarceration for up to 90 days.