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Developing a Proactive Strategy

By Christian Killoran & Brian Fitzpatrick - March 2015


You are excited when you receive the news. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has decided to open up previously reserved state managed land to hunters.  Notably, the land is located in Western Suffolk County and therefore represents a substantial opportunity for local hunters who ordinarily need to dedicate a considerable amount of time to access the distant environs of Eastern Suffolk County. The “anti-hunting” segments of the community have lodged certain complaints objecting to the augmented access, but you are confidant that, through the process of education and experience, their concerns will eventually dissipate.

Eager to scout the land prior to hunting, you’ve targeted an opportunity amidst your busy schedule wherein you can conduct a few quality hours of scouting. After a truncated afternoon at work, you arrive home, quickly change into your hunting gear, and head out to the newly opened site. When you arrive, you notice a small group of people gathered by the “hunters only” parking access. You pull up, park your vehicle, and begin to gather your gear for your intended scouting session. Prior to exiting your vehicle however, you are confronted by one female gathered at the site. She threateningly announces her objection to your presence, loudly posits an opinion that you are a murderer, and even publicly threatens to actually kill you if you challenge her assessment. You keenly notice that her gathered associates are adorned with various sorts of “anti-hunting” paraphernalia. Your brief attempt to explain that you have a legal right to hunt the property, and conversely that the group’s collective “permit-less” presence may in fact be in violation of law, is summarily discounted. You quickly begin to realize that you have walked into the proverbial “hornets nest” and are consequently eager to extradite yourself from the situation.

Accordingly, rather than escalate the situation, you decide the more prudent course of action is simply to leave. Intuition prompts you take photos of the license plates gathered at the location prior to heading home. You are obviously upset that your scouting opportunity has been thwarted, but are even further tormented by the threatening tones and accusations emanating from the anti-hunting protesters. Intuition again prompts you to err on the side of caution, and you decide that it may be wise to document the incident. Consequently, you place a call to the NYSDEC and lodge an incident report. Rather than press formal charges with the local police department however, you decide that you will simply let the incident resolve itself through time. After all, you genuinely believe the anti-hunting sentiment will eventually be quelled through the passage of time and the dynamics of education and experience. Although still bothered by the incident, you don’t give the occurrence much future thought.

One week later however, you receive a criminal court summons, articulating a series of criminal charges lodged against you. You simultaneously experience feelings of anger, frustration, perplexity and worry. Your entire life is now threatened. Your family, your job, and your reputation are now at stake. How could this happen? What could you have done to avoid this? What are you going to do?


The above scenario is not sheer fabrication. In fact, incidents similar to the foregoing have occurred to many of our hunting brethren. Furthermore, despite the lunacy of the same, incidents like these are likely to continue and escalate unless combated and exposed. This article is intended to provide you with insight regarding the dynamics of how such a described scenario could easily manifest itself; but more importantly, to provide you with a proverbial “game plan” for proactively dealing with such potentiality.

How could this happen?

Living in New York presents its challenges, particularly for a hunter. The political landscape inherently leans “left” and philosophical opposition to firearms and hunting is plentiful. Indeed, the hunting mind-set is seemingly the minority perspective and this dynamic is amplified by the scores of populace that have never been exposed to hunting. Repeatedly, fabricated realities concerning hunting safety and hypocritical posturing regarding alleged “animal rights” issues are bantered about, and unfortunately find solace throughout the main-stream media outlets. Facts are routinely disregarded with willful abandon and the hunting advocate is seemingly always in a position of having to educate an unwilling audience. In essence, the New York landscape offers fertile ground for the anti-hunting community, and the unfortunate reality is simple - someone attacking hunter rights is much more likely to gain attention, notoriety and respect, than a hunter claiming hunter harassment.

How to avoid issues?

Lesson number one is to be vigilant. Being cognizant of the foregoing political reality is paramount. Be alert and recognize that the majority of the populace is likely philosophically opposed to hunting. Lesson number two is to document everything. When you arrive at a public area, quickly snap some general pictures of the environment. If you notice vehicles not adorned with the proper permits, perhaps snap a picture of the vehicle and/or license plate of such vehicles. If you see a protester of any sort, simply calmly go about your business, but immediately contact the DEC, in order to apprise them of the situation. Place your phone on audio record while exiting your vehicle. Video record your surroundings if possible. Establishing documentary proof is invaluable at a subsequent hearing or trial date. Lesson number three is to control your emotions. If you are physically confronted, keep your emotions in check. Protesters often have hidden agendas seeking to bait emotional responses. Notably, it is perfectly fine to engage in calm, civil discussion, but perhaps the more prudent path is to simply bypass the protesters and proceed directly into the woods. If you are followed, do not confront your pursuer, but simply stop and immediately contact both the DEC and the relevant police department. Never presume the best; in fact presume the worst. In the event you are confronted and harassed in any manner, it is imperative to immediately contact the DEC and the police. It is advisable to contact such agencies within the confines of your vehicle, or at least at a safe distance from the protesters. Try not to allow the protesting audience to witness your outreach, as it may cause them to immediately fabricate their own story. If you are fortunate enough to see a fellow hunter, discreetly obtain all of their contact information for subsequent eye-witness verification of the events that have unfolded. Following these three simple steps – being vigilant; documenting everything and maintaining emotional control will serve you well in the event of levied false accusations or the need to sustain a hunter harassment charge.

What to do if charged?

Having criminal charges levied against oneself is a very serious matter. Indeed, a criminal conviction can undermine your entire life, affecting adverse changes to your employment, income potential, family life and community reputation. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation is imperative. Consequently, retaining passionate and competent legal counsel is essential. Notably, as legal fees can become very expensive, don’t be ashamed to reach out to the hunting community at-large. Contact the local leaders of the hunting community such as Matt Sasso of the Long Island Hunting Deer Coalition, and/or Michael Tessitore of Hunters for Deer. These organizations may be able to offer financial assistance and/or pro-bono legal assistance. After all, your battle is really the battle of every hunter.

As hunting continues to grow throughout Long Island, the incidents of hunter harassment, as well as the incidents of false accusations levied against hunters, is likely to grow. Consequently, every hunter needs to be cognizant of this fact and stand vigilant against potential dangers. This is a battle for the entire hunting community. Without doubt, the anti-hunting community stands ready to leverage any criminal conviction as fodder to perpetuate their agenda. Strength begins with knowledge, so understand your rights. New York Environmental Conservation Law – Title 1, Section 11-0110 Interference with lawful taking of wildlife prohibited (otherwise hunter harassment): states in pertinent part that a person is guilty of interfering with the lawful taking of wildlife when, with intent to prevent the taking of wildlife, in season, in a place where hunting, fishing or trapping is lawful, and by a person properly licensed to take such wildlife, he: (a) strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects the licensed person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same; or (b) follows the licensed person in or about such place and engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which alarm or seriously annoy such licensed person and which serve no legitimate purpose. In light of the foregoing, it is the hunting community that is likely the true victim of public interaction, as opposed to the other way around. Be proactive and internalize these lessons as you go afield. As always, remember the most important aspects of the hunting experience - be safe and have fun.



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