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Hunting, Hiking and Poaching

Shotgun Shells in the Catskill Forest Preserve
Shotgun Shells in the Catskill Forest Preserve

My friend John and I were sleeping in a lean-to in the Catskills a few week ago, listening to gunfire at night in the woods around us. It’s a creepy thing to experience and I wondered if the hunters were familiar with the locations of the shelter and campsite areas in our neck of the woods. I also wondered what they were shooting at, since it’s against the law to hunt most animals between sunset and sunrise in New York State, with very few exceptions.

John reckoned they were poachers after deer and it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the case. The Western Catskills are a wild and lonely place without any kind of enforcement presence. The following day we saw a lot of ATV’s with side gun holsters at nearby road crossings and there was plenty of trail damage from ATVs on the trails we’d been hiking.

Deer poaching is called deer jacking in the Catskills and it sounds like a pretty big problem especially with all of the budget cuts that the NY Department of Environmental Conservation is contending with. Deer jackers hunt deer at night by shining a bright light at them, making them an easy target because the light freezes them in their tracks. Using a light like this is also illegal and comes with pretty stiff penalties.

I don’t have any problems with hunting or hunters and I’ve never had any problems with them. What scares me though is getting shot by someone who is already breaking the law. The hunting laws are there to protect all of the people who use the forest, including hikers and backpackers who camp at night in the woods, campsites, or the shelters.

Unfortunately, I expect illegal poaching to increase with the dire state of the economy. I just hope no one gets hurt because of it.


  1. About deer jacking, poachers are scum regardless of what side of the Mississippi they are on. Here is a hint, DIAL 911! If I can get cell coverage in Yellowstone I am sure some carrier has "bars" in the Catskills. Don't tell me a cell phone is too heavy when you talk about sub ten pound base packs. In '76 I postholed 90 lbs. to the base of the Diamond,(Longs peak, RMNP). Be proactive, Fish and Game are the best trained , bravest sonsabitches out their but each one only has two eyes and two ears, that is of course, unless you drop a dime.

  2. Yep, it's deer jacking here in NH too and not as prevalent but then, we don't have the miles and miles of open like your talking here…..has to be frightening to lay there and hear those shots and HOPE you don't catch one! I think I'd be huntin them….and there'd be some sad sacks in the next week when NY F&G got my pictures! I am a life member of the NRA, not a big hunter but, those idiots give all guns a bad name. Great post here….be aware on your fall hikes……dress appropriately….headed to EMS in Manchester this morning to meet with, the foot gurus!!!!

  3. I would also be worried that probably half the deer-jackers are likely drunk. At least that's been my experience.

  4. Poachers worry me too, but I wish I could get one to sit on my porch at night during Green Bean season. My silly dogs are too busy snuggled up under the blankets to go chase off deer who seem to LOVE eating every leaf leaving baby green beans to shrivel up and die. Reflective guylines and stripes on your tarp may warn them off of you campsite. Might draw more attention. Lay low and dial the phone if you can.

    William Crane

    aka MrClean417

  5. Unfortunately we were in a 0-bar Verizon area of the Western Catskills, but calling in the mounties is right thing to do.

  6. Shotgun shells and cigarette butts litter seem to be the same kind of mentality.

  7. Yeah, poaching can be a problem. Don't let the state of the economy worry you about the outdoors. The NYS DEC gets its funding to protect the water sources for the state. Trust me, they will respond if you can get a call through. But, protecting deer is not a big priority. There are too many deer in NY. This is a consequence of eliminating the preditors from the hills. Though, the coy dogs are filling in where they can. No, I do not hunt…or poach.

  8. "Shotgun shells and cigarette butts litter seem to be the same kind of mentality." DITTO!

  9. It bothers and saddens me that there are people who engage in poaching and deer jacking. No respect for nature or life. Fortunately, haven't personally encountered such people while hiking Sedona.

  10. Coon Hunters? Funny how so many people are quick to say Poachers when it is legal to hunt some animals at night, like Raccons and or Coyotoes which is a big problem for Farmers and Cattler owners in the Catskills or other forms of Wildlife that come around only at night leaving the Rancher or Farmer no recourse but to hunt them at night…..

    Though I can't tell from the Shot Shells, but one does not use "shot" to hunt Deer with but "Slugs" and they sound a lot different when fired off than Pellet filled rounds.

    Also I might suspect depending on where the closet Rifle Range was someone could have been testing a "Night Scope" especially if those Shotgun Shells are from the sound you heard for rarely would anyone hunting would you find three shells laying in a pattern as such they would be moving around more trying to locate the animal.

    So I for one keep our State's Poacher Hotline stored in my Cellphone for such events if I truly know that someone is Poaching and not engaged in some Legal activity based on what I hear and "Suspect"…Also on some Trails such as the Pinhoti In Alabama which runs through a Wildlife Management Area of the National Forest all Hikers have to check in and advise the Rangers they are in the area..So make sure you check the Information on the Bullentin Boards the Forest and Park Service put up regarding Hunting in the Area..

    Personnally I would make sure of what is going on before I "shoot my mouth off" (pun intended :)) about possible Poachers versus legitmate hunters…And I do believe New York State still hires professional hunters to rid some of the Rural Area's of varmints..That is another consideration as well…

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