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.