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Is a court date an option? Looking at this from outside I can see where a trainee had a very limited amount of option with the new SOP in place and being under a microscope himself. Likely his direct supervisor has a SOP to follow when overseeing trainees. Add to that the fact that it seems wardens in VT are given some discretion, based on the conversation you had with the first warden. If that is true someone above the trainee may feel it wrong to over rule the rookies decisions about the fine and confiscation of the deer. You don't want field enforcement thinking their own department will undermine their decisions.

But if it has a court date, it would in KY, and you can figure out the judge to be hearing it and what his take might be then maybe you have a shot of getting leniency from outside the department. The department saves face because they let the rookie make the call and stood behind him, but you may get a reduction in fine and points against you with probation.

I have a friend who turned himself in for taking two turkeys with one shot. The warden let him tag one and confiscated one and fined him. A judge heard the case and looked at his clerk exclaiming. "Judith, how many years has your husband been hunting turkeys?" She answered "about 10" He chuckled and said "He still hasn't killed one and here this young man has two, perhaps you need to put him in touch with your husband." He dismissed the fine but allowed the court costs I believe.

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I'm calling a time out here-- which I'm sure is not terribly surprising coming from me...

Let's recap:

Yes, Tim did the right thing by turning himself in. That is absolutely the right thing to do and I applaud you for it, Tim. Knowing you the little that I do, I wouldn't expect anything less. However, Tim also failed to clearly identify his target and shot an illegal deer. I'm in a bit of shock that most of you seem to be overlooking that fact.

While I agree it's important to differentiate between the honest guys who've made a mistake (which we all do), and some dirtbag who is knowingly breaking the law, I don't see much room in this particular circumstance to let people off the hook completely. If the wardens set a precedent that hunters can illegally shoot spikes and then bring them home, where does that end? In our world, that's open season on illegal spike horns. And how will the state's attorney feel about pressing charges against the dirtbag hunter knowing that others were let off the hook? Probably not gonna happen.

For those of you hellbent on beating the tar out of VT State Game warden Dana Joyal (pictured), who is absolutely one of the finest young wardens we have in the field, you should have your facts straight. Don't think he used discretion? Don't think he cut Tim any slack? According to Vermont law, here's what happens when you shoot a spike horn:

- Automatic court appearance

- $2,000 fine

- Additional $2,000 restitution

- Charged with taking a deer in closed season

- Automatic 3 year loss of license

Tim, all you got was a significantly reduced fine and had your ILLEGAL deer confiscated. You were given a gift and you should be thanking your lucky stars that you're out in the woods hunting right now. That deer will go to some of the poorest of Vermonters who desperately need the food. I'd consider this a happy ending to a legitimate screw up.

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Thanks for your post on this, Pat. You may not have had the time to read the entire thread, but if you did, you might have seen where I expressed my understanding of warden Joyal's position and also noted his professional demeanor and knowledge. You may also note that I am thankful for not losing my license, which would be devastating to me. I have not cried foul through this entire discussion, only lamented the loss of some fine venison.

Going forward you can also bet that I'll take more risk with regard to a buck leaving the scene without taking a shot, while I use more time to determine the number of points on his head. Hopefully this doesn't cost me another deer...

In your shoes, I would be asking myself what message this incident sends to honest hunters who might someday find themselves in a similar dilemma. Someone suggested a records check and different approach for any first time "offenders." Just some food for thought.

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According to Vermont law, here's what happens when you shoot a spike horn:

- Automatic court appearance

- $2,000 fine

- Additional $2,000 restitution

- Charged with taking a deer in closed season

- Automatic 3 year loss of license

Those listed consequences would be appropriate for a poacher that knowingly and intentionally whacked an illegal deer, but would be beyond absurd if applied to a hunter that legitimately goofed and subsequently voluntarily hauled the deer and himself in to law enforcement.

At no point has the new CO been criticized in this thread, or at least I haven't seen it.  I think we can all put ourselves in his position and see that he had no wiggle room.  But a veteran CO would have some discretion in this case and should be able and willing to use it.

I still think it's silly that an inch or so of antler can mean the difference between an "attaboy" and a criminal citation.

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Like I said, Tim, you did the right thing-- which is why you're still out there chasing that buck in the game cam photo! You could look at that as the incentive to do the same thing if it were to happen again. If you got caught trying to sneak it home, then you'd be $4,000 poorer, sitting at home for 3 years watching Jerry Springer re-runs, and have a black mark on your fish and game record for the rest of your life. Doesn't seem like small consolation to me, but, yes, I admit that I'm pretty darned biased.

I also realize that folks don't know these guys like I do, and I don't know what wardens/conservation officers are like in other states. No, they're not perfect and not necessarily created equal, but, by and large, I believe we have a fantastic warden force. I respect the heck out of these guys, and in my experience, everyone is treated fairly. The variances of discretion depend on the circumstance, suspect's attitude, previous record, etc.

If anything were to happen in the future, Tim, you'll be on record as the guy who made an honest mistake and self-reported. FWIW, a previous F&W commissioner (and friend of mine) mistakenly shot 2 turkeys after he had tagged one a week earlier. He called the game warden on himself-- a guy he knew well. He was cited and had one of the turkeys confiscated. He never begrudged the warden, and knew the warden was simply doing his job.

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I've certainly learned three things from reading this thread:

1.) Be glad I live in a state that has high enough bag limits that, by the time antlered or not might matter, you already have plenty of meat in the freezer and can afford to take your time.

2.) If you are hunting in a state with point limits, be darned sure you're seeing what you think you see.

and

3.) If you mess up, unless you have reason to think the man's around, just keep walking.

Because, realistically, even people with the highest ethical standards and best technical skills will, once in a great while, screw up. And three hundred ninety-some dollars is far too rich for my blood.

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Not going to weigh in on the entire issue, but....

The points on the hunting license issue would be my number one concern. How long do these points show up? Are they a permanent mark, or do they go away after a few years?

In a case like this where it certainly seems an honest mistake was made, and owned up to, it would seem a little harsh to carry the points, and the extra attention they will attract from wardens everytime time checked.

Knowing how this ended, and this being a public, high traffic BB, I'm guessing fewer people come clean, and Vermont's coyotes start getting bigger. Though I'd prefer people just stick their shots better.

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Apparently wardens in Vermont Are considered too stupid to use their own judgement and common sense.

Fair enough and you are correct on that one, but I just scanned the whole thread and while there were many negative comments about the law and the demise of common sense, that's the only one that gets personal about the CO, or CO's in general. Perhaps others were postholed, can't be sure.

I can understand that an illegal deer must be confiscated, every time, no question.  I can understand that the hunter might even lose that tag, since a deer was actually killed.  But 5 points on his license, while I'm not sure exactly what that means, certainly seems to have long lasting repercussions out of proportion to the "crime."  A $300+ fine would seem way out of reason too.  

A lot of apologists say that criminals "made mistakes" when they actually made conscious decisions to break the law and then got caught.  In this case, it truly was a mistake, and to the great credit of the individual he voluntarily self-reported.  That ought to excuse just about the whole sin right there.

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braque du upstate
Game warden is pretty much the holy grail in law enforcement jobs for many. I expect them to drop the hammer every time.  The days of a slap on wrist are over. 4 k spike deer, wardens driving 100 k vehicles.  My state doesn't f around. They hit hard and get paid. An honest mistake fishing or hunting can cost thousands.  I don't blame people who quit altogether. I almost feel like i need legal representation to hunt \ fish certain property.
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I'm calling a time out here-- which I'm sure is not terribly surprising coming from me...

Let's recap:

Yes, Tim did the right thing by turning himself in. That is absolutely the right thing to do and I applaud you for it, Tim. Knowing you the little that I do, I wouldn't expect anything less. However, Tim also failed to clearly identify his target and shot an illegal deer. I'm in a bit of shock that most of you seem to be overlooking that fact.

While I agree it's important to differentiate between the honest guys who've made a mistake (which we all do), and some dirtbag who is knowingly breaking the law, I don't see much room in this particular circumstance to let people off the hook completely. If the wardens set a precedent that hunters can illegally shoot spikes and then bring them home, where does that end? In our world, that's open season on illegal spike horns. And how will the state's attorney feel about pressing charges against the dirtbag hunter knowing that others were let off the hook? Probably not gonna happen.

For those of you hellbent on beating the tar out of VT State Game warden Dana Joyal (pictured), who is absolutely one of the finest young wardens we have in the field, you should have your facts straight. Don't think he used discretion? Don't think he cut Tim any slack? According to Vermont law, here's what happens when you shoot a spike horn:

- Automatic court appearance

- $2,000 fine

- Additional $2,000 restitution

- Charged with taking a deer in closed season

- Automatic 3 year loss of license

Tim, all you got was a significantly reduced fine and had your ILLEGAL deer confiscated. You were given a gift and you should be thanking your lucky stars that you're out in the woods hunting right now. That deer will go to some of the poorest of Vermonters who desperately need the food. I'd consider this a happy ending to a legitimate screw up.

Excellent post Pat, thank you.

Sheesh guys it seems as if the general consensus is that it’s only worth doing the “right thing” if that means you get to avoid legitimate consequence’s??? I always thought taking responsibility for you own mistakes meant accepting the consequence’s without complaint.

I say good on Valuman  and the warden.

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Apparently wardens in Vermont Are considered too stupid to use their own judgement and common sense.

You took this out of context my point was if "SOP"  ( which is what Tim stated that warden told him) is to fine honest people then the rigid  rules of upper management rob the warden of the flexibility they should have at their discretion.

To be clear

I was knocking the inflexible structure of the system not the young warden or any warden.

Common sense should always trump " the rules" circumstance always matters

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My minor thought on the issue.  If I screwed up and could loose my hunting rights for 3 years, I'd pay $324 to keep my hunting rights without blinking.  Hell, I'd pay the $4k to keep them.  

The moral to this story is simple: know your target.  I've passed on birds, bucks and bulls because I wasn't sure if they were legal.

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You took this out of context my point was if "SOP"  ( which is what Tim stated that warden told him) is to fine honest people then the rigid  rules of upper management rob the warden of the flexibility they should have at their discretion.

Well, that would be me. And I am genuinely comfortable taking that criticism. I'm also comfortable with the SOP given the violation and consequences of completely letting people off the hook for it.

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I don't have anything substantive to add here except that it's great that Vermont has a Commissioner as accessible as Pat and a Governor that is a hunter.

Not to pick on anyone in particularly but how many other New England F&G/Wildlife heads are posting online?

Now I'm off to get the duck boat prepped b/c it looks like we'll finally have weather to get some birds moving.

VT

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