Related topics

Mechanical Deer Bags Hunter

December 19, 1998

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Robo-Deer has nabbed his fair share of poachers _ and even has bagged the same trophy twice.

Officers say Levi Sweet, 48, was charged with misdemeanors after discharging a firearm across a public highway Dec. 12. He fired from the window of his Ford Bronco at the exact same decoy, a mechanical three-point buck, last year in another county.

Sweet was the latest catch by the coldhearted robot with the glass eyes and foam body that New York authorities have used for 15 years to nab poachers.

``We’re not just trying to see how many people we can catch,″ said Conservation Officer Jim Volker, adding that the state does not keep track of how many arrests were aided by Robo-Deers.

He said the intent also is to cut down on the number of complaints from property owners and the number of people shooting at animals from their cars. ``And since we’ve started using the decoys, the number of poaching fines have gone down,″ Volker said.

New York law bars hunters from shooting from a public road onto private land without that landowner’s permission. Violators face up to $1,000 in fines and three months in jail.

The state uses about 50 Robo-Deers at roadsides, farm fields and woodlands where there are complaints of hunting out of season or trespassing. Officers hide nearby, waiting for poachers to shoot.

But hunters aren’t the only ones fooled by the Robo-Deers, which jerk their heads and twitch their tails just like real deer. Many passers-by will honk their horns, attempt to sneak up on the deer for a closer look or even take pictures of the decoy, Volker said.

``You’re sitting there watching these people and you just can’t believe that they’re doing this. Some throw stones or shout at it to see if they can spook it. It’s very funny,″ he said.

One decoy was recently retired after two years and 60 wounds.

Sweet, who could not be reached for comment at his home in Perth, could lose his hunting license in addition to being fined since this was his second offense, Volker said.

In his first encounter with Robo-Deer, Sweet shot his rifle within 500 feet of a dwelling _ also a misdemeanor. He paid a fine in that case.

Update hourly