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Hunting deer at night with a spotlight from a vehicle -- does the punishment fit the crime?

May 20, 2009 |  9:12 am


Throughout nearly 20 years on the outdoors beat, I have often wondered why wildlife poachers get away with such light punishments after they are caught. These days, however, penalties seem to be stiffer, and appropriately so.

Outposts recently reported on a California man who received a lifetime hunting ban in 31 states for illegally killing a bull elk in Oregon.

This week, an Ohio man is facing six months in prison and a three-year hunting ban for killing deer at night from a vehicle while using a spotlight to illuminate his quarry. Andrew T. Thompson, 22, of Newcomerstown, also was ordered by a judge to compose an apology to legitimate sportsmen in the state.

It read, in part, "I chose to act without thinking and put many people's lives at risk including contributing to putting our very own wildlife in danger."

Thompson, who was with family members and tried to elude game wardens, was found guilty of felony counts of fleeing authorities and improper handling of firearms in a motor vehicle. He also was found guilty of spotlighting deer and illegal possession of deer parts. His hunting license and driver's license were revoked for three years, and his rifle and vehicle were forfeited.

Jesse W. Thompson Jr., 31, was found guilty of spotlighting and improper transport of a firearm. He was ordered to pay $500 in court costs and surrender his firearm, and his hunting license was suspended for three years. Ernest W. Thompson, 36, was similarly punished.

Are the punishments too harsh, too light or just right? I tab the latter. Freezing deer in headlights and shooting them, which is the essence of spotlighting, is cowardly and should not be tolerated.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times