State cracking down on illegal nighttime hunting

DOVER — Trucks were confiscated from the defendants along with shotguns and antlered deer heads, among other property.

Return of the items was uncertain based on the pending status of wide ranging charges in court.

At least five arrests were made for alleged illegal nighttime hunting excursions in mid-November, one case in Kent County (Farmington area) and the other in Sussex (near Frankford).

DNREC’s Fish and Wildlife Natural Resources Police officers enforced the law based on multiple supposed violations, State law mandates hunting of most all wildlife can only occur between 30 minutes before sunrise or sooner to no later than half an hour after sunset.

After that, the weapons must be put down or criminal charges for a variety of offenses will result if detected.

Using a lighting device to spotlight potential targets is banned at all times. Frogs, raccoons and opossum may be hunted at night with handheld lights, however.

Besides knowing the territory and possible patterns of infractions, law enforcement is aided by the Operation Game Theft program that offers rewards up to $1,000 for citizens whose tips lead to arrests and convictions. The number to call is 1-800-292-3030.

Witnessing violations in progress and reporting them is the most obvious way to become involved, but something like calling authorities about a shots fired after dark complaint could prompt investigation into the source and uncover illegal activities.

“Our officers try to be proactive but a lot of tips from the public assist us and we’re appreciative of that,” DNREC spokeswoman Sgt. Brooke Mitchell.

The recent arrests were part of a year-around effort to thwart poaching or at least punish those who do.

Improperly harvesting ducks and turkeys are among the other cases that the state responds to.

“We’re canvassing areas throughout the year,” Sgt. Mitchell said.

It stands to reason that shooting at targets in the dark, with artificial lighting or from a moving vehicle creates an additional safety hazard that’s prohibited in Delaware Code, just as hunters must wear orange vests to make themselves most visible during the day.

“It’s the law and safety is a big consideration on why times (to hunt and not hunt) are set,” Sgt. Mitchell said.

Charges in the Kent County arrests included underage consumption of alcohol, third-degree conspiracy, hunting deer during a closed season, hunting at nighttime, possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, unlicensed hunting, failure to complete an approved hunters safety court of instruction, failure to tag antlerless deer, failure to retain tag on antlerless deer, failure to check antlerless deer within 24 hours, unlawfully removing antlerless deer parts prior to checking, treapassing to hunt, possession or transport of an unlawfully taken antlerless deer, hunting with an unplugged shotgun capable off holding more than three shells, shooting within 15 yards of a public roadway, hunting rabbits out of season, failure to complete and approved hunters safety course of instruction, discharging a firearm within 100 yards of an occupied structure. and hunting from a motor vehicle.

The 18- and 19-year-old defendants from Felton and Harrington were arraigned at Justice of the Peace Court in Dover and released on unsecured bonds from $2,400 to $3,100 pending a future appearance in the Kent County Court of Common Pleas.

Police seized a Chevrolet pickup truck, a shotgun, and other hunting-related instruments, DNREC said. One antlerless deer was also seized and donated to DNREC’s Sportsmen Against Hunger program.

The defendants in Sussex County — a 23-year-old from Frankford and 47-year-old from Selbyville — faced similar charges and were released on $1,700 and $1,800 unsecured bonds from JP Court 3 in Georgetown.

Items confiscated included a Chevrolet pickup truck, a GMC SUV, one rifle, two antlered deer heads, and numerous other hunting-related instruments.

Staff writer Craig Ander

 

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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