Hunters spotlighting in park next to campers
Two Waikato men have escaped with a fine after being arrested spotlighting for deer near a public camping ground in Taupo.
Logan Rex Wylie, of Te Awamutu and Todd Barry Julian, of Cambridge, both 28, yesterday pleaded guilty to a charge of knowingly and without a permit pursued deer by spotlighting in the Pureora Forest Park near Taupo last year.
Conversation Department prosecutor Mike Bodie said Wylie and Julian drove to an area of the park next to the public campsite at Piropiro Flats, where several groups were camping.
Arriving about 10.30pm, they began searching for deer with a spotlight as they drove slowly along roads.
About an hour later a DOC ranger camping at the site was woken by the pair's vehicle and saw their spotlight on nearby scrublands.
He stopped them a short time later and they said they had valid hunting permits, just not with them.
However, when interviewed a month later the pair both admitted not having current permits.
They also confessed knowing it was illegal to spotlight and had seen the campers in the area. In his sentencing submission to Judge Denise Clark, Mr Bodie asked her to ensure it had a decent deterrent factor, given the high-profile nature of deer spotlighting and deaths due to the sport.
Mr Bodie said Wylie was also previously employed by DOC as a contract goat hunter so should have known better.
Mr Bodie said the consequences for spotlighting could be tragic, with five people being shot in the past couple of years. Several had been charged over the past 18 months, including three cases of illegal spotlighting.
Scott McKenna, acting for Wylie and Bodie, asked Judge Clark to take into account their early guilty pleas and clean history.
They had gone to the area as they knew there had just been a 1080 drop and wanted to see if deer were still around.
They also had no intention of firing their rifle which was in their vehicle.
"They are both avid and responsible hunters, except for this occasion."
Just last month Coroner Dr Wallace Bain released his findings into the death of Lower Hutt school teacher Rosemary Ives who was shot by Hamilton man Andrew Mears as he was spotlighting for deer in the Kaimanawa Forest Park near Turangi.
He called for harsher penalties for those who failed to properly identify targets and also recommended more education and messages to hunters over the obligations under the arms code and general firearms safety and hunter training.
Mike Spray, Firearms and Hunter Training Programme manager for the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, said spotlighting near where people were camping was "incredibly discourteous".
It was also dangerous as hunters could see only as far as the spotlight beam.
"So anything outside the beam, you can't see . . . and, in my view, the risk is too great and therefore it's really, really unsafe."
Mr Spray said he accepted spotlighting was legal on private land and a lot of people were brought up doing it "on the farm" as they grew up.
Mr Spray, a former ranger, said there was still a lot of illegal spotlighting going on around the country.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Were the Chiefs robbed at the New Zealand rugby awards?Related story: (See story)