This story started in my backyard – at least for me – in November of 2011. My wife Linda discovered blood in the snow in our backyard. I investigated, figured out what had happened and who had done it, expressed my anger to one of the hunters, and wrote about the incident in the newsletter of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine.
I’ve just posted that story in the Outdoor News Blog on my website. When it was printed in SWOAM’s newsletter, I thought that was the end of the story. It turns out there is a lot more story to tell. And here it is.
The Maine Warden Service – in action that exemplifies their very best work – had an undercover agent hunting with this group of poachers for two years, including the incident in my backyard.
In February of 2012, not long after my story was published, I got a call from Lieutenant Dan Scott, informing me that the Warden Service had been investigating this group of poachers, and had just acted on the investigation. Some had their homes searched and guns seized. Two were arrested. Others were issued summonses for a single violation of the hunting laws.
But that was only the start of what has turned into a rather long process. Many more charges were added later for the two leaders of this poaching group, while no charges were filed against some of the participants – including young kids.
A few months ago, two game wardens, led by Lt. Gary Allen, visited each landowner who was victimized by these poachers, to let them know what had happened on their property and fill them in on the charges and process. I think those visits were unprecedented and they created a lot of goodwill for the Maine Warden Service.
Today, at the top of the page of my local newspaper, the Kennebec Journal, the case finally broke into the public domain, with a headline: “Nearly 60 Charges for Local Hunter.” Reporter Craig Crosby reported that Joe Deleskey, 38, of the Bean Road in Mount Vernon, was indicted on August 8 by a Kennebec County Grand Jury with 21 counts of night hunting, 16 counts of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, five counts of have a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, and four counts each of illegal driving of deer, criminal trespass, and hunting deer after having killed one.
Deleskey is a convicted felon from Massachusetts who moved here a few years ago. I don’t know him. But I do know some of the others, most especially the other leader of this group, Clayton Hall, age 48 of Vienna. He’s the grandson of Clayton Somers – a man (and avid hunter) who lived up the road from me, welcomed me to Mount Vernon 32 years ago, and always gave me permission to hunt on his 500 acres of field and forest. I once wrote a story about Hall’s great grandfather, Winnie Somers, in The Maine Sportsman.
Clayt is the person I expressed my anger to about the incident in my backyard. It’s not the first time we’ve had talks like this. This time he lied to me, saying he wasn’t involved, and then – it turns out – compounded that lie into the ridiculous realm by telling me he hadn’t shot a deer that season. Well, I guess he meant he hadn’t shot one legally.
Clayt was indicted on Thursday with 9 charges including criminal trespass, driving deer, terrorizing, hunting deer after having killed one, and possessing unregistered deer. He has pleaded not guilty and is likely to go to trial in a month or two. Some of Clayt’s family members think I turned him in. Kind of wish now that I had – but I didn’t.
Three of Delesky’s relatives from Massachusetts are also facing charges: Richard A. Deleskey and Richard M. Deleskey of Danvers, and Valter Almeida of Peabody. Robert Rooney of Vassalboro and Bonnie Currier of Vienna also were charged with hunting law violations. Bonnie is my dental hygienist, making this thing particularly uncomfortable for me.
Clayt’s gang of hunters includes many more people, including a bunch of kids, and it’s my hope that all of them have learned a valuable lesson here.
In a press release issued this morning, the Maine Warden Service wrote, “Lieutenant Dan Scott of the Warden Service commented on the dedicated work of the Kennebec County DA’s Office throughout this investigation. He added that Delesky and his associates appear to have a complete disregard for fish and wildlife laws and are having an impact on the local deer populations in their communities.”
If convicted, Deleskey and Hall face fines, jail time, and license suspensions – probably for at least five years and maybe more. That decision will be up to Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock. The others would be fined and in most cases, lose their hunting privilege for at least one year. Could be a quiet deer hunting season in my neighborhood, although these people substantially reduced the deer population here.
And yes, these were the people who killed the deer in my backyard, celebrated with beers –leaving a couple of bottles behind – dragged the deer through my yard to the corner of my garage, drove in, loaded the deer into a truck, and left, later telling me it wasn’t them.