Two hunters in Maryland took aim at a protected deer, but found themselves ensnared in a trap.
The men were on state property in St. Mary’s County when they found that the deer wasn’t a living creature, but a robot meant to trick poachers.
Maryland Natural Resources Police have three animals — Robo-Deer, Robo-Bear and Robo-Turkey, spokeswoman Candy Thomson said. “We have an entire menagerie,” she said. “It helps us stop people who shoot real animals out of season or illegally.”
Officers put the mechanical dummies out when they get reports of poaching, usually from neighbors who see lights at night in the woods or hear shots in a field, Thomson said.
Among Robo-Deer’s latest catches: hunters David James Few, 21, of Taneytown, Md., and Brian Kelley Stitely, 24, of Fairfield, Pa.
Natural Resources Police said the two men directed flashlights at Robo-Deer and then shot the dummy with crossbows from a road in Leonardtown around 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 23.
Stitely was reloading his bow when police officers walked up to the men in their truck.
The officers found two crossbows, two flashlights, 4.2 grams of marijuana and a glass pipe in the truck.
On Thursday, according to Natural Resources Police, a district judge in St. Mary’s County dropped most of the charges against the men — having a loaded weapon in a vehicle, hunting from a vehicle, shooting from a roadway and possessing marijuana.
The men pleaded guilty to one charge each, of spotlighting the deer. Thomson said that Maryland forbids hunters on state lands from shining lights at deer. As anyone who has ever heard the expression “like a deer in headlights” knows, the lights cause a deer to stand stock-still and thus make the animal an easier target.
Few was sentenced to 30 days in prison, which will be suspended as long as he completes two years of probation. He was barred from hunting for two years.
Stitely, who, according to Natural Resources Police, has already been arrested for deer poaching in Maryland and in Pennsylvania, also got a 30-day suspended sentence and three years of probation.
Stitely was already banned from hunting in 45 states until the end of 2018. The judge extended that until the end of 2023, Natural Resources Police said.
As for the dummy that the men shot, Thomson wrote in a news release, “Robo-Deer suffered minor injuries.”
She elaborated later that the robot is built to be shot, and it took just minor repairs to fix it up after its encounter with the crossbows.
The robotic animals can be customized so that their heads and tails move, Thomson said. And while Robo-Deer is a fake, the department’s Robo-Turkey actually started out as a living, breathing tom. An officer shot it, legally, and then had it preserved and outfitted with batteries.