Friday, February 28, 2014

Why Are You Reading This?

The Middletown Press today published an article about an illegal deer hunting warning I received in January. Is it an interesting story?

When I was a regular correspondent for The Eye, I would occasionally be told what I should not write about. For example, a candidate for Treasurer thought I should not write about the anonymous person who created a fake Wesleyan student identity to campaign against Mayor Drew, and a Mayor told me there was no story in the attempted bullying of the Registrar of Voters by his campaign manager

As a Planning and Zoning Commissioner, I now sometimes find myself on the other side of the reporter's note-pad. And when Alex Gecan of The Press called to ask about an illegal deer hunting warning that I received, I wanted to tell him this was a boring story that would be of no interest to anybody. Remembering that this was almost exactly what I heard from the mayor, I swallowed my words.  

However, I did suggest that he focus on the anonymous in this story, and although I continue to think a little sunlight on anonymous would do our community a lot of good, I regret my presumption. Gecan is a good reporter with a good editor, and it is up to them to determine what is newsworthy.  

Below is the full background to the Press article. I have adapted this from two separate blogposts on a personal, family blog, one written in December and one written in late February, the same posts that Gecan quotes from.
Many mornings I go for a run through Tynan Park and onto the Blue Trail on Higby Mountain, with our mutt, Sandy.

In early December two women walking their dogs stopped to tell me about an injured young male deer they had seen near the creek. They said that it was clearly suffering and weak, standing still while the three dogs barked at it. We agreed that it should be put down.

When I got to the creek, there was no deer standing, but Sandy found him lying in the leaves. The photo shows him alive.

I felt a responsibility to do something, and went home to get a knife.

I have butchered deer before, most recently after the Middletown Police alerted me to one that had just been killed by a truck in Portland (my name is one of many on a list kept by the police for just that purpose).

When I returned to Tynan Park, the buck was still alive, breathing steadily but so weak he barely lifted his head when I approached.  I held his head while I put him down by cutting his jugular. He never even twitched.

I butchered in the forest, saving the 4 legs and shoulders, the saddle, heart, and liver.

The bullet wound had started to heal; it was a small dark spot towards the rear of the hindquarters.  After skinning, I found huge blood clots in both legs, filling enormously gaping holes in the muscle. The bullet had passed through one leg muscle, through his urethra, and then out the other leg muscle.

The entire harvest took less than 2 hours, and I carried about 25 pounds of meat home.

I was sad to find a deer that was wounded and clearly been suffering for a long time. I was furious at the hunter who had taken a terrible shot, perhaps illegally (no hunting is allowed on city land), and then shamefully abandoned the deer.

And I was proud that I was able to humanely put the deer down, and able to walk home with the meat. 

The epilogue:  Illegal hunting
The second to last column on the right shows the total
number of readers for a typical set of posts
Some days after this event, I wrote about it on a family blog that my children and I contribute to. This family blog is a place where we post photographs and stories of our adventures, it functions partly as a substitute for letters to each other when we are separated, and partly as a diary.

The family blog technically has been open for anyone to read, but nobody knows about it--only very rarely has it been read by anyone other than our immediate family.

"Another Trail Running Event" was read a lot!
Something was different when I wrote about the deer. The post, which I entitled "Another Trail Running Event" has drawn about 8 times higher readership than a typical Devoto Family blog post.

[I have now changed the settings on the family blog to make it private. The practical effect of this is that when I want to share a blog post with a relative or a friend, I now need to remember to specifically give them permission.]

Who is reading our personal family blog?
The answer came on January 6th, when I received a phone call from Officer Wojcik of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Law Enforcement Division. He gently asked me about the illegal hunting that I did on Higby Mountain. I confessed. Wojcik told me that he had seen the story "on facebook", and that he knew I was trying to do the right thing for the deer. However, he would have to give me a warning.  [I never posted any information or links on Facebook, Wojcik's detailed knowledge of the event could only have come from my family blog post].

On January 9th I drove to Marlborough to meet with Officer Wojcik.  I asked an officer there if I could get a copy of the investigative report, but it seems that there was not much to be had. I asked if the state had an automatic internet surfing program that would highlight possible mentions of illegal hunting. He laughed and said "no".

Wojcik was following up on an anonymous tip.

I left the office with a copy of the warning, and having learned two things. Neither might be particularly novel, but here they are.

First, I broke the law. It is illegal to be in possession of a dead deer unless you have a permit. The legal way to humanely put down and then butcher an injured deer is to obtain a special permit from the local police. I should have called the Middletown Police, waited for them to arrive in the forest, and then proceeded with the killing and butchering. It seems cruel to prolong the suffering of the animal, and a particularly senseless waste of police time, but the rule is there to prevent illegal hunting.

Second, there is one pathetic anonymous who reads the Devoto Family blog. When I got off the phone after being summoned to Marlborough for a warning, I laughed out loud.  REALLY!? SERIOUSLY?! I was giggling at the thought that someone had read my insignificant family blog post and turned me in for illegal hunting in this circumstance. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING!  But it was true.  I hope the knowledge that I had to drive to Marlborough to be served with a warning for illegal hunting has enriched this pathetic's life.

The Press?
I posted a follow-up blog post about the illegal deer hunting warning on Monday, including in the post the photo of the warning, and the readership numbers for the articles on our family blog. The Middletown Press phoned me on Tuesday. Gecan did not (and should not) tell me how or when he learned about the family blog. Could it have been anonymous?

I am flattered that anonymous thinks my life is so important that he monitors the family blog on such a regular basis. If he sends me his email address, I'll give him continued access.


iMN said...

Nothing like drawing the attention of a local coward. Well done, Stephen.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting that deer out of it's misery.

James Streeto said...

Ouch. Sorry you went through this Stephen--I'm inclined to agree its a spiteful move on someone's part.

To the tipster: can we begin 2014 by segregating everyone's personal and political lives? This seems a nasty and ugly thing to do. Please don't tell me you were trying to do your civic duty--my occupation exposes me to the motives behind anonymous tips, and they are usually malicious and ugly. If you were proud of your conduct you wouldn't have made an anonymous tip. How about we all try and stick to having civil, issue-oriented debates, and treat each other with some respect, even if we don't agree?

Jim Streeto

Dan said...


Reading your story, you said that the deer looked like it was shot a while ago. Every hunting season I see hunters on the land that abuts city property off of Country Club Road. I'm just wondering that one of those hunters took a bad shot and the poor deer has to suffer for a long time. So maybe no poaching was committed. You did the right thing and the meat was not wasted.

Anonymous said...

You Disappoint Me!!! As A Lawyer, You Know That Those Choosing To Break The Law Must Be Dealt With Accordingly. Steve Performed An Illegal Act. The Tipsters Actions Were Not Spiteful They Were Justified. Steves Illegal Actions Were NotJustified, They Were Spiteful And foolish

Inspector Javert said...

Anon at 10:33. Those who violate the law must be reported immediately. The next time I see Steve riding his bicycle at 26 mph in a 25 mph zone I shall immediately dial 911.

James Streeto said...

Anon 10:33:

I'm sorry to disappoint you--but no, I don't think that "those choosing to break the law must be "dealt with" at all." Each case is different--which is why police have discretion to warn, charge or do nothing, and so do prosecutors, and so do judges.

But its not the officer who's conduct I object to. Sounds as if he did the right thing--corrected and educated Stephen in the law while declining to bring charges. My objection is to someone surfing the net and filing an anonymous complaint out of a grudge.

The government spends a lot of time monitoring electronic communications. They're reading this blog in all likelihood--as we speak, they're reading your email. As we speak, they're asking your your cellphone providers for your cellphone records (what, you thought they needed a WARRANT for that? Think again). As we speak, your tax dollars are going to pay NSA agents to play World of Warcraft--I swear I am not making this up.

As American citizens, its our duty to discourage such activity, not emulate it. As Middletown citizens, its in our interests to differentiate between personal activity and political activity--it elevates the discourse and keeps things issue oriented. As neighbors, if we have an issue with someone, the proper way to deal with it is openly and respectfully, preferably over a beer, not through anonymous complaints on unrelated topics to law enforcement.

Sorry--just don't agree. It was mean spirited and spiteful. And, in my opinion, not newsworthy. This is gossip, not news.

Jim Streeto