The skull and antlers of the animal. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
Defence explanation ‘unlikely’
Three men were found guilty on Friday of poaching a $11,500 trophy stag from a Masterton game reserve.
It wasn’t the first time the trio had appeared before Masterton District Court on the charges, with the case declared a mistrial in November 2017 after last-minute evidence submitted by the defence took the prosecution by surprise.
On Friday, Shayne Andrew Parry, 42, and brothers Travis Fraser, 30, and Anthony James Fraser, 31, were each sentenced to 50 hours community work and ordered to pay $2000 in reparations.
They each faced a charge of theft of an animal over $1000 on April 2, 2016, which they all defended.
Parry was represented by lawyer Kevin Smith, Travis Fraser was represented by Fionnuala Kelly, and Anthony Fraser represented himself.
At the heart of the case was which side of the fence the animal was on when it was shot.
There was no dispute that the 23-point stag belonged to Mountain Hunters New Zealand Limited, on land it leased on Homewood Rd, near Riversdale.
The skull and antlers of the animal [pictured] were present in the court as evidence.
The three men had been hunting on the neighbouring Beaumaris sheep and beef farm with the permission of the landowner.
The defence argued the stag had escaped the game reserve by jumping the 1.8m fence and the men had shot the animal on the property they were lawfully on.
However, in his decision on Friday Judge Bruce Davidson said “it was very clear” the deer had been shot on the reserve.
“I imagine it’s been [shot] right by the fence line and the temptation was too great.”
The prosecution’s case, represented by police officer Sergeant May, was that the stag was illegally shot on the reserve and then dragged under the fence to the Beaumaris farm.
The defence maintained it would not be possible to drag the stag and its large antler rack underneath the fence.
The defence said the stag had escaped the reserve, it had been shot and then it fell back and became tangled in the fence, which accounted for the damage to the fence line.
But Judge Davidson said, based on witness statements, he had concluded that a stage weighing around 200kg jumping a 1.8m fence would be “extremely rare and highly unlikely”.
Judge Davidson said it was clear the fence line had been tampered with and batons had been moved.
“In my view, there can be no other explanation that this occurred by human activity.”
The judge said the fence could be lifted to knee-height, and the stag lying on its side could be dragged underneath, with repositioning of the head to allow for the antler rack.
Judge Davidson said flattened grass at the scene was consistent with dragging and little evidence of detritus, such as blood and hide, could be down to rainfall, the length of grass, and the fact that the stag was gutted at a different location.
After the court case on Friday, prosecutor Sergeant May said as the hunting season approached, people needed to know the rules, their boundaries, and the health and safety risks associated with the sport.
He said reports of poaching would be taken seriously and police would not hesitate to prosecute if evidence pointed to illegal activity.