“I saw the brake lights first, then I saw the backup lights,” he said. “And that’s when I knew I had a problem.”
A DEC environmental conservation enforcement officer said later it was a .22. But it didn’t sound that way to Childers. “I’ve got a .30 caliber carbine and that’s a little closer to what this thing sounded like.”
At the time, all he knew was that somebody had just shot a gun from a truck parked a couple hundred feet from his house. He went out onto his porch and yelled at the driver, who beat a hasty retreat. Childers slipped his shoes on — there was no time to tie the laces — and jumped into his car. Just as he was getting up to speed, neighbor Scott Black flagged him down.
Turns out, Black had seen the whole thing from his driveway and confronted the offenders. They told him they shot the gun but weren’t trying to hit anything. A state police officer came out that night and took statements from Black and Childers. Luckily, Black had the presence of mind to get the plate number.
At first light, Childers went out to investigate. In the field across the street, about 100 yards from his home, he happened on a heartbreaking scene: a paralyzed doe with a hole in her neck, obviously suffering. Childers got the state police back out, and an officer put the animal out of its misery.
DEC conservation officer Claude Stephens immediately began the investigation that would the arrests of two local teenagers a few weeks later, on Dec. 3 and 4, according to DEC spokesperson Wendy Rosenbach.
Gregory Walbroehl, 17, was issued the following charges: loaded gun in a motor vehicle; failure to comply with an ECO [environmental conservation officer]; shooting from the road; illegal take of a doe deer; and hunting deer with rim fire ammunition. The total fine range for the charges is $600-$5,000.
Justin Setera, 16, was issued the following charges: failure to comply with an ECO and Illegal take of a doe deer. The total fine range for the charges is $250-$2,750.
DEC did not release addresses. Rosenbach said both teens were valid hunters.
Childers said the charges, if true, amounted to conduct unbecoming a sportsman. “Real hunters will track an animal that they’ve shot forever, in deep snow, so that it doesn’t walk away and suffer and die needlessly,” he said.
The incident is similar to one that occurred in almost the same area in 2007, when witnesses saw a doe shot from a truck. No arrests were made following that incident, but neighbors don’t believe that shooting was carried out by the same offenders. Childers, who lives on 50 acres, said illegal hunting is common in this rural area on the northern tip of Saugerties. He said hunters set up on either side of a U-shaped bend in the road near his home and drive game toward one another. “I have chased people off this land, in the past, many years ago, and almost got shot,” he said. “So I don’t cotton to these people very much.”