Two men have been fined for shooting and killing a stag worth $5000 on private farmland in Te Puke, in a bid to deter others from poaching.
Shane Robert Williamson and Matthew Warren Miller were sentenced to pay $750 each plus court costs in Tauranga District Court yesterday by Judge David Cameron.
The Te Puke men pleaded guilty to theft of an animal, after shooting a stag on private property owned by farmer Murray Jensen on Te Matai Rd on April 10 last year.
Judge Cameron said the two friends left their vehicle near Mr Jensen's farm on Sunday April 10, 2016 and made their way onto the farmland, where stag and hines run freely through a mix of dense bush, pine trees and open paddocks.
After stalking the stag and some hinds, Williamson fired the shot that killed the stag on open farmland.
Mr Jensen, who was about 300m away working on a water trough at the time, heard the shot and went to investigate.
Williamson and Miller had dragged the stag into nearby bush but hid when they heard a vehicle approaching.
After Mr Jensen had gone the two men removed the stag's head and ran back into the bush as Mr Jensen returned with others.
Following an unsuccessful chase through dense bush Mr Jensen went to call police and the two defendants left the property when the coast was clear.
Judge Cameron said Mr Jensen had concerns about safety, as he was only 300m away when the gun was fired.
However, the defendants said there was a pile of wood behind the stag when the shot was made.
Defence lawyer Tony Barnes said the men had each already paid $2500 to Mr Jensen for the loss of the stag.
"They were making their way into a forest block but they should've kept walking until off private farmland," Mr Barnes said.
When deciding the sentence yesterday Judge Cameron took into account a relatively successful restorative justice process and the fact that police could take away the men's firearm licences.
However, he said the men must be held accountable for their actions.
"We must denounce such conduct and deter hunting on what was clearly private land."
Speaking to the Bay of Plenty Times after the sentencing Mr Jensen said the whole thing worked out to be an expensive exercise for the two men.
"It's a pretty big learning curve and sends a message to anyone else out there not to do it."
What they had done did not do any good for the hunting community.
Mr Jensen said it was also a major safety issue - it could have gone very wrong as he and his wife often like to go for a walk around the farm.
"These guys just don't think of it, after the restorative justice meeting I think they went away with a better realisation of what could have happened," Mr Jensen said.
"Farmers don't get to catch poachers very often, and there's a lot going around on private property."