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Published: Thursday, 2/26/2009

The deerslayers

THREE days behind bars hardly seems sufficient for willfully and stealthily killing a well-known and much beloved deer in a public park, then going to great lengths to cover up the crime.

Two poachers - they do not deserve to be called hunters - were fined a total of just over $15,000, forfeited their hunting privileges for three years, and will have to perform 60 hours of community service in addition to serving three days in jail and seven on electronic home monitoring for illegally killing the stately old buck, known to visitors at Side Cut Metropark as "Big Boy" or "Stickers."

These two malefactors deserve more time in jail to ponder their crime, which is a serious one.

Last October, Justin Angles, 20, of Fostoria and Dan Mahoney, 20, of Akron snuck into Side Cut in the dead of night and killed the often-photographed buck, we assume for its impressive 15-point rack They took the deer to a wildlife station in Bowling Green later that morning, then showed their "prize" around, even posting a photograph on the Internet.

It didn't take long for the trail to lead back to the poachers, both students at the University of Toledo, who lied about how they made the kill, then changed their tune, telling officials they discovered "Big Boy" as road kill.

Hunters - real hunters - are outraged at the poachers because they know that killing an animal under these circumstances is not sport. These two cowards just sneaked out in the middle of the night and killed a deer that had learned, in the confines of the park, not to fear humans.

Poaching is an ancient point of law. The woodland creatures that once belonged to and were jealously guarded by kings are now owned by the state. In Elizabethan England, the penalty for poaching at night was death.

Thankfully, those times are but a dark memory. But that does not mean these two should get off with a slap on the wrist. Their protestations of regret carry little weight. Indeed, we tire of the crocodile tears shed by everyone from the famous and powerful to common criminals when are caught in wrongdoing.

The poachers showed more than bad judgment. The planning involved and stealth employed are proof that they knew what they were doing and were well aware that it was wrong.

At the least, they should have to actually serve more of their 60-day jail sentence - 50 days of which were suspended.

Perhaps then they would gain a finer appreciation of the difference between what they did and the sport practiced by true hunters.

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