The Poacher Who Got Sent to the DVD Player

Hunting deer is a common pastime in many parts of the United States. But in order to protect the environment and the deer population — as well as ensuring that the hunt is done as safely to humans and humanely to the deer as possible — the sport is highly regulated. Hunters have to usually wear orange vests, there are limits to how many animals one can kill during hunting season, only certain types of bait (if any) can be used, etc. And while most hunters follow the rules, on occasion, some flout the law. And in some of those cases, the poachers go to jail.

And in one case, they watch TV, too.

In 2016, Missouri authorities came after a man named David Berry Jr. for breaking the state’s hunting laws. At the time, the infractions by Berry were misdemeanors, according to the Riverfront Times, and he was able to continue hunting. But two years later, Berry was back in front of a judge again for his hunting infractions. He avoided prison again, though — despite this being his second infraction, his sentence was suspended and he was given two years of probation.

That didn’t last long. Just weeks later, the efforts of a months-long anti-poaching sting operation came to light, and Berry and his friends were at the center of the laundry list of brutalities. Authorities, according to NBC News, told the court that Berry et al “were found to have broken a laundry list of hunting laws, including hunting out of season and using illegal weapons, such as lights that temporarily blind deer at night so they stand still for an easy kill. They also would cruise in their vehicles and kill deer from the roadsides, also in violation of state hunting law.” And perhaps worst of all, “they would sometimes simply cut off the heads of their kills [to keep as trophies], leaving the rest of the deer carcass to rot.”

Berry was sentenced to a year in jail, which seems like a reasonable amount of time for his craven animal cruelty. But time behind bars doesn’t build empathy, so the judge in the case added a wrinkle to Berry’s sentence — fourteen hours of movies. Or, rather, of one movie. NBC News continued: 

County Judge Robert E. Greene also ordered that while he sits in jail, he repeatedly watch a classic 1942 animated movie about a baby deer named Bambi whose mother is shot and killed by hunters.

“At least one time per month, that Defendant is to view the Walt Disney movie Bambi, with the first viewing being on or before December 23, 2018, and at least such viewing each month thereafter during the Defendants incarceration in the Lawrence County Jail,” Greene ordered.

The jail had no problem finding copies of the movie on DVD, either; after news of the sentence spread, “the prosecutor said his office has received many calls from members of the public pledging to mail the jail a DVD of Bambi,” per NBC.

As of this writing, Berry has about one month — and perhaps as many as two viewings of Bambi — left on his sentence. 


Bonus fact: Deer and trains don’t mix, and when they do, the deer typically loses. In Japan, this can be a problem — wild deer need iron in their diets, and they’re known to lick train tracks in order get some of the iron dislodged as trains run over the rails. To combat this, one Japanese railway came up with a neat idea: they put speakers on the train cars, and then made their trains bark.  As the BBC explains, “officials from the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) say that a three-second blast of the sound of a deer snorting attracts the animals’ attention, and 20 seconds of dog barking is enough to make them take flight.”

From the Archives: Why Hunters Wear Orange: Science, not stylish.