Chilmark resident Lev Wlodyka appeared in Edgartown District Court last Thursday, Jan. 11, on multiple charges stemming from what Chilmark police said was a night of hunting with a crossbow from his truck on Nov. 17.
At the conclusion of the arraignment before Judge Thomas Kirkman, the matter was scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Feb. 12.
On the night of Nov. 17, Chilmark police were tipped off by an anonymous caller around 11:30 pm, saying there was a silver pickup truck on North Road shining a light into the woods. The caller said he was concerned the driver of the pickup was deer jacking. Deer jacking is hunting deer at night using a powerful light. Shining a bright light on deer often causes them to freeze, making them an easy target.
Chilmark police ran the plate number given by the caller, which was registered to Mr. Wlodyka.
Responding to the call, Officer Jesse Burton said he saw the pickup truck shining a light into a field adjacent to Putnam Road, and after the truck pulled into a residence on North Road, Officer Burton passed and parked nearby at the entrance to Tea Lane. He soon saw another bright beam of light shooting into the woods. He caught up with the silver pickup on Cape Higgon Way, a private, gated road posted “No trespassing” and “No hunting.”
In his report, Officer Burton noted “the bow was drawn and lickedback and there was a bolt (arrow) loaded. The weapon was in a state where it could be immediately fired.” Officer Burton said Mr. Wlodyka told him he was just out for a drive. “I asked Wlodyka if he was only just driving around, what a crossbow was doing on his front seat. He answered the question, asking, ‘What, I can’t have a crossbow?’ I told him that he could not, and the act of driving around at night with a flashlight and crossbow constituted illegal hunting.”
Mr. Wlodyka then told Officer Burton the crossbow belonged to his father.
According to Massachusetts General Law, crossbows can only be used by a person who is permanently disabled and unable to operate a conventional bow and arrow, and he or she must have a physician’s note to obtain the permit.
After Officer Burton confiscated the crossbow, Mr. Wlodyka changed his story, and said he was out looking for a deer he shot earlier in the day.
“I asked Wlodyka where he shot the supposed deer earlier in the day. He could not give me a straight answer,” Officer Burton said.
Officer Burton also noted in his report that Mr. Wlodyka was wearing camouflage pants typically worn by hunters.
Mr. Wlodyka is charged with hunting from a vehicle, hunting without a license, trespassing, hunting on posted property, and hunting with improper means.
The charge of hunting with artificial light can result in a potential fine of up to $10,000 and confiscation of the hunter’s vehicle.
“Enforcement of hunting laws is difficult as typically they occur in the woods away from the general public,” Chilmark Police Chief Jonathan Klaren said in an email to The Times. “As it is impossible to calculate the ratio of times hunting law are broken to actually caught by law enforcement, I can only estimate that a very small amount of actual violations head to court.”
Massachusetts Environmental Police Lt. Matt Bass told The Times his department caught a hunter deer jacking in Middleboro on Nov. 19. “We get calls from time to time, but typically these hunters are hard to catch,” he said. “It really gives them an unfair advantage. When you put a light on a deer, you can practically walk up to it.”
The Times was unable to reach Mr. Wlodyka for comment.
Mr. Wlodyka was a central figure in the book “The Big One,” by David Kinney, about the 2007 Derby, where Mr. Wlodyka was the center of controversy after weighing in a potential Derby-winning striped bass which was discovered to have almost two pounds of lead weights in its stomach. After much deliberation, the Derby Committee disqualified the fish but did not suspend Mr. Wlodyka, because a method of fishing known as “yo-yoing” could have potentially been the reason for the fish ingesting the weights. Derby officials later reinstated the fish minus the lead weights.
According to a well-informed source not authorized to speak on behalf of the Derby Committee, at a later Derby Mr. Wlodyka was disqualified from participating in the tournament for rules violations.