OLD TOWN — A Milo man was arrested and charged with multiple offenses on Tuesday when he allegedly pulled to the side of Stillwater Avenue in Old Town, carried his rifle into a field, and shot at a deer that was feeding.
Bernard A. Saunders, 64, was issued three summonses by Maine Game Warden Shannon Fish and was arrested by Old Town Police on two charges: Reckless conduct with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a felon, according to Old Town police Sgt. Travis Roy.
According to Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte, Fish issued Saunders summonses for discharging a firearm too close to a residential building, fraudulently obtaining a hunting license and hunting on a game preserve.
Saunders posted bail while still at Old Town Police Department, so wasn’t transported to Penobscot County Jail.
“At 2:45 p.m. we received a call from a Stillwater Avenue businessman stating that there was a car parked on the side of the road and that two men dressed in hunter orange exited the vehicle,” Roy said. “[The caller said] that one of them was carrying a rifle and that they were sneaking along the edge of the field to get closer to some deer that were feeding in the field.”
The businessman stayed on the phone as police were dispatched, and reported that the man with the rifle fired a shot at the deer. Passersby on that section of Stillwater Avenue often see deer gathered in the field where the men were reportedly seen.
“Another witness hollered at [the men] that they were in a game preserve and couldn’t hunt there,” Roy said. “The two men then got into their vehicle and attempted to leave.”
Deer hunting with rifles on Marsh Island, which includes the University of Maine’s Orono campus, is prohibited. A limited bowhunt by qualified hunters is conducted in order to reduce the thriving deer population.
Roy said the initial radio call that went out indicated that Saunders had been shooting directly toward the new Old Town Elementary School. That wasn’t the case, but the direction Saunders was reportedly shooting was equally dangerous, he said.
“He was shooting 90 degrees, straight-away from [Stillwater Avenue],” Roy said. “Unfortunately, that puts him shooting directly at the bike path [that runs from the University of Maine to Old Town]. One witness reports people passing by on the bike path as the man had the rifle up to his shoulder, shooting at the deer.”
Roy said Old Town police Officer Ryan Fitch stopped the vehicle. Roy and Officer Debbie Holmes, along with Maine Game Warden Shannon Fish, also answered the call.
Police determined that only one of the two rifles in the vehicle was reportedly carried into the field during the incident, and that only one man had fired a shot. Police and the game warden found no evidence that the deer had been hit by the shot.
“[Saunders] was wearing a blaze orange hunting hat and jacket when he was searched by Officer Fitch,” Roy said. “There were live .30-06 rounds in his pocket and he had a scoped .30-06 rifle beside him in the seat.”
The rifle was not loaded, Roy reported.
Roy said that in his 18 years with the Old Town Police Department he can think of only two or three similar incidents taking place on that section of Stillwater Avenue.
“It’s just so populated and so busy right there, anybody who is paying just routine attention to hunting safety would never hunt there,” Roy said.