Filmmakers Document Alleged Deer Poaching, Illegal Firearm Use

Filmmakers Document Alleged Deer Poaching, Illegal Firearm Use
Actors in the movie First Winter might have unknowingly included documenting footage of a deer poaching spree in upstate New York. A trailer of the film can be viewed at
 by Daniel E. Schmidt, Deer & Deer Hunting editor

* Used in full here on with permission

First Winter
Actors in the movie First Winter might have unknowingly included documenting footage of a deer poaching spree in upstate New York. A trailer of the film can be viewed at

UPDATE: Actor charged with poaching. Click here.

Do you think your state game agency would look the other way if you decided not to buy a deer license  (much less take the required hunter’s education course) then grabbed someone else’s gun (in February) and shot two deer,  butchered them, ate them … and made a movie about it?

Yes, I think your obvious reply would be, “Of course not! They’d lock me up and fine me thousands of dollars!”

Well, that is exactly what many law-abiding deer hunters are hoping happens to a group of self-proclaimed hipsters who allegedly poached two deer while producing an independent film “First Winter” in 2011.

According to an article posted by, the filmmaker is pleading guilt by way of ignorance.

“We are idiots. We didn’t know how to do this [hunting] stuff,” Ben Dickson told DNAinfo reporter Serena Solomon.  The film is set to premiere at the Tribeca Film festival on April 19.

“There were so many deer weak from the winter and getting eaten by local dogs we didn’t even think about it,” Dickson was also quoted as saying.

The article further states that the film crew was practicing yoga inside an upstate New York house one day when someone spotted several white-tailed deer in a neighboring field. They allegedly  “grabbed a rifle and camera and ran outside.”

Actor Paul Manza allegedly pulled the trigger. It was unclear who owned the rifle or whether it was registered. The bullet allegedly killed one deer and wounded a second one standing behind it. The crew allegedly chased the second deer into the woods and shot it again, killing it.

According to the report, the crew then skinned one of the carcasses, cut it up, and cooked it over an open fire — all in front of the camera. Manza was quoted as saying it, “was amazing to eat that meat and really feel the spirit of the animal,” and that the experience gave him a different relationship to eating animals and animal products.

Although we at Deer & Deer Hunting are glad to hear that actors and filmmakers found new respect for venison, we must also admit our utter disbelief at the group’s ignorance of wildlife conservation and modern hunting regulations. And we aren’t alone. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation isn’t amused, either.

“I’m kind of at loss for words,” DEC spokesman Wendy Rosenbach told me earlier this afternoon.

Rosenbach, who said she had not heard of the incident until I phoned the department, said the head of the Albany region’s law enforcement division was also unaware of it.

“This isn’t to say that it isn’t being investigated by one of the other regional offices. I will need to gather more information and get back to you with an update,” she said.

If the allegations are true, Dickson, Manza and others could possibly face a laundry list of violations.

“If this indeed happened in the state of New York in February, you could be looking at illegal hunting and shooting a deer out of season, among other things,” Rosenbach said. She added that other potential violations could include discharging a firearm from or near a dwelling; illegal use of a firearm (depending upon what caliber was used); and hunting without a license. Even if the incident occurred during a regular hunting season, New York requires all hunters to complete hunter education course.

The website shows photos of the actors preparing and eating what appears to be venison. If they did, they can only hope they didn’t take any of the meat home with them, especially if they do not live in New York. Otherwise, the alleged poachers could be facing serious Federal Lacey Act violations.

We will continue to follow this story and provide updates here on

What are your thoughts? Should the filmmakers be given a break for being oblivious to big-game hunting regulations, or should they be held every bit as accountable as any law-abiding hunter?

To read the entire DNAinfo report, click here.


  1. I do believe that the these people be punished to the limit of the law (Highest limit). To think that some people think they can outlaw our wildlife is stupid.
    I think some charges should be applied to each and every person that was there should be charged for the crime.
    The legal hunter is responsible for what we hunt and how we do it also. I do not think that ignorance of the law is an excuse, I hope our legal system would agree.


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