A Missouri judge turned to Disney for inspiration for a hunter’s punishment after he pleaded guilty to contributing to the illegal killing of hundreds of deer.
In July 2016, Missouri officials began a nearly nine-month investigation into the illegal poaching of deer. Through interviews with suspects and people of interest in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Canada, officials tied 14 Missouri residents to more than 230 wildlife violations charges.
Among the charged were David Berry, Jr., David Berry, Sr. and Kyle Berry, who were arrested on August 31, 2016. Berry Jr. pleaded guilty to one count of taking wildlife illegally in October.
“Most of the deer were trophy-class animals,” the Missouri Department of Conversation said. “In many instances, only the heads and antlers were removed.”
Lawrence County conservation agent Andy Barnes said the exact number of deer the suspects illegally hunted over the last several years was unknown but felt comfortable saying that the number was upward of several hundred deer.
“Conservation investigators estimated that the group was responsible for killing hundreds of deer over a three-year period,” Lawrence County Prosecuting Attorney Don Trotter said. “The deer were trophy bucks taken illegally, mostly at night, for their heads, leaving the bodies of the deer to waste.”
On December 6, Lawrence County Judge Robert George sentenced Berry Jr. to a year in prison, giving him credit for three days he’d already served for a balance of 362 days. Once out of prison, Berry Jr. must serve two years of unsupervised probation, according to court documents.
However, given the number of deer that were killed, George tacked on an additional punishment to Berry Jr.’s time in prison.
Beginning on or before December 23, Berry Jr. is required to view the Walt Disney film Bambi. He was ordered to watch the film at least once a month for the entirety of his incarceration at Lawrence County Jail.
Bambi, released in 1942, told the story of a young deer whose mother was killed by hunters as the two ran toward thicket to escape. Bambi discovered his mother was killed only once he’d reached the safety of the woods and realized he was alone on a dark and snowy night.
Following the death of his mom, Bambi reunites with his father, the Great Prince of the Forest, a title he later inherits. But his experience with hunters isn’t over with the mournful death of his mother. Bambi’s father warns him that “man” is back and they have to flee. Separated from Faline, his love interest, Bambi later finds her cornered by a pack of hunting dogs and has to fight them off.
Toward the end of the film, hunters shoot Bambi as he flees, and he is later awakened by his father to a forest that is ablaze. Fortunately, the two escape, and Bambi and Faline end up having children of their own together.
Berry Jr. was sentenced to 120 days in prison by the Barton County Circuit Court for a firearms violation, which will be served in addition to his year sentence. The Missouri Conservation Commission revoked Berry Jr.’s hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for life as well.
In Missouri, there are numerous regulations for hunting, including which weapons can be used and tactics to attract animals. Among the activities that are prohibited are intentionally leaving or abandoning any portion of wildlife that is commonly used as human food.