Hoyt charged with obstructing warden, hunting violation
This story was updated at 10:40 a.m. on Friday to correct Kevin Hoyt's age.
BENNINGTON — Cable television show host and firearm rights advocate Kevin Hoyt has been charged with a hunting violation and with impeding a game warden who sought to confiscate a deer head in his possession.
Hoyt, 49, of West Road Park, Bennington, pleaded not guilty Monday in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division to a felony charge of impeding an officer and with possessing a big game animal — a deer — taken out of season.
He was released with conditions and is due back in court May 20.
Reached Thursday evening, Hoyt, who is acting as his own attorney, said he had earlier in the day filed a motion with the court to dismiss the charges. He contended the charges, which he believes could devastate his hunting sports-related businesses, are without merit and possibly politically motivated because of his pro-firearms views.
An affidavit filed in the case by state Fish and Wildlife Department Warden Travis Buttle describes an altercation Feb. 12 at Hoyt's residence, during which the officer attempted to confiscate a deer head.
Buttle stated that on Feb. 9 he received a screen shot taken from a Facebook post that "contained a photo collage and summary posted by Kevin Hoyt holding a partially decomposed head and antlers of an 8 point antlered whitetail deer he claimed he found within 100 yards of where he shot it Nov. 13, 2018."
The warden said he later checked the Fish and Wildlife Department for the big game harvest records of Hoyt.
"I found that Hoyt had harvested and reported three deer during the 2018 fall hunting seasons. Two antlerless deer were reported during the archery season ... and one antlered deer, a 6-point buck, was reported during the rifle season on [Nov. 17, 2018], Buttle said.
The annual harvest limit for whitetail deer is three.
Prior to Feb. 9, Buttle stated, "I had not received any communications from Kevin about locating, taking possession of, or requesting a possession tag for the deer head/antlers he had taken into possession."
Buttle said he set up an appointment to meet with Hoyt at his residence Feb. 12, and upon arriving he identified the white skull and antlers of the deer on a kitchen table.
In talking with Hoyt, Buttle said he learned that the hunter had shot and wounded what he believed to be the same deer on Nov. 13, but later could not find the animal.
That shot and wounding near Walloomsac Road in Old Bennington also had instigated an investigation after which Hoyt was cited for a violation of a town ordinance against discharging a firearm within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling, resulting in a fine, Buttle stated.
He said Hoyt also confirmed he had harvested and tagged three deer during the 2018 hunting season, and that he had searched for some time for the wounded deer and believed the carcass was the same one, the warden said.
"I informed Kevin I was taking the deer head and antlers with me," Buttle wrote. "He [Hoyt] stood up angrily, grabbed the head and antlers and started fleeing through the kitchen entrance and towards the back of the mobile home away from me."
Buttle said Hoyt also yelled for a dog, a Rottweiler, to be let out, while he continued "to both verbally and actively resist my commands by fleeing and attempting to evade me."
The warden said he "physically restrained Kevin from continuing to flee and prevent me from seizing the head and antlers," adding that he also feared that "he [Hoyt] might release the dog to attack me, access a weapon, or use the antlers as a weapon against me."
Two Bennington Police Department officers arrived, Buttle stated, and the head and antlers were seized as evidence.
In seeking dismissal of the charges, Hoyt said he argued in a written motion that "these laws are made for poachers," which does not described what he did.
He said that by the time he found the deer, which he had continued to search for because he was upset to have wounded such a large buck, it had been largely eaten by coyotes or other animals and decomposed. By then, Hoyt argued, the deer was what is referred to as "winter kill" and not one that would require him to have a deer hunting tag to retrieve.
"This deer was never 'harvested,'" he said. "I didn't find it in 2018."
About a week after wounding the deer, he shot another deer and tagged that buck, his third deer of the 2018 season, Hoyt said.
He also has argued in Facebook posts that Buttle assaulted him during the altercation at his residence. He said he sought assault charges against the officer but they were rejected by the Bennington County State's Attorney's office.
Hoyt said he was not arrested after the altercation but 37 days afterward, and after he had tried to file assault charges against Buttle.
If convicted, Hoyt said he's worried he could "permanently lose my guns," which he said would destroy his reputation as a hunter, guide and hunting sports video producers and ruin his business.
Hoyt has been an outspoken gun rights advocate who promoted two anti-gun control rallies last year in downtown Bennington and plans another later this month and August statewide. He also unsuccessfully ran as a Republican for the Vermont House from the Bennington 2-1 District in the November election.
Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien
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