Hands off those antlers... Bang, bang: Charles Weaver and Edward Sanders fired at the same deer, and both claimed it. Their fists didn't settle the dispute.

April 16, 1996|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Deer hunting may be a sport that pits man against nature, but two hunters on an Ellicot City farm turned it into a battle of man vs. man.

Charles Weaver and Edward Sanders ended up in court yesterday because both believed the bullets that killed a prize buck on former state Sen. James Clark Jr.'s property last November came from the shotgun each had fired.

The two hunters then locked horns themselves over who would lay claim to the slain beast.

Their hand-to-hand battle began with a tug of war over the deer's antlers, moved on to the butt of Mr. Weaver's rifle finding Mr. Sanders' cheek and ended with Mr. Sanders -- beaten but not unbowed -- flinging his body across the carcass to keep Mr. Weaver from leaving with the deer.

Even after five months and a bunch of legal wrangling, the two hunters still remain at odds over what became of their would-be trophy, the dead deer.

"At first I thought it was pretty stupid," said Gary Bernstein, Mr. Weaver's lawyer. "But when you realize the other things people get shot for these days, the antlers on this deer were probably more significant than a parking spot or who had the right of way."

After hearing the case yesterday, a Howard County Circuit Court jury convicted Mr. Weaver, a 24-year-old Glen Burnie resident, of assault and battery charges for breaking Mr. Sanders jaw with a shotgun butt, punching and kicking him in his side, and shattering two bones in his back as the two battled over the deer.

Mr. Weaver, who faces up to 20 years in prison, was acquitted of another, more serious charge of assault with intent to maim.

"It sounds silly to us, but to them it was very serious. This was their sport," Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy told the jury during opening arguments.

Before dawn last Nov. 27, Mr. Weaver and Mr. Sanders were perched in separate trees -- unknown to each other -- when the buck ran by them.

Each fired shots and saw the deer go down. Each, thinking he was the slayer, climbed down and walked to the deer.

"He said it was his deer and I said, 'No, I shot it," said, Mr. Sanders, 31, of Baltimore. "I knew exactly where I was shooting at."

Deciding to have Mr. Clark settle the issue, each one picked up an antler and dragged the 160-pound deer 200 yards to Mr. Clark's house, arguing the whole way and stopping twice to take breaks, they testified.

But when the two discovered that the former state senator was not home, trouble arose. Each tried to pull the deer toward his truck, Mr. Weaver testified.

"He grabbed a side of the antlers and I grabbed a side," Mr. Weaver said. "We were tugging of war with the deer's antlers."

Their accounts of the fisticuffs that ensued vary.

Mr. Sanders said Mr. Weaver bashed him with the shotgun butt and then jumped up and down on his back, screaming that he was going to kill him. Mr. Weaver said Mr. Sanders threw the first punch. Mr. Weaver said he ducked, and when he stood up again, his shotgun butt hit Mr. Sanders in the face.

After the fight, Mr. Sanders ran to Mr. Clark's home and called police. Mr. Sanders said he then saw Mr. Weaver backing up his truck to the deer, so he ran to the deer and threw himself on it.

"When I seen him laying on the deer, I just couldn't believe it," Mr. Weaver testified.

No one can say for sure where the dead deer ended up.

After Mr. Weaver was taken away by police, his attorney suggested in court, friends of Mr. Sanders' took away the dead deer. But under oath, Mr. Sanders denied that.

Pub Date: 4/16/96

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