Wednesday, October 12, 2011


pay attention to your hackles
 I told him it was a bad idea but he didn't believe me.

My neighboring warden (I'll call him Tim), often calls me up and says, "Are you ready for this one?" I'm almost never ready, but rest assured he always tells me anyway. Sometimes his stories are outrageous- for some reason the people in his territory are twisted. But this time, after asking me if I was "ready", he filled me in on a pretty typical deer baiting case. Tim wanted to know if I'd be able to help him out.

It is kind of a complicated story, but the short version was that he had information that a father and son would be deer hunting that night over bait (a mineral block and scattered corn). Tim has photos of the baited stand and has good information coming straight from a neighbor of the bad guy.

I agreed to help him, and we met later that afternoon at a gas station along with the informant. Tim said, "I was thinking that I would walk in on the dad and you could walk in on the son." He went on to say that the dad is supposedly a mean drunk, and it was quite likely that he will have had a few drinks before climbing into his tree stand. But don't worry- Tim will be looking for him while I will be after the 20 year old son. I asked Tim and the informant (Matt), how far away his son will be hunting from him. Their answer? "We're not sure".

I didn't like that answer, but Tim was convinced that the son would be hunting about 1/4 mile from his dad in a tripod stand out in the middle of a pasture. He assured me that the boy would be easy to find.
"So, what do we do when we find them?" I asked Tim. Tim told me that he planned on just taking his ticketbook into the field with him to reduce the amount of time he would need to spend talking with the mean old bat. I hate taking my ticket book when I'm walking in on a hunter. It tends to make them nervous.

"This is just an idea...since we know that Dave is a mean bastard, and we know where he will be, why don't we walk in on him together. We will seize his cell phone temporarily so he can't call his son. Then we can have him lead us right to him, since we really have no idea where his son will be," I suggested.

Nah, Tim vetoed that plan on the grounds that nobody in their right mind would voluntarily hand over his cell phone. We would be going our separate ways. While Tim took off to go pinch Dave, I jumped into Matt's car and we set off in search of the son. Matt had a general idea where the boy would be located, but he was unsure how to get us there. Eventually we pulled into a driveway that looked like it had access by way of a back field. When we drove up to a barn, an older "gentleman" stepped out and asked us if he could help us. Matt told him that he needed to get to "Dave's" pasture and wondered if it was possible to access it by way of his back field. The old guy leaned over and squinted into the car, then asked, "What for?" We were both dressed in camo, and we preferred not to say who I was because Matt wanted to remain anonymous in this whole mess. But as we scrambled to try to explain why we needed to get to the pasture, another "gentleman" emerged from the barn holding a shotgun in both hands, and asked us who we were. I told him that I was a game warden and was working a case. I needed to go talk to someone who was hunting the pasture. We noticed him take a giant gulp, and his swagger with the shotgun was over. He told us how to get to the pasture.

We slowly pulled through the gate and shut it behind us. As we were creeping up the hill in Matt's car, he pointed out my window and told me that he believed the boy was hunting the pasture to my right. We got out of the car and walked up to the fence. I glassed the field and didn't see anything. "I don't see any tripod stand out there," I told Matt. We got back into the car and drove past the next set of trees and got out of the car again. Hesitantly, I agreed that we would just walk out into the pasture and walk across it to see if we could get a good look at the pasture on the other side of a draw. As Matt and I were on our way to this spot we discussed the possibility that these two idiots might very well be holding shotguns or rifles instead of bows. It made me a little (a lot) nervous to be walking across a field when I had no idea where my bad guy was, and what kind of state he would be in. But stupidly, I went anyway.

I grabbed my M-16 and fumbled my way over a barbed wire fence. Matt followed and soon we were crossing the pasture. You know that feeling that someone is watching you? I had it- big time. And just as my hackles were starting to raise, I heard a loud and distinct (and very angry) voice yell, "What the FUCK are you DOING? Who the fuck are you?"

Matt made a beeline for the trees and I slowly turned around. I had walked right past him. The son was approaching me from an area of the pasture I had just walked past. I quickly identified myself as a game warden and walked up to him. As I was walking up to him, my cell phone rang. It was Tim. He whispered, "Where are you? Are you ok?" I told him that I was fine so far, and that I had just met Dave's son. I tried to describe my location, which was quite difficult since I hadn't the faintest idea where I was. Tim then whispered, "I don't see Dave. He isn't where I thought he would be." Wonderful. I politely told Tim to get his ass over to my location (wherever that might have been).

I began my interrogation of Dave's son, Luke. Luke didn't have a deer license, so I had him with one charge, but as he led me to his treestand (which I had walked right past without seeing), I realized that it wasn't baited. I asked Luke for his phone, which he handed over without a fight.

At this point I was beginning to worry about how Matt would go about getting back across the field to his car without being seen. I also worried that he would blunder right into Dave and end up getting shot by the drunken idiot. I decided to take Matt's bow and arrows, his i.d. and his phone and have him walk over to the farm house where I would meet up with him later. Matt agreed and began walking across the field. My phone rang again. "Where are you?" Tim asked again, "Are you ok?" I explained what was happening and told Tim that he could meet us at the house. "Which house?" he asked. Then he said, "Right now I'm in a field with horses. I don't see a house." I had no clue where Tim was, and just as I was about to describe the house, I heard someone yell, "Hey!". Off to my left I saw a guy dressed completely in camo approaching me.

My first thought was, Whew, Thank God Matt is ok. I pointed towards Luke (who was walking across the field), so that Matt wouldn't let himself be seen. It was at that moment that I realized it wasn't Matt. The guy yelled again, and Luke turned around and started walking towards him. Just peachy. Now I had both Luke and his lovely, mean, drunk father. The guy that, don't worry, Tim was going to take care of.

I quickly called Tim and updated him on the situation. I tried my best to once again describe my location. Tim was clearly confused, and out of breath. He kept saying, "I feel like I've walked two miles! Where the hell are you?" I wanted to shout, "I'm in a pasture in the middle of nowhere right next to the non-existent tripod stand you wanted me to find!" But I didn't.

I'll speed up the ending of the story since it lacks excitement. I managed to keep the two men at ease until a bedraggled Tim found his way to us. Neither treestand had bait, but neither man had a deer license. By the end of the night, the two men were shaking our hands, and pretending to be very ethical hunters. They continually lied, "We would never hunt over bait. Someone must be trying to set us up." I'm not that stupid, but what could I do. We cited them for what we could, and walked the mile back to Tim's truck (which included a nice little field trip through a field with one VERY big bull).

I got into Tim's truck and vowed never again to do something so stupid- especially when I knew it was stupid going into it. It is a bad feeling knowing that Luke was watching me the whole time and I didn't have a clue where he was. If he had wanted to (or if Dave had been drunk and desperate enough) they easily could've put a bullet through my back.

Tim and I were lucky. Next time he calls and says, "Are you ready for this?" maybe I'll hang up. (Kidding of course).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Grand Prize

AJ is an idiot. I don’t know how else to describe him. The first time I heard about AJ was from his mother who called me one day wanting me to come over to her house to “scare” her son into behaving better. She was just sure he was out spot-lighting at night and needed a talking to.
The second time I met him was after the school superintendent called me to complain that AJ was skinning raccoons in the back of his truck in the parking lot of the high school. AJ not only had no trapping license, but also had a truck full of untagged traps in his truck along with about 5 raccoons.
Then there was the time that Red caught AJ out at a wildlife area off-roading through the mud and fields in a wildlife area. Red called me and asked if I knew AJ. “Yes,” I moaned, “I know AJ. Whatever he did, tell him I’ll be over tonight to write him a ticket.” I wrote him a ticket that night and thoroughly explained that he needs to keep his vehicle on the roadway.
Red caught him again- the very next day.
AJ is an idiot.
Every time his number pops up on my caller i.d. I groan and weigh the pros and cons of actually answering the phone. Every time I do, I regret it. For reasons that are beyond me, he acts like my best friend in the world. Like instead of receiving tickets every time he sees me, he is receiving a check for $100.
AJ can no longer legally drive. Anything. He is barred from driving as a result of having too many traffic tickets. But like many idiots, this doesn’t slow him down.  This past winter he was arrested and taken to jail TWICE in one day. The first time he was caught driving a snowmobile following a blizzard that left the county buried in snow and ice. A deputy hauled him off to jail, where his grandparents immediately posted bail. Later the SAME afternoon, he called into dispatch from his truck (a white beater with an orange flashing light on the roof—which is always flashing) to report a road that “needed plowed” (just like EVERY road in the county that day). The city cop arrived. Then took him to jail.
AJ is an idiot.
He called me recently to ask me if he needed anything special to be a waterfowl guide. Aside from a brain, in this state no other licenses are needed. When AJ calls he always has a list of about 25 questions that he fires at me, one right after the next.  Two of his questions this time included, “What is a woodcock?” and “Is a rail one of those brown and white birds?” I told him that he might want to bring a bird book along before he shoots anything with his clients.
Last night I went to a Whitetails Unlimited banquet. I had just finished telling another officer about AJs big plans of becoming a waterfowl hunting guide. The officer responded by chuckling and rolling his eyes. Then I sat there with Red, listening to the announcer describing the next raffle. There were four gun cases. Inside one of the gun cases was a gun. Inside the rest were other prizes, one of which was a “one day duck hunt with a local guide… worth over $200.00!” I leaned over to Red and said jokingly, “It’s probably guided by AJ.”  Red and I laughed. Not 5 seconds after I cracked that joke, the announcer said, “AJ, are you here tonight?....Well, I guess AJ isn’t here, but he is a local, experienced waterfowl guide, ready to take the winner on a once in a lifetime duck hunt.”
I stopped laughing and nearly choked on my prime rib.
Just goes to show:
1.       This particular Whitetails Unlimited Chapter should look into background checks of their prize donations.
2.       The poor fellow who “won” this guided hunt is either going to know what he is doing and figure out that his prize was really the unusual form of punishment called, “Being stuck with an idiot for 4 hours”, OR he will shoot a Kill-deer under AJs instructions to shoot a Woodcock.
3.       If I can find AJ hauling his client out to the puddle where his blind is located, I will laugh all the way to jail after I arrest him for driving while barred.
4.       AJ is an idiot.