Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Tale of Duplicity and Greed!

A Step Toward A Different Outlook

Late one Saturday morning during Pennsylvania’s spring gobbler season, I was patrolling a backwoods area by driving slowly along a narrow township road, which passed through prime turkey habitat. There were several spots in this area where one frequently found turkey hunters parked. As I topped a steep hill I came upon three hunters by the roadside. Hunting hours ended at 12:00 noon, and these individuals had quit slightly early and were gathered around their vehicles waiting for other persons yet in the woods to return from the hunt. I soon found I was dealing with two parties; one was hunting by alone, while the other two were traveling together.

After a perfunctory license check, I engaged the persons in conversation. It soon became apparent that one, Jim Stallings, was an excellent raconteur. He also loved to hear a good story and encouraged his companion to tell several hunting tales. Jim was likely in his middle 50s to early 60s, while the others were perhaps 70 years old. Jim’s eyes shone as the tales were recounted and he repeatedly stated that this was what hunting was all about. The kill was not important, but rather the ethical pursuit of the bird or animal and remembering, and sharing the great experiences that one had during the hunt. I left the encounter believing that this was one of the finest sportsmen I had met during my career.

Spring Gobbler hunting is a popular sport in Pennsylvania with only bearded birds being legal!

Time passed, perhaps several years. At that time Pennsylvania had a three-day antlerless deer season. Rifle buck season came in the Monday after Thanksgiving and lasted for two weeks. On the following Monday, doe season, as it was commonly called came in and it was usually a blood bath on the first morning. It was quite effective for an officer to patrol the back roads on that day as they were continually checking deer after the hunters had time to drag them from the woods. Many hunters followed the old principle of “making hay while the sun shines”, and it was common to find untagged deer, hunters with more than the legal limit, hunters without licenses for antlerless deer and other lesser violations.

Deer hunting sometimes brings out the worst in a certain type of individual and it seems that antlerless deer are often victims to some of the worst depredations!

To get back to the case at hand, Salty and I received a call the night before from an informant in a neighboring county. He asked if we knew Jim Stallings, which of course we did. But then he dropped a bombshell on us. He said that he went to the same church as Jim and he considered himself to be a good Christian, but he went on to say that what Jim and his group did when they hunted gave Christians a bad name and he wanted to see them brought to justice. He called us because he knew that we were familiar with the area in which this gang operated.

At that time one was required to have an Antlerless license, which was good only for the county in which it was issued. According to the informant, it was common for these people to use licenses issued to the county they were from and not Fulton County, where they were hunting. They were also known to kill more deer than they had tags for.

With the passing of the years, many details have become hazy, but I recall that we checked some other area at dawn and then headed for the area where the Stallings gang was hunting. We arrived about 8:30 in the morning and the rifles were still thundering about us. Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer, Anthony “Andy” Carbaugh, was with us, and he and I circled the killing zone while Salty approached from another angle. At the appointed time we converged on the spot where the shooting had come from and the carnage we discovered was disgusting. At this point I cannot remember how many deer were killed or the exact description of the violations, but they were numerous. I do recall that one hunter was still carrying a loaded weapon, and trying to kill another deer in excess of the legal limit.

We seized the rifles and other pertinent evidence and told the violators to meet us at the vehicles, which were at the same spot where we had the wonderful conversation in spring gobbler season. We arrived there before the violators and there was Jim Stallings. He was still quite a talker, but he wasn’t telling wonderful hunting stories now. Instead he was protesting that he just couldn’t believe the boys would do a thing like that, and he had no idea they were outlaws. We actually had nothing on Jim, but the rest of his group was a different story and it doesn’t seem possible that the illegal activity was done without his knowledge or approval, especially since our informant said that Jim was involved and in fact bragged openly on how he had the wardens fooled.

This incident and many more like it were to eventually have a major impact on reshaping my views toward wildlife conservation and management.

*Jim Stallings is a fictitous name, but the character is very real and described accurately to the best of my ability. The officer’s names are real with the exception that my brother was not known as “Salty” at the time, but currently uses that nickname on his blog, Country Captures, and the name has caught on around home as well.


Kerri said...

Beautiful pictures Willard.....I especially like the deer sniffing each other...I suppose they are sniffing. I would prefer to think they are showing their affection...but maybe they don't do it that way :)

A sad story! It is disheartening when someone turns out differently than what we thought they were.

PS - I have an award for you on my blog. It is not intended as a TAG...just to let you know that I think your blog is special!

Old Wom Tigley said...

Hunting dose bring out the worst in some folk... and I know many that look and sound as if butter would not melt inthere mouth. Yet crulty holds no bounds to these folk. I think it is a flaw in their make up... like a thief as or a drug dealer, and even a rapist. I see them all as the same kind and worse. I get pretty angry with the double standards some show.
Great post Willard

fishing guy said...

Willard: These are the type of stories that give hunters a bad name. The game limits are put there for a reason and the laws are to be obeyed. It must be hard to approach a hunter with a loaded weapon to arrest him. Thanks for sharing the story.

Willard said...


Thanks so much for the award. It is much appreciated.

In reference to the deer, I am almost certain it is affection in this case.

The older deer is sniffing the young button buck and proceeded to lick its' face. In human terms she is the young deer's grandmother.

The deer's mother vanished last fall. The mother never missed a trip to the viewing area. I saw her one Friday morning last October and that was it. She evidently was killed as archery season was in, but hunting was not permitted on the property where she frequented.
After this the grandmother took the mother's place and had one not known better they would have assumed it was her fawn.

I lost another doe which was shot early one morning on a neighboring property in black powder season.

(I heard the shot and the surviving members of that family group came running into the field near me).

This doe had a small button buck fawn and a two year older sister took the place of the mother.

DeeMom said...

What a wonderful picture of the Spring Gobbler

The picture of the two deer…I saw that happen this morning, think it was a Mom and last years young…it was so sweet, like they too show feelings.

We tend to do a head count of the deer that roam around here, there activity, their behavior etc.

Your story is enlightening and sad

Willard, I finally figured out how to link some of the Blogs I really enjoy. I do believe this will be an additional help for me to visit your blog more often.

Stacey Huston said...

Willard, Beautiful photos! Thanks again for sharing them. What a sad story for human kind and hunters. I wouldn't even want to be anywhere near the woods where you live durring hunting season from the stories I have heard.. But saddly it is everyplace, therefore it is even more important that we all practice ethics and teach our children better.. I don't believe in being something I am not. It saddens me that this man missled you and pretended to be someone he wasn't. My family does practice ethics in the woods, as we do at home and in town. I want my children to grow up with the same experiences that we have had, and we try to raise them with respect for all things..

Catherine said...

Very nice wildlife captures~of the deer & turkey..:) You have a great blog, & great photos!

There are always some that ruin it for everyone else!

You have a Excellent blog, I can see why kerri gave you the award!~Congrats!
Have a great week!

Mike "Hawk" Huston said...

Willard, My wife showed me your blog. And I felt i should comment.I am an avid hunter and freelance outdoor writer, I write for Primitive Archer magazine and can relate to your story of the carnage and unethical behavior of so called sportsmen. We are seeing a trend towards that kind of behavior here in Wyoming. I hunt with primitive equipment, and hunt the wilderness and high country often. Hearing your story makes me wonder how long the wild places I love will stay wild and free, before the killers and destroyers of nature ruin our sport and give all of us as hunters a bad name.Thankfully there are still some good and ethical folks out there and lawmen like yourself who go that extra mile to ensure our freedoms in the outdoors will remain for the future generations..Thanks.. Mike Hawk Huston..

ANNA-LYS said...

Hello Willard,

Lovely pictures You have here on Your blog, the kissing dear deers most be an award winning shot!


Marvin said...

The turkey and (especially) the deer photos are wonderful!

As for the narrative ... I don't think I can add anything they everyone else hasn't already said. It is a sad commentary on greed and arrogance.

Anonymous said...

Great astonishing photos.
As for your words, what else can I say? Pity and shame on them, maybe ...

Travis said...

What a story. What a shame that people do that. Wonderful photos and a great post as usual.

ASH's Eye said...

I guess that's the thing about storytellers ... they know how to tell stories, and that isn't always a good thing.

The second picture, of the two does, is very nice. It's so close up, and you get a real sense of their interaction.

Editor said...

a very good story and a good lesson to remember about some people.

Jane said...

Really interesting post. Loved your photographs. Do you ever add any video to your blog? Jane


I'm here to thaks your visit on my blog!