Saturday, October 25, 2008
If I am not traveling to more exotic locales in search of photographs, I spend most mornings and evenings with the local herd of whitetail deer. As I do, my mind often wanders back over my years as a Deputy Conservation Officer and Game Lands Maintenance Worker and Supervisor for The Pennsylvania Game Commission. Salty and I have lived through enough experiences that we could each write a book about them and yesterday as the early black powder , and Junior/Senior citizen season antlerless season wound down,(today was the last day) I couldn't help but think of an incident from several years ago. This memory was brought on by hearing nearby rifle shots which could have been on the property that I protect, or it could be on a neighboring hunting club. I drove to the area and hunters were searching for a blood trail on their property.
Years ago, Pennsylvania had a two week bucks only season, which was followed by a three day doe season on the following Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. In those days, most local factories gave the workers the first day of buck season and the first day of antlerless season off, and schools were closed. To be quite frank the day was usually a blood bath. We ordinarily made more arrests on that day than at any other time and sometimes more than we had during the entire autumn before that point.
In this case Salty was to meet me in a spot where he had a clear view of the hunting club. He arrived there about dawn. I was only a short distance away and heard a terrific barrage of rifle fire from the area so I hurried in that direction and asked him what was going on. He said," this is unreal and I don't know what to make of it, but someone came out of the club house and started blowing on a whistle and firing a rifle at deer in the field. He killed at least one, and we need to go and check it out." At that time a club member came driving past us, paused and said that they had a member who was not too bright. A doe and two fawns had been seen in the field in front of the club on numerous occasions during buck season and they were not afraid of people at the club house. The person in question wore a whistle around his neck on a string in case he got lost. Some of the other members decided to play a practical joke and told him that if he saw a deer, he should blow a whistle to get their attention, and then begin firing.
This is what he did. All in all he fired eight shots. As Salty and I stood watching, he grabbed the deer and began dragging it to the club house and we ran toward him. It was illegal to move a deer without first filling out a harvest tag and attaching it to the head. When we got close to him, he asked if we knew how to gut a deer as he didn't know how, and he kept saying loudly,and repeatedly, "I killed my first deer"! The deer was literally shot to pieces as the rifle was a 30/06 and he had hit the deer several times, but most were not in immediately fatal areas. Several legs were broken, a shot or so in the intestines, etc.
It became obvious that there was no attempt to circumvent the system. When most fail to tag, they intending to keep hunting and do not use their tag so that if an officer checks them they appear to be legal--their moment of exposure to arrest is when they are in possession of the dead deer that is not tagged. If they can get that deer in without being caught they are basically home free. In this case it was obvious that he was so excited that he had not even thought about tagging the animal, so we gave him a written warning.
I have thought a lot about the incident over the years, and it is one of many reasons that I no longer hunt.
This is not an attack on conscientious, ethical hunters, who are out to harvest meat for the table, but this type of attitude and behavior is all too common!
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