Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Game Warden Files--My Friend "Huck"

Early in my first north zone big game season, I was introduced to a true Adirondack trapper. "Huck" really looked the part: beat up old Jeep, hip boots, floppy felt hat, flannel shirt, an old and well-worn Colt Woodsman hanging from his hip--a true caricature of his type.

He called me to tag his fur as the beaver season was coming to a close.  (Some fur bearers had to be tagged with a plastic seal before they could be marketed, as a means of determining the annual harvest.)  I thought it a bit odd that he was calling me since he lived in another officer's sector; but since neighboring officer Larry Johnson and I didn't worry about poaching each other's territory, I made an appointment and arrived at the agreed upon time and day.  In the fur shed was a fresh pot of coffee, milk, sugar, two big mugs, and a plate of freshly baked cookies.  Hmmmmm, what was going on here?

We chatted amiably, getting to know each other a bit as we sipped and nibbled.  Finally, he got down to the point of the conversation:

"I like to eat venison, and I prefer to eat doe rather than buck." he explained.  I commented that a lot of folks felt the same way. "I usually get a permit for a doe," he continued, "but, may come a time when I don't get a permit and get one anyway.  May come a time that that happens and you catch me and I just want you to know that if that happens you've got a job to do and you and me'll still be friends!"  I thanked him for his honesty and the conversation moved on to other things.  I tagged his fur, finished the coffee--probably had another cookie--and went on my way.  His honesty that day led me to trust his word on a lot of things over the years and in a lot of encounters.  

Huck would be a good friend throughout my career.  His information helped to stop a pretty large-scale illegal trapping situation in a big swamp.  His call to me had been to just find his truck and come down to see what he was catching, I'd find the problem.  I found Huck easily enough--early on a bright, clear, sub-zero morning--and found the reason he'd called, also.  In an area of the swamp that Huck was not trapping, I pulled about a dozen traps from the mouths of several beaver lodges and muskrat houses.  All but one of the traps had no owner's name.  The name I got off the one trap was enough though.  I hunted him down and wrote him.  I only could charge him with one trap withing five feet of a muskrat house, but he lost a lot of valuable iron that morning, so it cost him a bundle anyway.  He could have admitted to all the traps, payed his fine, had his traps back and been further ahead; but he chose to deny it.

Huck called one day when I was stuck at home due to vehicle problems.  A fur buyer was coming to town that afternoon and he needed some fur tagged--right away.  I told him to load it up and come over. (Actually, I had about a half-dozen or so trappers at my door by the end of that day for the same reason.) My folks were at the house that day and my mom was quite amused at this fellow who came in carrying a pile of carcasses. She'd never seen anything--or anyone--quite like this before and as I did my business, Huck gave her a pretty good lesson on the finer points of fur bearing animals: coyotes, fisher, otter, beaver. He did produce about the best looking fur of any trapper I dealt with, so she saw some nice things.

My last event with Huck was opening day of the south zone deer season.  Lt. Scott Florence and I were on a back road and saw a very new muddy track up a mountainside.  Though a new track, not more than a couple weeks old, it was very well used.  This was my first deer season with a 4 wheel drive vehicle and we were itching to try it out, so we put it in 4-low and crawled up the mountain.  At the end of the road was a newly built hunting camp and hanging on the meat pole was a very freshly killed doe--with no tag attached (and in my memory, still swinging).  We jumped out of the Blazer and up the steps to the camp.  The door was open and there at the table, hurriedly trying to get the tag filled out, was Huck.  He had a guilty look on his face--probably if we hadn't showed up, that deer would have been cut up and gone within the hour, and the tag saved for another deer; but he completed the tag as we talked and ceremoniously put it on the carcass.

We checked all the licenses, got back in the Blazer and as we started down the mountain as I told Scott my history with Huck.  I figured I owed him a little slack on that one. Scott laughed and agreed.  That one was on me.

Game Warden Files--Another Tangled Web

A couple weeks into the early bear season, State Trooper Pat Darling and I were getting the same complaint from two different sources.  It seems that a guy had baited a bear into his back yard and killed it.  Then, since he had no license of his own, used his brother's tag on it and the bear was now at a local taxidermist. We had the story, we had the bear hide. The problem was that we had no evidence and our informants were not going to reveal themselves and give statements.

The Trooper and I decided to start by calling in the brother who had furnished the tag.  We called him on the phone, told him that he had some explaining to do and he'd better get to the Troopers' Barracks ASAP.  It took him about a half hour to get there and by the time he came in he was stressed out so badly that he was ready to confess.  He'd even called his brother on the phone and told him what was going on.  We took a statement from him, issued a ticket and sent him on his way; then we called his brother.

The brother worked for a state agency that would frown on his getting charged with any kind of crime, so we had a pretty big hammer to hold over his head on this.  He tried a lot of different stories; but was unable to find one that would get by the statement from his brother and bear carcass at the taxidermist's shop.  One of the lines he tried to pull was that he was sick in bed on the day the bear had been taken.  On a hunch we called his work location and found that he had been out on workmen's compensation leave when the deed had been done.  We started pouring more pressure on him and somewhere in there he got the impression that we might arrest his wife also.  That's when he started to crumble.  He said that as long as we'd leave his wife out of it, he'd tell us everything and began to let it out.

He'd been feeding the bear for a few weeks before the season, and for some reason, finally decided it would make a nice rug.  So, one night, as his wife held the flashlight, he shot it, called his brother for the tag and took it off to have a rug made.

To save his job, I offered a civil compromise, which kept the issue from entering the justice system, though it still cost him a bundle.  True to our word, we did not charge his wife, even though she'd been part of the illegal taking.  Part of the settlement was that he had to pay the taxidermist the remainder of the bill on the bear hide and forfeit the rug.  One more trophy for the department.

Game Warden Files--Using Other Laws

As an Environmental Conservation Officer my desire was to make arrests based upon the Environmental Conservation Law.  Sometimes, however, you can't get what you want so you take what you can get.

One of the big problems in rural areas is road hunting. One of the tools we use is the law which prohibits having a loaded rifle or shotgun in a motor vehicle. That's a tough one to catch, and the decoy has helped that a lot, but we often have made stops when you KNOW that you've been beaten on the loaded gun, but they leave you some other options.

One young fellow was driving slowly down a back road, came around a corner and found me checking a couple others hunters who had just come out of the woods.  I stopped him, but not before he dropped the magazine and ejected the round from the chamber of his rifle. He beat me fair and square on that one; but had three kids in the back seat, all without proper seat belts on. One ticket for three counts of no seat belts...that was expensive.

One fall afternoon I was talking with neighboring officer Jim Harnish who was enjoying a few days off and putting out a few mink traps along a stream on a back road.  My car was partially hidden behind his pickup so we had a good spot for watching a car come very slowly down a hill, its three occupants peering intently into the woods on either side of the road. We stepped out in front of them and, like the guy in the story above, they beat me fair and square. The guns were unloaded with loose rounds rolling around on the floor of the car. However, they each had an open can of beer. Because of some extenuating circumstances, I took them right to the judge who lived only a short distance away.

This judge was a delightful, grandmotherly-looking lady with a disarming demeanor.  These three young men all thought they had it made with her and after being duly advised of all their rights eagerly pleaded guilty to their charges.  When the good judge pronounced sentence of a stiff fine, plus fees totaling about a hundred and sixty dollars each, their attitudes changed drastically.  The judge calmly asked if they had the money with them or "Shall I have this officer transport you to the Hamilton County Jail."  They were able to come up with the money.  Funny, but that magic word jail often has the effect of producing cash.

Early--like 2 AM--one Thanksgiving morning I was on the east side of the Sacandaga River and saw a car going slowly up the road on the west side, with someone in the car playing a light in an area heavily run by deer.  Since the car was headed for a dead end, I figured it would be easy enough to catch them and made the trip to cross the river and head up the other side. I caught the car in the same generally area, but didn't find them in any actual game violation as I could not positively identify it as the same car, much less identify the occupant who had been working the light. Of course they denied that they were doing anything wrong, and of course they hadn't been shining the light looking for deer and that rifle had never been loaded....yeah, sure.

Since two of the occupants were not only drinking in the vehicle, but also underage and the third one was of age and had given them the beer, they were all charged.  Yeah, they beat me on the night hunting; but it was an expensive night for them anyway.

In all of those cases, and many more like them, I'd have rather written tickets for a game law violation, but my observations wouldn't support the charge.  I took what I could get and got the desired results.  It's just what you have to do sometimes.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Game Warden Files--Keeping it in the Family

Early in my upstate career, I met a guy I'll call Vic.  He was a member of a large family--we'll call it a dynasty--that dominated a small area of the county and had a history of heavy hunting...and a reputation for heavy violating. They shot a lot of deer, considered all the land in their area to be open to hunting whether or not it was posted... that kind of thing. Vic was the president of a large sportsmen's group and during one meeting, at the mention of my name, stood up and said "I'm going to kill that SOB."  Of course, he didn't abbreviate his words. He probably was upset because shortly before that I'd caught one of his sons hunting big game before the season.  Needless to say, he was in my sights for many years and, though I never got him directly, I put a cramp in his style and did make life unpleasant for some of his offspring.

The first was the one mentioned above, and that set the pattern for many years of work to get a few cases on his family.  Of course, they won most of the games because it's pretty hard to be out all night, every night and guess the right place to be.  I was happy that my presence and the extra attention I gave them put a cramp in their style and made them work harder for their ill-gotten game.  They tempered their bragging a bit also, because it was usually their own mouths that got them in trouble--as is the case with many violators.

One of my encounters with this bunch best exemplified the attitude this family, and many more like it around the state, had.  It was Thanksgiving morning, and I'd been out all night on another case.  I'd crawled into bed around dawn and around 9:00 AM the phone was ringing.  A fellow with a small horse farm had hunters trespassing, walking within a few feet of his paddock.  He gave me a description of one in particular and I headed out there.  I encountered a bunch of hunters a short distance from the farm and found one of them, one of Vic's sons, dressed exactly as described by my complainant.  As I secured the guns and started to check licenses, the farmer came down the road and excitedly pointed out the man he'd seen.  Rather than deny it, my suspect got right in the landowner's face and said "You people move up here out of the city, buy a piece of property and think you own it!"  Everybody went dead silent and I looked at him and asked if he'd heard what he'd said.  Even the other members of his party distanced themselves from him as I wrote his trespassing ticket.  Unfortunately, he was the only one of the bunch the landowner could specifically point out, so he was the only one ticketed.

Another of Vic's sons, Vic Jr., was a bit more agreeable.  He and I had a pretty good-natured game of cat and mouse for many years.  There were a couple times I could have written him some pretty cheap tagging violations, but chose to let them slide, and he started to mend his ways a bit.  Then he got hooked up with a really good bunch of guys, all professional men, all solid sportsmen and they made him toe the line if he wanted to be part of their hunting camp.  That pretty well ended the violating of Vic Jr.

I had a standing invitation to that hunting camp.  Every Saturday night about a half hour after dark, dinner was on.  I took them up on the offer a few times and that opened up chances to poke a bit of fun at the Vic Jr. and his family history of violating.  One night I brought up a deer I'd checked a couple years back.  It had been hanging in Vic Jr's yard.  He remembered the deer and gave me the story about when, where and how he'd killed it.  That's when I mentioned that the tag on the deer had belonged to a female school teacher who lived down the road.  His friends howled and his face turned very bright red.  I didn't let it go there.  In the course of another investigation I'd discovered that his uncle--we'll call him Ike--had received a deer management unit (DMU) permit to take an antlerless deer (at the time, the tags were not transferable). Ike was an old man and had died before the season had opened.  I gave Vic my condolances on the loss of his uncle, and then asked if he'd filled his DMU tag.  His head fell and his face turned an even deeper shade of red.  Finally, he nodded, and with a slight grin admitted that probably he had.  That pretty well ended his violating--knowing that he'd been had and then been "outed" in front of his friends gave better results than any number of tickets.  Vic and I are friends to this day and I believe him to be a better than average sportsman--now.

Even Vic Sr. and I eventually made our peace.  Like many old violators, they mend their ways and become pretty conservation minded in their later years.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Game Warden Files--Oh What Tangled Web We Weave....

For the purpose of big game hunting, New York divides the state into North and South Zones. A complaint came in during the muzzle loading season in the North Zone. The seasons in the north opened several weeks before those in the south. The allegation was that a particular individual, who was on probation and prohibited from having any gun of any type and hunting in any way, had killed a deer and then used someone else's muzzle loading tag to tag it. We found the deer was at a local taxidermy shop and it was a beautiful eight pointer. I always suspected that the anonymous caller had been hunting that deer and was pretty upset that the taker took it under less than lawful conditions.

I had the name of my suspect as well as the name of the guy whose tag was put on the deer, and working with the City of Johnstown Police Department put together a list of who else might have been involved.  Then I started looking to interview people hoping to find the weak spot in the story. Unable to find any of my suspects at home, I went to my main suspect, catching him on a break at work.  He gave me a straight-faced lie, which was exactly what I'd expected. Then I started catching up with the rest of the party. My primary suspect had made some phone calls to warn them what was coming and by the time I located the next guy in line he was so wound up he could barely stand up straight.  His knees were quivering so badly that he could barely stand and when he nervously lit up a cigarette had all he could do to get it into his mouth. he started his rehearsed story and it fell apart immediately.  I suggested that it would be easier all around if he just told me the right thing right away and he agreed.  We went to the police station and he gave a statement of what really had happened--pretty close, anyway--and then I located a couple other players and got statements from them--also reasonably straight stories.

I'd made a call to my bad guy's probation officer who met me at our suspect's house just as he arrived home from work.  We took all his guns--which he was not supposed to have as a condition of his probation; seized his hunting license--which was also prohibited by his probation; and finally got a statement about what had happened...well, we got most of the facts. I'll always suspect that there were other violations that I never proved; but we got enough. Though we never got all the facts, I had enough to deal with him pretty severely. He got his probation violated, ended up with a fistful of tickets, lost a nice deer and still had to pay the taxidermist for the work he had already done with the hide. The department also revoked his hunting license for several years.

The rest of the hunting party got their share of tickets also for their parts in the event; but they came out of it pretty well since they were honest right up front. Seems I wrote tickets to a total of six people before we were done.

The next thing was to deal with that nice eight point rack.  The taxidermist presented me with a plan:  He was going to a school to improve his skills and needed a hide and head to take with him.  If I let him use that animal, he'd mount it during the school and we'd have the mount to use in our displays.  Deal!  It worked out well for both of us.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Game Warden Files--Tony the Trapper

It was my first opening day of small game season in southern part of Fulton County.  There were several farms that had been stocked with pheasants in the previous days and I figured I'd get a couple over the limit cases pretty easily.  It didn't go that way though.  However, I did meet some interesting folks.  I'd worked the better part of a large farm and had just arrived back at my car.  I'd checked a lot of licenses, had some interesting conversations, and even shot a pheasant for myself (the practice was common in those times); but hadn't made any cases.  One more hunter popped out of the field right in front of me and I waved him over to check his license.  He realized that it was in his jacket which he'd left in his truck and just jumped in the front seat of my car to go with me to get it.  Friendly enough guy.  We probably talked for over an hour that day and I made a friendship that would last until he died.   He introduced himself as Tony the Trapper, and that would be the name I'd know him by.  One afternoon he stopped at the house and asked my young son if I were home.  Jeff came running through the house yelling "DADDY, Tony the Tiger is here!"  We all had a good laugh over that. 

Tony's claim to fame was that he "didn't violate much at all any more."  He'd been an  incredible game hog earlier in his life--just had to be killing something, but over the years had mellowed out and become a very conservation-minded sportsman.  Good thing as we only lived about 1/4 mile apart and it was easy to keep my eye on him. 

I actually learned more about trapping from Tony than I did from anyone in the department.  He let me run his trap line with him a few times and that was an adventure...he was an aggressive trapper, setting traps and checking his lines at all hours of the day and night. 

Not long after I'd met him, he insisted that I stop at a certain farm in Broadalbin and introduce myself to the owners, Bob and Sheila.  The farmers had a trespassing problem and he wanted to be sure they got it dealt with.  I always suspected that the trespassers had given him a bad time where he'd been trapping for coyote and fox, and that was the larger part of his motivation, but a violation is a violation, so I went over and introduced myself.  Just like my meeting with Tony, before I left, I had new friends who are friends to this day. 

In my conversation with the farmer he mentioned a fellow who was trapping beaver in his swamp.  He mentioned that just like clockwork, every other afternoon, the trapper would come down the driveway and head across the pasture to check his traps.  The trouble was that the traps needed to be checked every day, not every other day.  I set the traps up to prove that they were untended for 24 hours, then went back and seized them.  That resulted in writing the president of a well known trapping association a ticket that was very embarrassing to him.  I don't know that Tony had intended that I catch this guy in violation; but that's the way it turned out.

My relationship with Bob and Sheila grew through the years.  My wife and I would sometimes stop over on Sunday evenings and bring coffee to barn as they finished up their evening milking and barn chores.  In the course of conversations about kids I recommended that they explore the AWANA program at a nearby church.  They did and in short order all of their kids had developed personal saving relationships with Christ.  In time, Bob and Sheila also came to the Lord and became active in the local church.

I'd always, however had a burden for Tony.  He'd nearly died as a young man, due to heart problems and dealt with some health issues through the years I'd known him.  One night, Tony didn't come home from deer hunting and the next morning we found him dead where he had come out of tree stand the evening before.  I mourned for the loss of a great friend.

Some time later, when I'd stopped over at Bob and Sheila's farm, Sheila wanted to show me something. She had done a story for some kids at the church, making a scroll with pictures telling the story about a trapper. It was the story of Tony and how he had brought me to them, I had brought them to the Lord, and they had in turn brought Tony to the same saving relationship with Christ that they had found.   My heart was in my throat as she was finishing the story and there tears in my eyes as I realized that I would again see my friend.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Game Warden Files--Decoy Ops

Most officers would agree that working decoys is one of the most enjoyable activities of the hunting season...and sometimes not in the season.  In order to make a successful hunting case we need game and a violator.  By supplying the game, we remove one variable and all we need is a person willing to violate the game laws.  Those folks are plentiful.

Most of my decoy work was with Ray VanAnden. He seemed to be charmed in that we rarely set a decoy without getting at least one shooter.  One night we set "Robo-Bambi" up under an apple tree in the Town of Providence (Saratoga Co.) about a hundred feet off the road, Ray got well away from the site in his truck and I hunkered down in a stand of low-growing evergreens along the road.

I hadn't been there long when an old pickup truck pulled up and stopped.  I watched as the driver put one foot out of the truck, while keeping the other on the brake pedal--brake lights glowing brightly.  He looked at the deer through binoculars and would set the glasses down on the dash and reach into the truck...and then pick up the glasses for another look.  He did this several times and I used the electronic controls to twitch the tail and move the head of the deer to entice him to shoot.  He was just starting the motion to pull a rifle out of the truck when the sound of another vehicle could be heard and its headlights started to sweep over the terrain.  With that, my soon-to-be violator jumped into his truck and headed up the road.

The oncoming vehicle was a pickup that went by, did a very quick turn, returned and stopped right in front of me.  BOOM! One shot rang out. The passenger had put the rifle right in front of the driver and fired out the driver's window of the truck.  I jumped from my hiding place, put a bright light in the face of the driver and told him to stop the motor of the truck. He put both hands on the wheel and said, "I can't hear what you're saying; but I know I'm in trouble--It sure was pretty. It sure was pretty."

The .264 Winchester Magnum had left him pretty well deaf for a while, but he knew he's been had. We signed them up and sent them on their way. That was an expensive gunshot.

Before we could reset the decoy, we had to answer a complaint two counties away and when we finished that we decided to stop for a break at a convenience store in the little village of Northville. As we pulled in, I saw a familiar figure in the window--it was the guy who had been about to shoot our decoy only a couple hours before. The ratty old truck he drove was in the parking lot also. Ray recognized the man and started to laugh; there was a long history between them. He told me to go check the truck and I'd find a loaded .22 rifle on the seat. He was right! We signed him up too and, being the nice guys we were, bought him an ice cream cone. To this day, that man and I see each other quite frequently in that same store, and often share a seat and drink coffee together.  No hard feelings.

Sometimes things don't go quite the way we plan.  We set up the decoy on a pretty heavily traveled--and heavily road-hunted--spot late one night and dug in to wait and see what would happen. I was again well hidden in some evergreens across the road from "Robo" and Ray was down a side road backed down a long driveway.  It had been a long and unproductive wait when finally a slow moving car stopped for a quick look then took off quickly and sped down the side road where Ray was hidden.  The folks in the car had decided that they'd turn around, get the rifle loaded and come back to take the shot.  You guessed it, they pulled right into the driveway in which Ray was hiding. Since I'd already given Ray the description of the car, he recognized it and figured he get what he could out of it.  He made the stop and found the driver to be drunk. Sometimes that's the way it goes.

We had other humorous outings with Robo: People would stop, get out of the their cars and try to scare him away from the road, even throwing rocks, waving their arms and yelling--one of them was a biologist with our department, needless to say, he was a bit embarrassed!  One young woman got out of the passenger side of the car she was in, got undressed, and jumped back into the car and the car went flying down the road leaving us shaking our heads--never did figure that one out! One night we were sitting in our vehicle overlooking the spot we had Robo, when a guy tried to walk up to it.  He had no firearm, but was just trying to walk up close to it. We had a high vantage point and had a clear view of him so we lit him up with our spot light--just a quick flash of light. He was dumbstruck.  It was like there'd been a flash from Heaven.  He froze in his tracks, then looked around guiltily and made a bee-line for his car.  We were laughing so hard we didn't bother chasing him down to check him out.

Yes, decoy ops were about as much fun as you could have.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Game Warden Files--Northampton Beach Campground

Northampton Campground was in my patrol sector so it was natural that I spent a lot of time there. I'd often stop in during the day and check out the population to see how the population looked. By mid-afternoon you could pretty well tell how things were going to be by 10 PM when quiet hours began.

I always had a good working relationship with the staff there and the Park Rangers generally looked forward to joining me cleaning out the problems.  If we could get the place quiet by midnight, the rest of their nights were easier for them.  One of them referred to the weekend work with me as "Bill and his band of merry Rangers."  We solved a lot of problems, wrote a bunch of tickets had a lot of fun.  Some of the younger folks who served as Park Rangers went on to be successful law enforcement professionals.  I like to think I was a small part of their success.

Of course some events stand out more than others.  One muggy Saturday afternoon I took a ride through and marked a site that the Rangers had already seen as a potential for problems.  Lots of young people, sort of trashy looking cars, loud music...all the hallmarks of a problem site.  In the late afternoon the sky darkened and the rain started so by the time I returned to campground the place was really pretty quiet.  The Park Rangers on duty that night, Chris and Art, were waiting for me at the gate to tell me that the site we'd anticipating as a problem seemed to have gone to bed.  As we walked in the direction of the suspect site all was indeed dark and quiet.  Suddenly, as if on command, we saw a bit of light in one of the tents as someone lit a gas lantern.  Then the door to the tent was opened and one of the campers appeared at the door, other bodies started to stir and we worked our way closer to the open tent.  I was just coming near the open doorway, and still unobserved, when the young man in the doorway started to light up a marijuana pipe.  GAME ON! We found more drugs, unregistered campers, underage possession of alcohol, a lot of violation.  At the end, we had about a dozen tickets written and the campsite being packed up.  We had enough sober drivers among them to send them down the road.  By midnight, they were gone.

Another night, neighboring officer Jim Harnish and I were walking the campsite and focused on one site that was tucked back in the woods.  We walked quietly toward it and found a group trying to decide if they were going to smoke all their pot that night or save some for the next.  Of course, we decided to add the third option: Neither!

There were 10 of them, and they were all from Canada, so we couldn't just give them tickets as there was no way to get them back to the court.  We called one of the local judges who agreed to meet us at his court and had them pack their cars and follow us there.  After they all gave guilty pleas, the matter of fines came up. The judge came up with a total dollar figure and the young folks realized that the judge was really serious about the money--and they didn't have it...not even close! All together, they had enough to pay a couple fines, so two of them were released to make a run north to meet one of the parents who was southbound with cash. When it was all said and done, they paid in Canadian money which, at the time was of substantially lower value but the judge figured it was close enough and took it without the discount, letting them go home.

Game Warden Files--More GSL

Late in my career when I had taken a position with the Marine and Off-Road Enforcement team, I often still got to work in my old home sector doing boat patrol on the Great Sacandaga.

One Memorial Day weekend I was was working the lake with Jeff Hovey and we checked a family fishing on a bass boat.  The husband had a license, as did his his wife and their son didn't need one, so all was OK on that; but the youngster needed to have a life jacket on as he was underage. That's when an attitude started to show.  If they'd had a suitable life jacket, he could have put it on and all would be OK; but they didn't have the mandatory one per person, let alone one in a suitable size for the child. We gave them enough flotation devices to cover everyone and directed them to head for their point of launch, which was the state campground at Northampton Beach. As we were having our discussion, the fisherman tossed a cigarette butt into the water with one of those "what are you going to do about THAT" motions. Jeff very calmly asked why he'd done that and the guy responded "NOW YOU'RE PUSHING IT!"  I looked him squarely in the eye and said "No, now YOU'RE pushing it."  He plucked the butt out of the water and, without much further conversation, we headed to the dock.

As we rounded Sinclair Point, our boaters took off on a straight line for the campground.  That straight line took them through an area that was known as Rock City or Stump City.  It was one of those places that uncovered when the water was low, and this year the water was low for late May.  A lighter than usual snow pack and scare spring rains had not brought the water up to its normal early year levels.  Apparently our boater didn't understand that and headed full bore across a pretty hazardous part of the lake.  Jeff looked at me and very rightly said that he wasn't taking his boat through there.  As I laughed in agreement, a gust of wind took my ball cap off my head and into the water.  As we circled back to get the hat, we lost track of the boat and when we located it again, it was moving very slowly along the shoreline of one of the islands in Rock City.  We could see the operator, now standing on the bow, operating the boat on the trolling motor.  Hmmm, what could have happened?

We watched as our now crippled violator boat slowly made its way to the launch.  During the trip, we could watch the body language change and slowly things changed on the boat.  His wife joined him on the bow and their son was closer to them like they were all talking.   When we arrived at the launch to issue the tickets and retrieve our life jackets, our boater was a changed man.  No more bad attitude, just an apology for being a jerk.  We had a bit more class than to have a look at his propeller--now likely badly damaged on the rocks; so we got back into our boat and headed back to the lake.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Game Warden Files--on the Ice

I never really like working ice fishermen.  I never really liked the ice at all; but I had a resource to protect and work it I did, in spite of my concerns.  I did take an ATV through the ice once.  I was working Mayfield Lake and the surface was flat, hard ice with no snow covering at all.  After checking the lake, I headed back to the point from which I'd entered the ice.  Not far from shore, I hit a small pressure ridge and lost control of the ATV.  It wasn't that I was out of control, it was just that I was now going in a direction I hadn't intended and could neither turn nor stop.  If it hadn't been for the fact that I was now headed for a patch of open water that would not have been a problem.

I tried everything I could but still could not get the machine to stop or turn.  Though I wasn't going all that fast, I was getting closer to that open water and finally steeled myself to the fact that I was going to get wet.  The water was shallow, I was with 20 feet of shore and I got out very quickly.  I was smart enough to get the car keys in my hand  before my pockets froze and got back to the car and drove home uneventfully.

After a shower a hot meal and some hot coffee, I got checked out at the hospital and then set out to recover the machine.  Assisted by Ray VanAnden, we pulled the machine out and got it to one of our shops.  A couple days of drying out, some fresh gas and an oil change was all it took to have the machine up and running again.

One afternoon I was checking ice fishermen on the Great Sacandaga and came upon a few guys with a very nice large mouth bass on the ice--frozen to it.  When asked about the fish--which was out of season--they said that they were "just getting ready to throw it back."  Likely story with the fish frozen solid; I signed them up for a trip to local court.

Sometimes the worst days on the ice produced the most interesting cases.  One cold and windy day, I pulled up to a shanty that had activity.  There was smoke coming from the chimney and a fair number of tip ups on the ice.  Since each fisherman is allowed only five, I expected to find two or three fishermen.   As I pulled up to the door, a friendly face popped out to see who was coming for a visit.  "How's the action?" I asked while looking for another fisherman.  "Pretty slow," was the response.  Still not seeing another fisherman, I then asked "Is that the reason for the extra tip ups?"  The fisherman shook his head and admitted that he had put out more than the limit in hopes of catching at least a couple fish.  Realizing that he was caught, he invited me in out of the wind to write the ticket.

In the last couple winters before my retirement, I was happy to see the return of big northern pike.  It was not uncommon to see a half dozen or more pike in the 40 inch range on the ice over a weekend.  Even the walleye had started to come back along with more, and larger, yellow perch.

Game Warden Files--Great Sacandaga Lake

Having spent many days and nights patrolling Jamaica Bay, Raritan Bay, and the rest of the New York City area waterways, I was really happy that my new patrol sector had a pretty big body of water and a boat. The majority of the Great Sacandaga Lake was in Fulton County, with another large part of it in Saratoga County and a the river that supplied it was in Hamilton County.  With good neighboring officers in both the other counties, there was generally another officer to work with and that made the day go by much more quickly.  The Great Sacandaga is a man-made lake (The Sacandaga River was dammed up in the 1920's to form it), built to control flooding to the small communities along the Hudson River between Lake Luzerne and Albany.  A good snow pack in the southern Adirondacks, coupled with some warm weather and a bit of spring rain would cause the Sacandaga River to overload the Hudson and that would devastate the downstream communities.  In the spring, the lake would be at high levels and by summer's end it would be getting very low.  Sometimes a lot of old communities would seemingly rise from the bottom as the water receded in the fall.

Though in the early years of the lake's existence, it had produced record fish--the North American record northern pike came from it--the fishing had declined throughout the middle of the 20th century.  Walleye, though often caught, were under the size limit; pike were the same.  There was considerable success in stocking trout, mostly browns but also rainbows, and we did see some nice fish come out of the water thanks to the effort of the clubs that put the effort into stocking programs.

The largest abuse of the resource was the walleye runs.  Each spring, as the ice went out and the waters warmed, those golden eyed torpedoes would assemble at the mouths of the creeks and wait until conditions were right, then come up the river to spawn.  Some times the runs would be spotty: a few fish in this creek and few in another.  Other times they would be everywhere all at once.  It was hard to keep tabs on all those creeks all the time.

There were any number of nights spent hiding in the bushes waiting for folks to come with spears or snag hooks, and we caught a fair number of folks trying to catch the fish that way, but the biggest problem we had were folks who were "just trout fishing" in the creeks when the walleye were spawning.

We finally got a regulation put into place that prohibited any fishing in the tributaries to the lake during the time when the walleye season was closed.  That allowed us to keep people out of the areas where the fish were most vulnerable. We posted signs declaring the closures and yet we had people fishing in the the creeks and the river that fed the lake.

One year when the water was exceptionally high, neighboring officer Bob Gosson and I had the boat in the water the night before the season opened.  We went up the Sacandaga river just after dark, figuring that we'd encounter a few boaters and maybe some shore fishermen starting to fish before the midnight opening. We didn't get far up the river when we spotted a small boat and believed by the activity that the occupants were fishing.  The fishermen saw us and had no idea who we were.  Rather than run away, they began to light up their fish poles, lines and bobbers so that we wouldn't run over the fishing operation.  That made our job even easier, they also had no personal flotation devices, no lights on the boat and some other problems so we wrote them a bunch of tickets and escorted them to shore.

The water was so high that we were able to get to areas we had never been able to effectively work.  We pulled the boat into shore near the outlet of the West Stoney Creek where we saw a fisherman using a flashlight to locate fish and then attempt to catch them.  We walked along the creek bank and ultimately ran right into the fisherman who didn't recognize us and thought he'd stumbled into a couple other early fisherman.  "Did you get any, boys?" he asked with a conspiratorial tone of voice.  Bob replied "Just you!" and waved a flashlight across the shoulder patch to identify us.  The fisherman, a well know local guy, chuckled and figure he'd been had, fair and square.  For many years later he would relate the story of how he'd come sneaking up on the game wardens. We shared many laughs over cups of coffee in the following years.  

Game Warden Files--Not Really Game Warden Work

Since, as ECOs, we were on the road at odd hours of the night and were always poking our noses into strange places, it should be no surprise that we encountered things other than EnCon Law violations.  We did get a lot of driving while intoxicated cases.

My first one was about 3 AM while coming home from a long night of working campgrounds in my neighboring sector with Jim Harnish.  We had been dealing with problems in a campground that was a hundred miles from my home and were finally headed home.  As we came through the sleepy town of Wells, we got behind a car that was weaving from guardrail to guardrail.  We lit him up to pull him over and the driver slowed the car, pulled to the right--still weaving--and motioned for us to pass him.  That's NOT what it means when the red lights come on.

Though not going fast, the driver continued his non-compliance and finally decided to get away from us.  He pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant and tried to drive around behind it.  However, the owners of the restaurant lived on the same property and the back yard was filled with lawn items.  Next thing you know, the car had met a rather substantial swing set and the hood was up in the air, the radiator steaming and the driver trying to restart his now stalled car.  While Jim called in the stop and a request for assistance from the State Police, I ran up to the car and pulled the driver out of the seat, swung him over the trunk deck of his car and put the cuffs on him all in one slick motion--after all, it's got to work right once in a while, right? The problem was that as I swung him onto the trunk deck, his abdomen struck the top of the fender and there was a sudden loud noise followed by a foul smell permeating the air; all accompanied by large stain on our drunk's pants.  You guessed, he'd lost control of his bowels.

Since this was not an EnCon case, we did the only "right" thing: we turned it over to the Troopers.  They wrapped him in an emergency blanket, stuffed him in their car and headed off to process him.  Fortunately, this was a time before smoking in state owned vehicles was prohibited and both the Troopers were pipe smokers.  You can bet that they fired up the pipes for that trip to the station.

Returning from a similar long night in the campgrounds, I was driven off the road by a car coming right at me. I managed to avoid being hit, got the car stopped and made another DWI arrest.  The driver in this case had just had his license revoked for a previous DWI.  The revocation had taken effect at midnight and here it was the wee hours of the following morning.  I processed him at Gloversville Police and went on about my business.  Though I expected a trial, the entire booking process had been recorded and the driver's attorney had asked to see the tape...he took a plea bargain as he didn't want a jury to watch the tape.

I hadn't thought much of that case until years later a young man came into a convenience store where I was drinking a cup of coffee.  He asked if he could join me and speak with me a minute.  I allowed him to do so.  "You don't remember me, do you...?" began the story.  He was the man who had run me off the road that early morning.  He thanked me for saving his life, he was sober now and had been since dealing with that arrest.  I'd like to think I'll run into him again some time and he still will be.

Game Warden Files--State Campgrounds

Among the many duties I assumed upon becoming the new guy in Fulton County was policing the state campsites.  I had one in my own sector and several more in adjoining sectors.  Policing campgrounds was nothing new to me as I'd served as as seasonal officer with the NY State Park Police, Taconic Region from 1977 until 1980.  However, in my work with the Park Police I'd never seen the intensity of problems and extent of disorder I'd come to see within the campgrounds under DEC's authority.

In the course of my first weekend working (which was July 4th weekend) I spent the better part of my time answering complaints and quelling noise problems in the two closest campgrounds.  In the first few years working in my sector, my neighboring officers and I spent countless hours and wrote innumerable tickets in those sites.  That would continue through most of my career.

Some of the events are specifically memorable:
Prom weekends were nearly always problems.  The kids from some bigger schools near Saratoga Springs would rent many campsites (Actually, in most cases their parents reserved the sites for them, but that's a problem we couldn't deal with.) and the kids would start arriving for the post prom activities sometime around 11 PM.  One night, I found a party building up and called neighboring officer Ray VanAnden to come over and assist me.  We started rounding up kids, most of them by now drinking heavily--and remember these are high-school kids.

One young man was trying sneak away from Ray while holding a very large mug of beer, more like a pitcher of beer.  The event is burned into my mind in cartoon-like fashion.  He was tiptoeing among some small evergreen trees trying to get to his tent without being observed.  The trouble was that I was standing beside his tent.  He started to run, still on tiptoes, and then made a flying dive for his tent--still holding the beer.  In one of the best timed moves I'd ever made, I reached out and grabbed him by the ankles as he was airborne.  His body stopped in mid-dive, the beer sloshed out of the mug onto the floor of his tent and when gravity took over, he landed in a beer-soaked sleeping bag.  Then he got a ticket for his effort.  We rounded up about 20 kids in that sweep, wrote at least most, if not all of them tickets for some campground offense, then called their parents and got them out of our campground.  I saw this played out many times over the course of the years and was always amazed that the parents sponsored this activity and were upset with us for wrecking their kids' good times--and their own free weekends.  Only once did we find a group that was partying alcohol and drug free.  They even pointed out a group from another school prom that was not sober and told us where the keg was hidden in the woods.

Memorial Day weekends were a big problem in the Caroga Lake campground above all others.  It seemed like all of our local high schools would be there, some of them skipping school on Thursday of the weekend to get a head start.  It wasn't just the troubled kids who were the problems; it was more often those who were from decent and well known families, were reasonable students and often were among the star athletes. We'd find them drunk or in violation of other laws, usually relating to not being permitted in the campground after day use closed.  One Memorial Day Weekend night as I walked through the darkened campsite, I saw a young man pick up a bottle of beer and take a big drink.  I took the bottle from his had and told him that he was going with me.  "You can't arrest me, I'm Pete -----." He invoked the well known family name.  Just then, two other officers, Larry Johnson and Bruce Perry, came by in a patrol car.  I handed the beer to Bruce and put Pete in the back seat.  Oh yes we can arrest you.  His dad was NOT happy when we called him to come get his drunken son.

One weekend we had a problem with a young man who would sneak in without paying, get drunk and then get loud.  We caught him twice in about an hour, ticketed him and tossed him out of the campground.  Not long after that, as I was hiding in a patch of woods keeping watch on a group of campers, I noticed a Sheriff's patrol car driving slowly through the campground.  Out of a group of people stepped our now twice-arrested young man who, beer in hand, greeted the deputy with with "Hi Mr. Gisondi! Ha, Ha, I'm not supposed to be here!"  Before he could say another word, he was in the back seat of the Sheriff's car and on his way to get his third ticket of the night.  This time, instead of sending him out, we sent him right to the local judge who sent him to jail.  He didn't get bailed out until the weekend was over--end of problem.

Interestingly, the following year he was back, a changed young man.   He spent his time trying to keep kids quiet and sober.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Game Warden Files--Time to Leave All That Behind

It was in the spring of 1986 that we had been upstate to visit my family.  Though spring had already come to Staten Island, it was sweeter yet in Columbia County.  One afternoon Lt. Molinelli stopped by the house after he'd had occasion to drive the Taconic Parkway down through our home area the day before.  "You've got to be crazy wanting to stay here" was his comment, "It's beautiful up where you're from."  But we did love Staten Island.  We were happy in home, work and church; our kids were doing well in school.  We were so comfortable that we'd had another baby and were now a family of five.  And then it happened.  As the department was starting to fill another academy class they opted to open up some additional transfer opportunities.  Two of them fell within that now smaller magic circle we'd drawn on the map.  Fulton and Saratoga Counties would be open and I was on the transfer list for both of them, was I really interested?

After agreeing that I was interested, we spent several uncertain days waiting for the transfer process to be completed.  At last I got the call, or Peggy did anyway.  We were moving to Fulton County.  We set the plan in motion, bought a house and arrived in the City of Johnstown in time for me to go to work over the July 4th weekend.  

You might think that being a couple country kids, both having grown up in the mid-Hudson Valley, we'd have fallen back into the role quickly.  We found, however that the culture shock of moving back upstate was greater than that of moving to the city.  The four years we had spent within the New York City area had forever changed us.  We remain convinced that those years were very well spent, and now we were off on a new adventure.  I was now the country game warden, the job I'd been after for all those years.

Game Warden Files--Boat Chases

The Clam Wars of the Great South Bay had been fought from boats and we employed boats in a lot of our work also.  We make some great partnerships with the Hempstead Bay Constables and spent many nights in the upper reaches of Jamaica Bay.  We also teamed with the highly skilled operators with the US Park Police Marine Unit working the large expanse of the bay that was under federal control.  They knew all the little channels of the bay better than any of us did and that make the work much easier. The other player was the Nassau County Marine Police who would occasionally come into the very end of the bay which was in the Town of Hempstead, Nassau County.  We had a pretty good team and put a cramp on the clamming; but some still tried it--and some of them still got away.

One night I got a call from the Nassau County Marine Police.  They had just come into the area, had a boat under surveillance and had one of their boats being trailered to a nearby launch.  Lt. Molinelli and I headed over from Staten Island hooked up with them and while I got in the boat with the two county officers, Lt. Mollinelli worked his way to an observation point.

We came quickly around a small peninsula approached the clammers and caught them totally by surprise. One of them went to start the engine and I could hear sound of a dying battery trying to start a badly tuned engine.  This was going to be a triumphant night!  Then I heard the county's boat throttle back, and the unmistakable sound of an engine failing--badly--like a piston through the side of the block.  I was on the bow of the now-dying police boat headed directly at the violators' boat and ready to board it when suddenly the previously dead engine on it sputtered and came to life.  Though it was coughing and sputtering, the violator's boat pulled away just out of my reach--or ability to jump into it.  It disappeared into the night not to be seen again...and we paddled into shore.  Not a happy night.

Though there was a good deal of adrenaline generated by that, it was nothing compared to a night working with the Hempstead Bay Constables.  We'd been getting complaints almost every night and had two boats and crews staged in the area of Head of Bay, just south of Kennedy Airport.  When the call came in, we headed to the location.  The plan was to keep hitting them with spotlights, effectively killing their night vision and force them to shore where other units would locate them.  It was a sold plan since they were clamming in an area with a very narrow outlet at low tide and we thought we could keep them blinded long enough.  The plan worked as well as it could have, except they had more determination than we ever expected.  They tossed all their equipment, clam rakes and baskets overboard forcing us to maneuver around them and ultimately got out of our lights.  They then acquired enough vision to find the channel out of there and headed west to open water.  I had the faster boat, but within a couple miles had lost any sight of them.

Though we only caught a few of the boat diggers, the two close calls they had with us pretty well shut them down.  I think we only had one other incident where one of our guys just lucked into a guy heading out with clamming equipment in a boat.  He called me and we waited him out, catching him as he loaded is truck.  Not nearly as exciting as chasing down a boat; but a good catch.    

Game Warden Files--More Clam Wars

The Great Clam Wars were fought on Long Island's Great South Bay in the late 1970's; but we had a smaller war in Jamaica Bay throughout the 1980's.  The one episode I recounted earlier was but one of many.  We often dealt with what we called "mess diggers," folks who just went out and dug a mess of clams for personal use.  The problem was that when we watched them, we couldn't tell if they were just taking one mess or if they were filling bags in their cars and then selling them at local restaurants.  Though taking any shellfish in the bay was illegal, we didn't spend a lot of time on the mess diggers unless we got a complaint or thought they might be doing it on a large enough scale to be selling them.

One complaint was about a particular area of Rockaway where at low tide the mud flats would have a dozen or so diggers--nearly every day.  The neighborhood there was dominantly black and since we had just hired a few black officers we had them go in shorts and sneakers down to blend in with the locals.  We had no idea how well that would work.  Our officers took a large boom box, a cooler of drinks and a couple chairs and went to sit for a while along the shore as the tide went out.  A couple other officers and I watched from a distance.  As the tide went out, a number of folks started to make their way out onto the flats and begin the process of working their feet into the mud and finding the clams.  After a while they made their way to shore with 5 gallon plastic pails well filled with the clams.  Our guys identified themselves and the rest of of arrived to back them up.  We cited about 5 folks for taking shellfish from uncertified waters that day.  One of them turned out to be wanted for criminal sale of a controlled substance, so after we dealt with him, we turned him over to Nassau County for his charges.  We caught a few others in the area over the following months and all seemed to be connected to that first group in some way.   As a matter of fact, it would turn out that the guy who'd had the warrant was pretty much the ringleader of the bunch.  

It was a cold day in February or March and we found a few diggers working the flats in that area again.  We hid our cars and worked our way through the shoreline vegetation and caught with a couple buckets of clams.  As we walked to our vehicles one of them dropped his bucket and ran through a fence and into a small oil terminal.  He jumped from the dock into the bay and swam across the bay--fully clothed!  We did the paperwork on the ones we had and then went after our swimmer.  We'd seen where he'd exited the water and followed wet footprints to the home of guy we'd caught only a few nights earlier.  We called for NYPD for some backup, went into the house and found him hiding under a couch.  He went into the system at Central Booking in Queens.

Game Warden Files--More Hunter Safety Interviews

Once I had the file--or maybe the right word is pile--of Hunter Safety Instructor applications down to a manageable size, I started to do things the way they was supposed to be done.  I'd pick an area of Brooklyn where I had several applicants and make phone calls until I had three or four appointments set up for an afternoon and/or evening.  I quickly found myself getting to know some the of the subcultures and and ethnic traits of some of the most enjoyable folks I'd ever met.  I found, for instance, that if I would be doing interviews in the Italian neighborhoods, I'd better not eat anything before I started--I'd be well over-stuffed before I got home.  Never did I go to an Italian home for one of these interviews when food and coffee was not only offered, but expected to be consumed--generally in rather large quantities.

It was in a Cuban home where got my very first cup of espresso coffee.  It was beautiful home in Brooklyn Heights, that looked like the neighborhood where Cliff Huxtable home in The Cosby Show was situated.   Though I'm now a pretty well-seasoned coffee drinker, that was the day I found what strong coffee was all about.  Not content to drink one cup, I innocently accepted a second one before the first one had achieved its full effect--and buzzed the rest of the day.  Even with all the Latin American coffee I've now consumed in many places, there has never been coffee that has hit me like that did.

One afternoon I had an interview scheduled in a large apartment complex in the Northern part of the borough which was a pretty rough part of town.  In the course of trying to find a suitable parking place for what was obviously a police car, I got into a series of one-way streets and ended up at what I remain convinced was four streets all ending at the same point with no way out.  A very tall, thin NYPD officer appeared, walked over to me with a smile and, bending almost completely over to see into my car, asked me "Sir, what are you doing HERE?"  He knew what the green uniform was, but had no idea what brought one into that neighborhood.  He got me to a safe parking place and I completed my assigned there.

These afternoons and evenings helped me learn my way around Brooklyn. It was while doing these interviews that I developed and honed the many people skills that have helped to make me an effective communicator in the many directions my life has taken me.  I also give credit--or blame, depending on the point of view--to my many conversations within the Italian culture to the fact that I often talk with my hand.  No one in my family recalls that I had done that so much before the days of those interviews.

Overall, I met some wonderful sportsmen doing these interviews, and a few folks whose applications would be marked DENIED in red ink.  One interview still disturbs me.  It was a guy who didn't want me to come to his home, had no place to conduct the classes and had never had a hunting license or any experience in the outdoors.  Most disturbing: He wanted to work with young kids.  I passed that information along through channels to the proper authorities so that he could be looked at.

Game Warden Files--Hunter Safety Interviews

Of the many things I did in New York City, one of the things that occupied much of my time in the early days there was interviewing applicants to become Hunter Safety (now called Sportsmen Education) Instructors.  Overall, I found that to be very rewarding, but it was an overwhelming experience for a while.  When I first arrived in Brooklyn, I was handed a stack of applications over an inch thick, many of which were well over a year old. Being something of an outside the box thinker, I arranged to get an interview room at a New York Police Department station that was in the middle of Brooklyn close to public transportation and with a fair amount of available parking during the daytime.  I then developed a form letter to send to all the applicants whose applications were among the oldest ones.  I gave them the location of the station, times and dates I'd be there, and told them that if I didn't hear from them, their applications would be taken out of consideration. That was designed to give me a reasonable number of newer applications to work on in the traditional manner--home visits--and it eliminated well over half of the backlog.

The appointed day arrived to start my precinct house interviews and quite a few of the applicants showed up.  One still comes to mind, though I can't recall his name.  There was the normal buzz of conversation in the lobby of the station and when a man entered the door, all eyes turned toward him, and conversation stopped.  It was a man walking with two canes and a great deal of determination.  When the conversation resumed, there was a rush of officers toward this man, all with smiles and outstretched hands.

Seems that this man was a legend among police officers in Brooklyn.  A cop's cop, he had a reputation as a tough, hard working and very effective officer and then he'd been injured in an on-duty motor vehicle accident and not expected to survive.  He survived, but was not expected to walk again, then he was walking.  While still recuperating and awaiting retirement, he'd come out of a Te Amo--a chain of small convenience-type stores--and seen a small, young female police officer taking a physical beating from someone over a parking ticket she'd given him.  Though still convalescing and walking with the aid of two canes, he employed those canes to stop the attack on the officer and put her assailant into submission until the guys in the blue suits arrived. If I recall right, he'd pretty well beaten the snot out the the "poip" as the local vernacular would have it.   If he hadn't been a hero before, he was then.

I got a lesson in NYPD culture in a conversation with this hero and a young sergeant.  In introducing himself, the young sergeant asked  "You remember (name of another officer) who got shot?" "Well, I'm the guy who shot the guy who shot him!"  This was normal police culture here--I had to get used to it.

Game Warden Files--More on the Water

One of the wars continually fought by the ECOs in New York City was the war over short lobsters.  A lobster needs to be a certain size to be lawfully taken, and the lobstermen of the New York Harbor area were always inventing new ways to get their illegal catch to shore.  One of the men we chased often was better at it than others.  He didn't come in with 20 or 30, it was more like 300 shorts.  He had a large work platform built off the stern of his boat and built it into a drop box.  He put all his undersized lobsters there and when he saw an enforcement boat coming, he'd turn his boat away, dump the contents, close the box and continue on--appearing to be just a legal fisherman.
One day we were coming in to Sheepshead Bay in Brookly for gas and realized that we were coming up behind him.  He was oblivious to our presence as we prepared to board him, but we couldn't safely board him at the 10-15 knots at which we were travelling.  When we signaled him to stop, he forced the boat into a hard turn and, as he turned away from us, released the drop box and dumped what we saw as several burlap bags, all roped together.  We held our position and radioed the Coast Guard at Rockaway Station to come and assist us.  The US Park Police Marine unit was closer and they came right over, dropped a grapple hook and came up with the rope on the first try.
We started pulling up bags of lobsters and ended up with two small boats full of bags.  After we finished with our bad guy, signing him up for an appearance before an administrative law judge to talk about whether or not he could keep his lobster harvesting permit, we went over to the Coast Guard station and began the long process of gauging and counting lobsters.  All told, he had something over 900 undersized lobsters.  Since they had come from New York Waters, we dumped them out into the boat basin at the Coast Guard Station and seeded the population of lobsters in that part of Jamaica Bay.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Home From Vacation

Yes, it has again been a while since I posted anything.  Time just keeps slipping by.  This post is actually going to have something to do with ammo!  After all, it's part of the title.
While on vacation, I got a chance to shoot a muzzle loading bench rifle.  I was at the annual encampment of the Christian Game Warden Support Group held near Centerville TN, and one of our participants brought along a couple of really interesting, hand-built rifles.  His creations weigh in at about 25 pounds or so, seems that there is weight that fits "regulation" for the the type of competition he shoots them in.  The shooting process is long, and to a non-enthusiast, tedious; but the owner of the piece was truly in his element.  It took about a half hour just to unload the truck and set everything in place; but when it comes to the shooting, it really performs!
This rifle sits in a mount and the shooter snuggles up to it wearing a special padded glove to support the butt stock.  The sights are interesting--an aperture within another aperture, and the settle easily onto the target. The trigger is magic.  It's pretty easy to get the feel of it and my shot hit the mark.  As a matter of fact, one target shot by several shooters didn't look half bad.
I also shot a couple of .45 pistols and found them to be quite to my liking.  As much as I like Glocks, I must admit the Springfield 1911 was sweet to shoot.
That's about all the shooting I did at the get-together this year.  I didn't bring any guns of my own, except the .380 I carried--and I couldn't pick up an ammo on the trip out there.