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.


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