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.

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