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.

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