Friday, November 29, 2013

Game Warden Files--Confession Time

Conversations around the table yesterday (Thanksgiving) brought up a name that provoked a set of memories dating back to 1986, our first year in the area. It was the last name of a guy I'll call Joe, a good sportsman who helped me out and could have made a great story out of it...but never told a soul, that I know of.
The game warden is supposed to be the expert on everything relating to fish and wildlife: "Is the ice safe on Grafton Lake in November?"  How should I know. "Do you know what the weather is in Lake Lila? I didn't know where Lake Lila was. "How deep should you fish for salmon in Lake Ontario?" Not a clue but we muddle through, usually coming up with an answer that satisfied the asker. Though we keep up a good facade, we sometimes get our weak spots found out. So it was that early in my first deer season, a major lack in my knowledge was brought to light. I had stopped a car to check what I thought was an improperly tagged deer and found Joe, who was headed for a phone to call me (hard to believe that we had no cell phones only a few years back). The deer was legally tagged and all was in order; but this guy was hot. His hunting party had been putting on a drive when there had been shots fired in an area where they had no watchers. They went over to check out who the interloper was and found a set of tracks that led up to a small button buck--an illegal kill.. The footprints leading away from the deer were a clear message of "feet don't fail me now!" The shooter had run away. Bad enough to make an illegal kill; but to leave it in the woods to be eaten by the coyotes was unforgivable.
This sportsman turned around and took me back to the parking area and then led me up through the woods about a mile to the spot where the deer had been killed. The tracks told the story as described. Not willing to leave the deer to the coyotes, I rolled it over, took out my knife and told my sportsman that he was in for a treat...I'd never field dressed a deer before, and he'd get to watch. Though I had been a fairly successful small game hunter over the ears I had never taken a deer myself, so this would be my first. Confession given, my hunter did the right thing. He sat down on a stump and talked me through it. It went pretty well with his expert coaching...and he never told the story to embarrass me, though several would have gladly paid to hear it.
Though I developed a suspect or two on the illegal kill, there was never enough evidence to make a case against anyone. It was, however, part of my growing up in the job and I appreciated Joe's help. I dressed out many deer in the years since then, some my own takes and many more killed illegally; but that one always comes to mind when I take out my knife.

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