Monday, December 9, 2013

Game Warden Files--Hangouts

Every ECO needs a hangout. When we moved to Brooklyn in the first years of my career I was befriended by the owner of a place called Frank's Sport Center (or something like that). My first visit to the store was on some business about selling hunting and fishing licenses and we quickly developed a good relationship. Not long after that first meeting he invited me to be present at an open house he was holding, and told me to be sure to bring the family. It was a good time, we became friends and I stopped by there often, meeting some of the greatest sportsmen I'd had ever met, or ever did meet. They were not the "city hunters" that all upstate sportsmen dread; but real classy guys who knew what they were doing and did it right. It became a favorite hangout for me. We stayed in touch for a while after I departed the city for "upstate;" but eventually we lost touch. I believe the store is long-gone now, or operates under a different name as I can't find it listed anywhere.
When the transfer to Fulton County came, my neighboring officer quickly introduced to another Frank. This one operated Frank's Gun Shop, and it soon became my favorite hangout--both on and off-duty--which some referred to as my "East End Office." A lot of rainy, snowy and other miserable days were spent in that shop talking with sportsmen. Most times, the conversations were just lively banter; occasionally I'd get some valuable background information on the area and some of the suspected violators; and sometimes I'd get enough information to make a case--once without ever leaving the store.
I was in Frank's off-duty when a highly irate fisherman came in. He'd been ice fishing on Lake Pleasant, about 40 miles north of us and he'd seen a couple guys taking fish in violation of either size or take limit, hide them in their car and continue fishing. As he drove south toward home he got more and more angry about it and when he came in the store he was about to explode. He had come inside just to blow off steam, starting with something like "Where's a Game Warden when you need one?" After identifying myself, I got the whole story and called the dispatcher. She got the officer for that area on the radio and found that he was within a mile or so of the violation. He located the suspects' vehicle, found a good vantage point and nabbed them...all within a couple minutes of my first conversation with the fisherman, with whom I still talking when Dispatch called me back to say that the violators had been arrested and ticketed. Sometimes things really do work out.
I became very good friends with Frank and his family, and remain so to this day. Their gun shop is still a frequent hang out for me. I did play a prank on them once that was so well played they never did find me out until I revealed that I was the culprit. Frank and his wife had some wire-framed lighted deer on their front lawn for Christmas ornaments. One year, one of the deer just would not stay upright; every couple days it would fall over in the wind and they'd have to reset it. One afternoon I found an old hunting arrow in my garage and tossed it in the back of my own pickup. After stopping at the store to make sure they were both there, I pulled in the driveway at their house, stuck the arrow into the downed deer and took off--totally unnoticed.
A couple days later, when I walked in the store, Frank couldn't wait to tell me what they'd found a couple days before at their home. Every so often the "drive by arrowing" would come up in conversation, and we'd laugh about it...all the while they didn't know. That's probably the only good gag I ever got away with.
Good friends, great times, grand memories!

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