Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

I’m no game warden, but I faked it pretty well

investigation.jpgThe recent thread about trout poaching got more hits and comments than anything else I’ve posted here.

It also got me thinking about the times I’ve caught hunters and fishermen breaking the law. One incident, that occurred nearly 30 years ago, still makes me smile.

I was fishing Webster County’s Back Fork of Elk catch-and-release section with a friend. We had covered about a quarter mile of water when we rounded a bend and spotted two guys sitting on a fallen log beside a large pool. As soon as the two fellows saw us, they retreated into some streamside bushes.

“Bet they’re bait fishing,” my partner said. “And I bet they think we’re undercover conservation officers. Let’s see if we can have some fun with them.”

We walked up to where the two men had been sitting. Two spinning rods lay there, propped on forked sticks. We reeled the the lines in and found them baited with nightcrawlers.

“They were poachers, all right,” I said. “We’d better poke around and see if we can find them.”

We started thrashing loudly through the bushes. A few seconds later, we heard a car door slam. We ran to try to get a license number, but got to the road too late. The car had already disappeared around a nearby curve.

“Well, officer, I guess there’s nothing left for us to do but confiscate the evidence,” my friend observed as a sly grin tugged at the corner of his mouth.

“I concur, officer. The rods ain’t much, but those reels will make pretty nice additions to our tackle collections.”

I still have that reel. And every time I see it, I can’t help but smile.

condor.jpgFrom the Associated Press comes news that another critically endangered California condor has been shot.

The bird, trapped March 26 in California’s Big Sur region, is alive and has been sent to the Los Angeles Zoo for treatment. The wildlife workers who trapped the bird found three shotgun pellets in its body, and also discovered that the bird was suffering from lead poisoning.  Kelly Sorenson, director of the Ventana Wildlife Society, believes the bird became poisoned from eating carcasses of animals that had been killed with lead ammunition.

The lead contamination part of the story, if true, is regrettable. The shooting part of the story is unconscionable. Condors are one of the largest birds on the planet, with wingspans of up to 10 feet and distinctive white markings on their wings. Only an idiot would pull the trigger on one — or on any bird of prey, for crying out loud!

The AP report said the condor is the second one found wounded in the last three weeks. Apparently there’s more than one trigger-happy idiot in California.

Update: The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity has offered a $30,000 reward for information leading to the shooters’ arrest and conviction. Good. Maybe someone will blow the whistle.

Trout poachers get busted, big-time

poached-brookies.jpgWest Virginia conservation officers struck a blow for justice when they arrested four Marlinton residents for catching and killing 67 more native brook trout than the law allowed. From the official April 3 Division of Natural Resources news release:


Four residents of Marlinton in Pocahontas County have been charged by Randolph County Conservation Officer Cpl. Greg Smith and Conservation Officer Mike Coberly for various trout fishing violations on Windy Run, a native brook trout fishery in the Valley Head area of Randolph County.

  • Randy O. Bennett was charged with fishing without a license and exceeding the daily creel limit of trout. Bennett had caught and killed 10 native brook trout from the stream.  
  • Jesse G. Feury was cited for exceeding the creel limit of trout, and was 12 trout over his legal limit of six.
  • Kenneth Don Feury Jr. was charged with fishing without a license and exceeding the daily creel limit of trout.  Kenneth Feury, Jr. exceeded the limit by 29 native brook trout.
  • Randy Douglas Bennett, Jr. was charged with fishing without a license and exceeding the daily creel limit of trout.  Randy D. Bennett exceeded the daily creel limit by 10 native brook trout.

            Randolph County magistrates imposed fines, court costs and replacement costs on the fish at $1,451.71.

            “The four were in possession of 67 native brook trout, substantially depressing the brook trout population in the stream,” said DNR Lt. Jim Vance of DNR’s District 3 Law Enforcement Office in Elkins of the March arrests.  “Biologists with the Division of Natural Resources estimate that it will take years for the stream to recover from this loss of fish.”


The fines were stiff, at least by West Virginia standards. But I can’t help but wish that the magistrate had added a little jail time, too.

Upshur men arrested for spotlighting

Two Upshur County men have learned the best way to poach a trophy buck is not to do it next to someone’s house.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 6, a Rock Cave resident notified authorities that he had heard gunfire near his home. Sgt. Marshall Powers and Deputy Dewain Linger of the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department answered the call, along with Division of Natural Resources conservation officer Jeff Craig.

The officers discovered that a large buck deer had been spotlighted and shot. The poachers took the buck’s head, with antlers still in velvet, and left its carcass in a nearby field.

After a brief investigation, the officers cited 32-year-old Heath Foster of Rock Cave for spotlighting, hunting during a closed season, carrying a loaded gun in a motor vehicle, and shooting within 600 feet of a residence. Foster’s alleged accomplice, 32-year-old Terry Pumphrey of Ireland, was cited for spotlighting, hunting during a closed season, illegal possession of wildlife, and conspiring to commit a hunting violation.

Politicians cloud real issues in baiting debate

Members of Mississippi’s legislature are considering a bill that would make deer baiting legal in that state. Their debate, however, has centered on side issues that fail to address the bill’s biological and ethical shortcomings. See Sunday’s column for details.