Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Eagle was shot once, not three dozen times

The eagle's X-ray

Internet news headlines and snippets of copy can be misleading.

Take, for example, a link I followed to Columbia County (Ore.) Buzz-Examiner story about a bald eagle that was recovering after being shot three dozen times! And seven times in the head!

After looking at an image of the bird’s hospital X-ray, however, it became clear that the bird had been shot once with a shotgun and had three dozen pellets in its body including seven in the head.

A more accurate version of the story can be found here.

I realize that I’m probably more familiar with firearms than most journalists, but for cryin’ out loud! There’s a heck of a difference in trauma between being hit once with three dozen shotgun pellets (apparently size 7 or smaller bird shot) and being shot three dozen times.

The bottom line is that the bird appears to be recovering. With any luck, someone will rat out the miscreant who pulled the trigger. A jail term and a $100,000 fine for violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act would make any scofflaw think twice about pulling the trigger again.

Turkey poaching? No. Drug bust? Yep!

envconpolicelogoWhen Connecticut game wardens responded to a report of suspicious activity in a Cornwall, Conn., woodlot, they thought they might find turkey poachers at work.

Instead, they found a large marijuana-growing operation.

One alleged perpetrator is in custody, and officers seized 260 pot plants.

Hartford’s WFSB-TV has details.

Still legal!
Still legal!

For about the past year, I and some of my colleagues in the outdoors-writing business had wondered if we might one day be court-ordered to stop publishing photos of hunting.

The reason? A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against a  man who produced dogfighting videos.

In its ruling, the court broadened a law intended to outlaw the distribution of so-called “crush” videos and applied it to dogfighting and other forms of cruelty toward animals. Crush videos, for those of you mercifully unfamiliar with the term, depict small animals being crushed under women’s bare feet or high heels.

While those of us in the outdoors media detest everything dogfighting videos and crush videos represent, we worried that future courts could interpret the Circuit Court’s decision in a way that would allow scenes of legal and legitimate activities such as hunting to be broadly interpreted as “animal cruelty” and banned under a law originally intended only to outlaw crush videos.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed us ink-stained outdoor wretches to breathe a sigh of relief. An eight-justice majority ruled that the Circuit Court had interpreted the law too broadly. The Supreme Court’s ruling also set up safeguards that should prevent future narrowly focused laws from being too broadly interpreted. The Washington Post has details.

Texas angler ‘weights’ to go to jail

He should've gotten the lead out
He should've gotten the lead out

Cheaters seldom prosper — especially when the prize they’re cheating for is worth $55,000.

Just ask a Texas bass fisherman, who will be doing 15 days in the slammer for attempting to win a bass boat by stuffing a lead weight into the bass he caught. From the Associated Press:

DALLAS — A suburban Dallas man must serve 15 days in jail after admitting to stuffing a lead weight into a bass he caught during a fishing tournament. A Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spokesman told The Dallas Morning News that Robby Rose must also surrender his fishing license. That’s after the 45-year-old man pleaded guilty to felony attempted theft after admitting to rigging his fish.
The felony charge relates to the bass boat Rose hoped to win with the rigged fish at a bass-fishing tournament on Lake Ray Hubbard last October.
Rockwall County District Attorney Kenda Culpepper told the newspaper that her office considered the issue one of a $55,000 bass boat, not a 10-pound fish.
The newspaper reported fishing contest officials became suspicious after feeling a lump inside the fish and confronted Rose.

See someone baiting turkeys? Turn him in!

Turkey gobbler
Turkey gobbler

Charlie Nichols, a friend and sportsman from Cross Lanes, sent an e-mail and asked that I share it with readers. Here it is:

Baiting of wild turkeys is illegal in West Virginia. The W.Va. Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation offers a $100 reward to people who submit information resulting in the arrest and conviction of those who illegally bait wild turkeys.
All information remains confidential. The NWTF also offers a $200 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of wild turkey poachers.
Call the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Section with your information; conservation officers will follow all legitimate leads. Once again, all information is kept strictly confidential.

W.Va. deer poachers face higher penalties

buckfinesIn the past, if someone illegally killed a trophy West Virginia buck like the one pictured at left, chances are the poacher would have paid a fine of $20 to $100, court costs, and a “replacement fee” for the buck of $200.

Now if he poaches that same buck, he should expect to pay a lot more.

A bill passed earlier this week by the West Virginia Legislature greatly increases trophy-buck replacement fees. A buck with a 14-to-16 inch antler spread, for example, would draw a $1,000 replacement charge. A spread of 16 t0 18 inches would bring a $1,500 fee, 18 to 20 inches a $2,000 fee. Antlers with spreads of 20 inches or greater would draw a maximum fee of $2,500.

Division of Natural Resources director Frank Jezioro hopes the higher fees will help reduce the number of trophies being poached, particularly in West Virginia’s four bow-only counties. Closed to firearm hunting since 1979, the counties — Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming — have developed a widespread reputation for producing big-racked whitetails.

Gov. Joe Manchin still must sign the bill into law, but by all indications he’s willing to lend his signature to such worthy legislation.

Robo Deer scores yet again

When will people learn? You simply mustn’t mess with Robo Deer.

Rodney Jerke of Jerome, Idaho, learned that the hard way.

Jerke, 42, was fined $695, ordered to perform community service, and lost his hunting privileges for a year for shooting at a buck deer decoy deployed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Jerke pleaded guilty to taking simulated wildlife (?????), unlawful taking of game and unlawful hunting with artificial light. Prosecutors say he illuminated the decoy with his vehicle’s headlights before taking a shot at it.

In his defense, Jerke said he was desperate because the hunting season was drawing to a close and he hadn’t yet bagged a deer.


bearbait.jpgSome fellows were debating this subject on the Hunting Forum of the WVAngler.com Web site, so I thought I’d add my two cents’ worth here.

It’s illegal to bait bears in West Virginia. So why in the Sam Hill are Wal-Mart and other retail outlets allowed to sell the stuff in the accompanying photograph? I’m sure it’s marketed as a “scent attractant” rather than an an edible bait, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what a crock that argument is.

For cryin’ out loud, the product’s name is “Bait Station Bear Bait.” Shouldn’t that provide a clue as to how it’s to be used?  Or maybe the little graphic that instructs hunters to “pour on your bait piles?”

This brings back memories of the old Heck’s discount stores that used to operate in West Virginia and some surrounding states. One year they marketed a high-powered, plug-into-a-car’s-cigarette-lighter spotlight as a “Pennsylvania Buck Light.” Spotlighting of deer was illegal back then. Still is, as a matter of fact. But in the all-consuming pursuit of retail dollars, profit all too often trumps ethics.


Buck photo gets W.Va. poacher busted

bethanybuck.jpgWhen he posed for a photo with his 16-point trophy buck at Wheeling’s Cabela’s store, Raymond Owings didn’t realize he was setting himself up for a world of hurt.

The photo drew the attention of conservation officers, who suspected Owings might have poached the buck the night before the season opened. They questioned him. He wouldn’t admit to killing the animal before the season began, but he did admit to not having a hunting license and to killing the animal without permission on someone else’s property.

Owings, who lives in Bethany, faces fines and replacement costs of up to $400, and his buck has been confiscated. The Wheeling Intelligencer has the full story.

Oh, my. This story is disturbing on several levels.

WTAM-AM  in Cleveland reports a horrifying incident that happened in Hocking County, just across the river from West Virginia.

Bryan Able, 18, of Xenia, Ohio, was arraigned today for animal cruelty. Witnesses said Able walked up to a Carbon Hill home, picked up a cat, killed it by stomping on it, cut it open, removed its liver and used the liver for bait.


After the “fishing trip,” Able allegedly took the cat’s gutted carcass to Hocking College and draped it across the hood of another student’s car as a prank. And get this: Able’s major at Hocking is law enforcement.

Double ugh.

Hocking County prosecutor Laina Fetherolf would love to throw the book at Able, but because he’s a first offender the most serious charge she can file against him is misdemeanor animal cruelty. Even if he got the maximum jail sentence, he’d be out in six months.

Triple ugh.