Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

A possible record buck, if it hadn’t been poached

The hammer drops again

When are poachers going to learn that the truth eventually finds its way out? Wildlife law enforcement is so good, so effective nowadays that it has become a fool’s errand to even attempt it.

From the Associated Press:

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man has been charged with poaching a 14-point whitetail buck that could have broken a state record that has stood for more than 35 years, authorities said.
David V. Kent was charged Feb. 1 in Osage County with eight counts related the Nov. 11 shooting of the deer, said Mike Miller, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. The charges include hunting with an artificial light, hunting during a closed season, illegal hunting from a vehicle and use of an illegal caliber for deer hunting.
Kent was served court documents Monday. A message left at Kent’s business Friday was not returned.
The Wichita Eagle reported that the deer was unofficially scored at 198 7/8 inches of antler on the Boone & Crockett system. Although it was measured by an official scorer, it hadn’t met the waiting period of at least 60 days after the kill required to make the score official.
The state record for a typical whitetail deer shot with a gun is 198 2/8 by Dennis Finger in Nemaha County in 1974.
Kent brought the antlers, which he said came from a deer killed in northeast Kansas, to public attention at the Monster Buck Classic last month in Topeka. He was taken into custody and the antlers confiscated after he was recognized as having brought the largest typical antlers to the event.
Wildlife agents have compared the antlers to a photo that surfaced showing the buck was alive in the fall in Osage County. Agents believe the antlers came from the same deer.
This is the third Kansas buck with antlers that could qualify as a state record that isn’t officially recognized.

Wildlife official plans to change plea

Plea change

Well, well…

The Ohio wildlife official who originally pleaded not guilty to federal charges of falsifying records and trafficking in illegally killed white-tailed deer has apparently decided to change his plea. From the Associated Press:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A former Ohio Department of Natural Resources wildlife officer plans to change his plea on federal charges accusing him of helping a South Carolina hunter illegally obtain an Ohio deer license at a discount that saved him about $105.
A court filing Tuesday said Allan Wright, of Russellville, planned to change his plea next month to charges of trafficking in and making false records for illegally harvested white-tailed deer.
A message was left with his attorney. A change of plea filing typically means a defendant is pleading guilty.
Investigators have said Wright illegally let a South Carolina wildlife official use his home address in 2006 to receive a $19 license for an Ohio resident instead of paying the $125 out-of-state fee.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources dismissed Wright in October.

Should hunting rifles be silenced?

Proponents believe silencers (or, more properly, suppressors) are a good idea because they’ll prevent the sound of hunters’ shots from disturbing nearby landowners.

I’m sure deer poachers everywhere are salivating at the thought.

If suppressors became legal in West Virginia, trophy bucks in the state’s four bowhunting-only counties would live live hard. The sound of gunshots, particularly at night, is one of the few ways law enforcement officers have of detecting poachers in those rugged, largely rural counties.

As far as I know, no one has yet proposed changing West Virginia’s law. But lawmakers in Kansas, Louisiana and Washington have already approved suppressors, and the Georgia Legislature just took up the issue. From the Associated Press:

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia Senate proposal would end the ban on silencers for hunting firearms.
Senate Bill 301 is sponsored by Sen. John Bulloch, who says allowing hunters to use silencers would keep them from disturbing their neighbors. The Ochlocknee Republican says hunters would still have to have a federal permit to possess a silencer and argues this does not create an unfair advantage for hunters.
“As our growth patterns have changed and we’re having more and more residential properties infringing on hunting properties,” Bulloch said. “If you have a silencer on your hunting gun, the noise would not disturb neighbors as bad. This doesn’t really have anything to do with fair chase. It’s about trying to be respectful to people in residential areas.”
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which Bulloch co-chairs. Sen. Ross Tolleson, a Republican from Perry who is one of the bill’s co-sponsors, is the committee’s chairman.
Bulloch said the legislation was brought to him by the National Rifle Association. Reached by telephone, NRA spokeswoman Stephanie Samford said the organization does support the use of silencers, which she referred to as suppressors.
“There are several benefits to hunting with suppressed firearms,” Samford said. “Suppressors decrease the gunfire noise, which is important because a lot of hunters don’t always wear hearing protection. Suppressors also reduce recoil and muzzle rise. That allows the shooter to get into position for a follow up shot much more quickly and accurately.”
Samford said that silencers do not allow hunters to sneak up on animals because a sound is still emitted.
The NRA successfully pushed for similar legislation last year in Kansas, Louisiana and Washington, and supports legalizing silencers in all 50 states. Silencers are legal to possess and use for lawful purposes in most states, but require a federal permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The permit costs $200.

Snakes on a plane? Almost!

For the record, I’m glad they caught the clown who hid a bunch of poisonous and non-poisonous South American snakes in his suitcase. The poor critters probably wouldn’t have survived the ensuing flight to Spain. The Associated Press writer indirectly quoted a judge who speculated that the snakes might have escaped in the plane’s unpressurized cargo hold and terrorized people in the passenger compartment. More likely they would have died of hypoxia and/or hypothermia.

Here’s the story, from AP:

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Surprised airport workers in Argentina found hundreds of wriggling poisonous snakes and endangered reptiles inside the baggage of a Czech man who was about to board a flight to Spain.
Karel Abelovsky, 51, was made to open his baggage at Buenos Aires’ international airport after police spotted reptiles in the X-ray scanner. They found 247 exotic and endangered species in all, packed inside plastic containers, bags and even socks, each labeled in Latin with their scientific names.
“The airport workers couldn’t believe it when they saw the movement inside the suitcase. It was like an animated cartoon,” a source in the office of Judge Marcelo Aguinsky said Tuesday. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the judge’s investigation isn’t complete.
Abelovsky was released on about $2,500 bail after surrendering his passport and is refusing to talk even though he faces up to 10 years in prison.
Authorities believe the Czech was a courier for a criminal organization that smuggles exotic species whose exports are banned, a judicial source told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Authorities said Abelovsky only arrived in Argentina several days earlier and couldn’t have had time to gather the animals alone.
Aguinsky believes the boa constrictors, poisonous pit vipers and coral snakes, lizards and spiders could have escaped the cloth suitcase in the unpressurized cabin of the Dec. 7 Iberia flight to Madrid, and perhaps attacked people there or at his final destination in Prague, where antidotes for South American snakes aren’t common, the source added.
Most of the animals and bugs are being held under quarantine at the Buenos Aires Zoo, while some of the venomous snakes were sent to Argentina’s national health institute, which has a high-security department where scientists develop antidotes using venom from snakes.
The species include lizards native to Mexico and snakes, spiders, snails and other species from northern Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. Some were already dead in the suitcase, while others have succumbed to stress since then. Many were quite weak on arrival at the zoo, but most are still alive.
Wild snakes and reptiles are known to carry infectious diseases and so must be kept apart from the public and other animals, said Miguel Rivolta, the lead zoo veterinarian.
“It’s difficult to find the right kind of bugs they eat, and to replicate as much as possible their environment in the wild,” Rivolta said. “The best thing that can happen to these animals is that they liberate them as soon as possible in their natural habitat.”

Bullet that killed hunter hit grizzly first

Ah, the marvels of DNA analysis. In this case, it gave investigators a definitive picture of what happened during a September incident that ended with a Nevada man dead of a gunshot wound suffered while he was being attacked by a wounded grizzly bear.

From the Associated Press:

LIBBY, Mont. (AP) — Officials in northwestern Montana say a shot fired at a grizzly bear as it attacked a Nevada hunter passed through the bear before striking and killing the hunter.
The Western News reported Wednesday that tests requested by the Department of the Interior found grizzly bear DNA on the .30.06 bullet that killed 39-year-old Steve Stevenson, of Winnemucca, Nev., on Sept. 16.
Stevenson and 20-year-old Ty Bell, also of Winnemucca, were hunting near the Montana-Idaho border when Bell shot what he thought was a black bear.
The men tracked the bear into heavy cover, where the 400-pound animal attacked Stevenson. Bell fired several shots trying to kill the bear.
Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe called the shooting a “horribly tragic accident.”
“It started off with a single misjudgment and ended up in a horrific act that will affect families for a very long time,” he said, adding that he doesn’t expect charges will be filed. That decision will be up to the county attorney.
It is illegal to kill grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, where the animals are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Grizzlies were largely exterminated across the lower 48 last century, but their population has rebounded dramatically in recent decades.
The bear shot by Bell was one of about 45 of the animals that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates live in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem Area in northwest Montana and northern Idaho.
The area the men were hunting in is a grizzly bear recovery zone.

Father and son shot in separate hunting incidents

Remind me never to go pheasant hunting on public land in New Jersey.

From the Associated Press, this story about a father and son who were shot on the same day in separate incidents while on a pheasant hunt:

JACKSON, N.J. (AP) — State officials say a New Jersey man and his adult son were wounded in a pheasant hunting accident this weekend, then shot a second time while they were discussing the first mishap with authorities
Both shootings occurred Saturday morning in the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management area in Jackson. The first shooting involved a single hunter who fled the scene, while the second involved a group of other hunters.
The victims — identified only as two Jackson residents, ages 60 and 34 — each had pellet wounds to their face and hands, but the injuries were not considered serious.
A state wildlife conservation officer was also hit during the second shooting, but did not require medical treatment.
No charges have been filed. But authorities said both shootings remained under investigation Sunday.

Poach a big buck, forfeit a big buck

Kerr posing with his poached buck (AP Photo)

If you do the crime, you’ve got to do the time. To a Michigan deer poacher’s credit, he’s willing to admit he screwed up. From the Associated Press:

LAPEER, Mich. (AP) — After his hunting buddy missed, Jeff Kerr says he couldn’t resist: He shot a 13-point trophy buck on his grandmother’s land in Lapeer County, a deer with a generous rack.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime rack for a deer hunter,” said Lt. Dave Malloch of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
But the antlers and the venison no longer belong to Kerr. The DNR seized everything after learning that Kerr didn’t get a hunting license until after he shot the deer on Nov. 20.
“I was wrong,” Kerr, 28, said Thursday. “I’m not going to point fingers.”
With a construction job going well, he doubted he would get a chance to hunt. Then a pal called and they were off to his grandmother’s 40 acres in Lapeer County’s Marathon Township. Kerr didn’t have a license but had a Remington shotgun.
“He missed it twice and I couldn’t let it go again,” Kerr said of the deer. “I shot him at 10 yards.”
He got a license and removed the deer from the field the next day. He put the animal in his pickup truck and posed for a photo at a shop in Lapeer. The picture was posted on a website where people can see other Michigan trophy deer.
The DNR said it got a tip that Kerr didn’t have a $15 license when he shot the buck. He confessed after a visit from conservation officer Ken Kovach.
“I wasn’t going to lie. There’s nobody to blame but myself,” Kerr said.
He could face fines of up to $1,500. The DNR plans to display the antlers during public talks on hunting laws.

Father’s accidental rifle discharge kills son

This is the second such accident this fall. The first happened in Idaho; this one happened here in West Virginia. Another family needs our thoughts and prayers.

From the Associated Press:

GAP MILLS, W.Va. (AP) — A Virginia deer hunter is dead after his father’s rifle discharged while being unloaded.
The incident occurred at about 2 p.m. Saturday near Gap Mills in southeastern West Virginia.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources says 18-year-old Travis B. Smith of Waynesboro was fatally shot when a rifle discharged as his father, 37-year-old Thomas Scott Wright of Fisherville, Va., was unloading it near the pair’s vehicle.
The incident remains under investigation.

Public’s help sought in deer slaughter case

From the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources:

FAIRMONT, W.Va. – At least 13 deer were shot, killed and left lying on the ground in the Fairmont area during the month prior to the start of the deer firearms seasons this week, and the Law Enforcement Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is requesting help from the public to solve this case. The deer were found in the Apple Valley / Boothsville area, according to Capt. William Persinger of the WVDNR District 1 Office in Farmington.

Six deer were shot and killed within 25 yards of a residence in Apple Valley. Another seven deer were shot and killed on two additional properties near the same area, near several residences that were within 100 yards of each other.

“It has all the indications of being a copycat thrill killing case similar to others we’ve seen around the country,” Capt. Persinger said. “Some of the deer had small parts removed as if the shooters wanted to keep them as trophies, just like the traits we have seen with some serial killers.”

WVDNR Law Enforcement has been investigating and is asking for assistance from the public. Anyone who has information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of those involved in this crime is asked to contact Natural Resources Police Officers James Crawley, Randall Kocsis or Capt. William Persinger at the WVDNR District 1 Office headquarters in Farmington at 304-825-6787.

“Poaching is not just a violation of the law, it also deprives honest sportsmen of the opportunity to legally harvest game,” Capt. Persinger said.

Disgusting. Simply disgusting. Here’s hoping Capt. Persinger and his officers catch the perpetrators, and that the courts throw the entire library at them instead of just the book.

Steep fines for father-son bear poaching team

What is it about the water in Terra Alta, W.Va.? A couple of weeks ago, two men from that small town were fined more than $2,400 for poaching a trophy-class deer. Now two other Terra Altans have been ordered to pay more than $5,500 for poaching a black bear.

From the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources:

TERRA ALTA, W.Va. – A father and son from Terra Alta, W.Va., have been convicted of several violations of West Virginia’s wildlife laws following a two-week black bear poaching/killing investigation in Preston County.
The investigation was conducted by Natural Resources Police Officer Paul Ferguson after he received information from a confidential informant about a bear poaching. That investigation resulted in the arrest of Arnold Dalton, age 77, and his son Eric Dalton, age 47.
Arnold Dalton was charged with and convicted of illegal possession of a black bear and conspiracy to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia Code (wildlife law). He pled guilty on Nov. 14, 2011. His fines and court cost totaled $ 1,341.60.
Eric Dalton was charged with hunting without a bear stamp, illegally killing a black bear, illegal possession of a black bear, conspiring in a violation of Chapter 20. He pled guilty on Nov. 14, 2011, and his total fines, including court costs and replacement fees, were $4,163.20.
The total fines, court costs and replacement costs assessed in this case were $5,504.80. The subjects may also have their hunting privileges suspended for two years.