"Mr. Dan, they took my daddy's deer," the little blond-headed boy said. He was only six or seven years old. Too young and innocent to know that he was probably telling me something that his daddy would have liked to be kept quiet.
"Who took your …
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"Who took your daddy's deer?" I asked.
"Those people that live out by the road," he answered. "They saw daddy shoot, and when he left to go to work, they went over there and got his deer."
This little boy's daddy was not a member of our club. He was at a club dinner as a guest. I knew him well and was aware of his reputation as a renegade hunter. We were standing around talking after the dinner, and the little guy had approached me with the news. His dad was standing nearby and overheard the exchange.
He walked over and interrupted before his son could say any more.
"Daaaa-n, what he's talking about happened the other day. He's just heard us talking about it." He went on, "what happened was that I was headed to work the other morning and saw a nice buck standing on the edge of a beanfield."
He told me the location, then continued. "I stopped to look him over, and he didn't run. Just stood there about a hundred yards from the road. I pulled out my rifle and shot him from the highway, and he dropped in his tracks."
I knew the farmer, and I knew that he didn't let anyone hunt his land. I was surprised to hear this admission from the dad. And, it got worse.
"I was headed to work and didn't have time to mess with him, so I went on, intending to come back that afternoon. There were some people standing around in the yard of a nearby house. They must have seen me shoot. When I came back that afternoon the deer was gone, and I saw drag marks where someone had pulled him to the road."
"Well I'm glad they got him," I answered. "He would have been spoiled by that afternoon."
"I know," he answered, "but all I wanted was the horns anyhow."
I was stunned by that admission and angered by the whole episode. His brazen admission was troubling, but he knew he could easily dispute anything that I had been told.
A few days later I talked to a friend of mine who was a game warden. He was not surprised, but there was little he could do without some hard evidence. It would just be my word against his, and I didn't see anything. I just heard the story.
Later that year I overheard the little boy's uncle telling someone about a youth turkey hunt on a local game management area. The uncle's idea of turkey hunting was to ride around and get close enough to shoot a turkey from the road. He and the little blond-headed boy rode around until they spotted a turkey on some private land joining the game management land. They parked on the state land and sneaked down a ditch bank onto the private land, where the little boy shot and killed the turkey.
The next year the little boy's dad bought him a four-wheeler and just turned him loose on it. There was apparently no supervision. They didn't own any land, so the little boy just rode on everybody else's land. Highways, dirt roads and farm fields were his playground. Most of the time he rode with a shotgun across the handlebars.
The examples that the youngster had from the men in his life were a total disregard for the law and a lack of respect for the game that was pursued. There was no guidance and no supervision. Over the years I heard more and more stories of trespassing, poaching and criminal activity by the young man. I was not surprised.
I don't think that people are born poachers, but they can certainly be made.
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