Poachers are despicable. When I started hunting in 1965, I thought night drivers were the worst. On the second day of archery season this year, I changed my mind when a man I thought was a friend turned into a poacher.
Another close friend hunted as a guest for 50 or more years, and when his buddy became disabled, I suggested that he invite someone to hunt him so that he is not alone. It was my idea of security.
The second guest hunted for free like guest 1. I provided a sleeping cabin, a private bathroom with running water, electricity, corn when it became legal to hunt there, tower deer stands, and feeding grounds. Her only job was to keep corn in my garden feeder, keep the garden basin filled with water, scrub the kitchen windows where I shot my camera, and other miscellaneous tasks at my expense.
The guest’s guest ruined their deer hunt and my friendship and trust on the second day of hunting season when he turned poacher.
Due to the long-term rule that hunting is prohibited on the farm, I probably take up to 1,000 pictures each trip to the farm. I illustrate books with these images. I give names to the bucks and some deer. For example, Two-spot (for two white spots on each side just above the white belly that allowed me to track his antlers for three years) or Pappy for the two papillomas on his face. The deer become my garden friends.
I left the farm on the opening day of archery season and wished my guest’s guest good luck. Our mutual friend was in the hospital after an accident and spent weeks in rehab.
On Sunday morning, guest number 2 called and said he had killed the ten-pointer. Not in the courtyard, but down by my pond, from the tower stand. He said Guest #1 told him to kill it if he could to stop Cindy from killing it. Cindy raced over the fence and the railroad in return for planting food plots for my guests; Keep roads clear, remove fallen debris and keep fields open. Cindy became my friend before she was born and I couldn’t believe Guest 1 said that.
Guest 2 was definitely convincing with his statements. But I thought about the tower stand… wasn’t it in bad shape? Didn’t one of them complain about his condition last fall? I called Cindy; She gave up her duties on her family farm and became my detective.
She climbed up the tower and discovered two upturned plastic chairs, their backs still covered in fallen debris, the camouflage in tatters. There had been no one there that morning.
I asked her to find the intestines Pile: When I called him, he told me he was in the middle of making it. She never found a pile of intestines.
Instead, she found blood on the ground in front of the porch where the deer had been hit. She followed the blood trail to the spot where the buck died. From there, Guest 2 loaded the deer into his Humvee and drove across the road to show my sister.
Cindy followed the trail he left behind when he returned. His tires crunched in the standing hay. Luckily it wasn’t cut up, so she was even able to track it from her truck.
She found the remains: NOT a pile of intestines, but the carcass without the head, cape and back strap.
He took enough fur for a shoulder mount. He left behind about three or more grocery bags filled with roast meat, steak and hamburger meat. He also explained that my other guest (who was also the creep’s host and was in the hospital after an accident) had told him to kill the buck so Cindy next door couldn’t get him.
I have asked DNR law enforcement officials to investigate all aspects of the situation. Since the early days of deer hunting, I have fought poaching, confronted poachers day and night, even used the CB radio to help rangers catch the perpetrators, and fought a shady judge to secure convictions.
For Guest 2, I took all possible measures: I evicted him from my land, changed the locks, and temporarily confiscated his personal possessions. I will allow him to come back once under supervision to retrieve his “stuff”.
Whatever happened to old-fashioned respect? Respect for the animal? Respect for other hunters? Respect for landowners? Respect for your hosts?
Above all, what has happened that some hunters have no respect for themselves and are willing to betray friendships just to get antlers?
Back when I was hunting, we would exchange information to help each other hunt a deer. We didn’t kill anyone to stop another hunter from stealing it. We didn’t throw away good meat. We didn’t lie about what we saw or did. We were happy when we were able to harvest a yearling with ears of corn.
Are we returning to the days of night riders and poachers who kill just for the trophy? If I hadn’t excluded Guest 2, would he repeat his actions? Would he become like others before him and shoot in the spotlight?
I I hope not. But who can I turn to as a hunter for my country? Where can I find a hunter I can trust? There must be some out there somewhere, but when a long-term guest you thought was a friend turns into a poacher, who can you trust with your backyard deer?
Susan Lindsley is the author of the international award-winning book “Possum Cops, Poachers and the Counterfeit Game Warden,” available online through Amazon, Walmart, and other sources. A description of the book and Ms. Lindsley says, “She has gone from ‘I don’t want to hunt’ to an avid deer hunter, an expert tracker, a teacher to her friends, and a fierce wildlife management activist.” She writes how she experienced these years: with a heart for animals, an enthusiasm for nature and a love of painting pictures with words.”