Behind the Badge is a regular series of perspective stories by Oklahoma game warden Carlos Gomez. In this article, Gomez writes about what can happen when relationships goes awry between outdoorsmen (and women).
By Carlos Gomez, Oklahoma Game Warden
Years ago, I recall watching a movie about a divorcing couple. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion, making me wince at this display of a relationship crashing and burning down before my eyes like a fully engulfed house fire where nothing more could be done but to watch.
Perhaps it was the blended-in, dark comedy that kept me engaged in the chaotic, painful conflict, but I was unable to look away. The old Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner flick ("War of the Roses") portrayed a marriage in failure where the two combatants were both just so angry, stubborn and determined to win, or one-up the other, they were just about willing to do anything to create a problem for the other.
That's what comes to mind for me when I encounter such a case (more than rarely).
Love (or just a simple friendship) has gone awry between outdoorsmen (and women). Sometimes its two buddies who got crossed up, or several guys straining to keep a lease agreement together, but the most striking and difficult breakups to deal with, are the married or cohabitating couples.
And to make things even more painful, sometimes that involves kids. They say, in divorce, the kids are the ones who suffer the most, and I'd have to agree with that. If not managed with maturity, and the kid's welfare in mind, this may even be worse when both of the ex-parents love to hunt or fish and the shared (or unshared) outdoor memories with their youngster become yet another point of grievance.
More times than not, it's the gal 'ratting out' the guy for all those things he did while they were together, but on occasion it has cut both ways. Usually, the guys hunt and fish more than the gals, so if a jilted lady learns that he took "her" (his new flame) out to the woods, or on the water, it could even be viewed as an intentional cut rivaling, "taking that new gal out to our old, favorite and romantic spot!"
In a recent case, it actually occurred in reverse. He called in on her, reporting some hunting she'd done with her new friend but, she had the audacity to take their young son along to share in some new memories.
In particular, the man was offended, as he put it, that "she had placed their son in a position to share hunting stands and experiences with another man."
Evidently, that paternal emotion was off the charts compared to that of losing her to someone else. Perhaps he thought she's an adult, or she could be replaced, but a son cannot be replaced. Further, as a vulnerable, minor child, that of course, is sacred to mindful parents and should be watched closely.
In any event, reportedly, from bits and pieces of information the dad had picked up on from the young son's storytelling, the new beau was violating game laws.
She was a party to it all, too, and unknowingly to a child, the son was learning from some bad examples. A coop-investigation was initiated because though the woman lived in my area, her new love interest/hunting guide was hosting hunts in another warden's county.
Sure enough, some wrong-doing was uncovered and the other warden cited the new boyfriend for numerous infractions.
I met up with the mom to interview her and issue a couple of citations as well. She cried and confessed and was sorry for their errors, but then, her eyes dried, and I began to see some glare.
She'd accepted her citations fairly politely but now suddenly, the gloves were coming off and she would issue a few declarations of her own!
She began telling me all about what a hardcore hunter he was and all the ways and things he'd done to get advantages. Advantages on game, seasons, places, and even how he'd cut corners on licensing requirements.
Game wardens protect our informant sources, understanding the concerns people have about retaliation, but sometimes the target-person just knows. She instinctively knew the only way I could have discovered these violations would have been from the son telling his dad -- and now she was wanting some payback!
Without receiving any confirmation regarding my investigation sources, she began rattling off violations on him, many of which had occurred in a neighboring state.
She even went into detail describing how he'd established a fake residence there for the sole purpose of illegally obtaining a lifetime license (eligible only to the true residents of that state). That state is handling that case now but whatever he's done, every hunt, every kill, it harvested using that lifetime license, they would likely be deemed illegal!
The expense (to him) of such a bust could be incredible if a hunting list amasses very many unlawfully obtained harvests. As the expression goes, "you can't unring that bell."
That's an angle of regret many hunters may not have considered when weighing the cost of a breakup. I understand how some may think that's pretty low for game wardens to collect poacher-intel driven by spite and broken hearts, but THIS game warden has no regrets. Nope!
There's a thousand ways to poach game, and there's a thousand ways to get caught and people who do will find no quarter for any reason, however we get to the truth.
Like game warden stories? Watch "Wardens" on Outdoor Channel. You also can watch past episodes of "Wardens" on MyOutdoorTV.com.