August 15, 2014
What’s your assessment of the photo? Taken on a cold January day in the northeastern Oklahoma area, those are 104 freshly killed ducks and geese. Is this the work of some hard-ass game wardens confiscating someone’s birds? Maybe I’m just taking a photo of a good days take from a very large group? Possibly an over-the-limit case? Or, maybe someone just made a mistake.
None of the above.
I found those 104 birds randomly scattered across a remote field. A short list of suspects was whittled from a lot of good, legal sportsmen, but the perpetrators have yet to be captured. That particular field is often visited by all kinds of riff-raff. Within 100 yards of where the birds were dumped, two stolen vehicles were discarded … one was torched down to rusted metal.
Within 100 yards of where the dumped ducks and geese were found, two stolen vehicles sit. One was burned down to bare metal. (Carlos Gomez photo)
Who does such a thing without removing so much as a mallard’s curly tail-feather? The same sort that would joyride, then set fire to someone else’s car I suspect. More than one hunter? Maybe it was a guide who couldn’t keep up with the success of his groups? I could go on and on about suspects or methods of narrowing this search but, suffice it to say, I have my clues and a short list of likely candidates.
Unfortunately, instances like these are far too common to game wardens and it sickens every true sportsman. Whole deer, antelope, dove, even a pile of 180 discarded bobwhite quail have been found. If that doesn’t sicken you, then I worry for you and for all of us. Because though we become acclimated to flesh and blood, wanton waste of this caliber is far more than that. It is fuel for antis and a turnoff to a vital group, our middle-ground supporters.
Our best sportsmen rally for wildlife restoration causes but as sure as good footing is gained, youthful generations of hunting consumers seem to emerge, seemingly oblivious and unaware of the prior struggles that existed to bring our resources back. The pervasive behavior seems to be fueled by the view: “There’s a never-ending supply of these.” Much like the sacrifices made for our nation’s freedom, when the pupil has paid no price, or has never suffered without, the lessons escape them.
Market-hunters of the 1800s had that excuse until it was nearly too late, but we do not precede conservation knowledge. The hunter who fails to recognize and appreciate the struggles to restore damaged and lost habitats, and the commonplace sightings of our critters is a destructive hunter, with or without intention.
This type of hunter needs to learn these lessons. It’s an immaturity thing, I get it. With each new generation that's introduced to the outdoors, it is our responsibility, as responsible hunters, to educate and enlighten. Our outdoor lifestyle’s future depends on it.