October 24, 2014
There are many youth deer seasons going on across much of the country this month. If YOU don't take the time and energy to expose and share our hunting heritage with them, then who will? Be mindful, they are watching everything we do, and not just the parts we may intend to teach them, so teach wisely.
An excellent example of this involved two young brothers I once met, Dan and Darren. Dan had secured a good education, grew up to become a well-paid pharmacist, lived in the big city, and was happily married to a lovely lady. No kids of their, but the successful couple had a nice home, drove nice cars, owned lots of toys, had a nice yard, went to church regularly, and by all accounts had everything going their way.
The younger brother, Darren, on the other hand, would grow up struggling with drugs and alcohol that would ultimately contribute to a failed marriage and a low-paying job. Probably no coincidence, he also had a history of domestic abuse while still living in his small hometown.
Both brothers concealed another dark secret that would eventually reveal itself. They liked to spotlight game with .22-250 caliber rifles. And to help re-live their outdoor adventures, the brothers, and a few trusted buddies, would even video-tape the shenanigans.
Finally, one of their hunting associates turned informant after becoming disillusioned with their outings, following Darren's decision to shoot a lost (bovine) calf one day as it wandered down a county road. That’s when the hunting buddy realized things were really starting to get crazy and out of control; he wanted out.
Investigations eventually revealed numerous hunting violations on multiple people in six different counties involving deer, turkey and predators, and even linked a couple of the suspects to some stolen guns. One of the most irking violations, however, was discovering a 165-inch, 12-point buck taken by Dan with a rifle during bow season.
A check with Dan's taxidermist exposed how the big deer had been made to look like it had been checked in as an archery kill by simply trying to "ink over" some of the information on a carcass tag that originated from a smaller deer, presumably taken with a bow.
Later, while researching some records at the brothers hometown check-station, not much “asking around” was needed before discovering the younger brother, Darren, had been seen driving around town for several days with a huge, undressed, 14-point bow kill. The trophy deer finally bloated and spoiled.
Suffice it to say, after the brothers learned that I was on to them, they made it known in hunting circles that I had better be watching over my shoulder. Once, after I had located Darren's house in his rural hometown, I parked across the neighborhood street to make some notes. That's when I was confronted by an older gentleman, who I later learned was the father of the two brothers.
He claimed his sons were “pillars in the community” and that I was harassing them and demanded that I "stop stalking them." Later, while making inquiries at some local stores – the deer check-station and the local archery shop – I observed the younger brother, Darren, attempting to intimidate everyone involved by making it obvious to all that he was following me, watching, and noting who I had spoken to as he openly eavesdropped on anything said in public.
He even boldly sat down next to me at a check-station convenience store as I ate a snack and studied their harvest records. I was surprised to look up to see who it was sliding into the bench across from me. Then, while sipping his cup of coffee, our eyes met when he said with a wry grin, "Free world ain’t it?”
And, if that brash move wasn't enough of a warning to me, a few days later, I came home from work to find an unfired, .22-250 rifle cartridge mysteriously setting next to my front door.
Eventually, these brothers got their long-overdue justice, but the point here that will stay with me forever is what I learned about them from a colleague. A fellow warden, assigned to the same area, had been called in to help and assist me with executing a search warrant on Darren's house.
While meeting for breakfast early one morning to plan the operation and discuss various concerns, the senior warden suddenly sat up in his chair and said, "I've met these two before!"
After all of my personal adventures pursuing these two, I was riveted to the impending tale I knew would be an interesting encounter.
Years ago my colleague was a new warden assigned to the two brothers’ home county. Starting out, he wasn’t sure where to concentrate his effects, so his supervisor suggested that he work a particular back road known for lots of road hunting.
Taking his supervisor’s advice, it wasn’t long before he spotted an old truck creeping down the road with a gun barrel poked out the passenger window. The hunters in the truck figured out they were being watched; they suddenly pulled the rifle back into the truck cab.
“I pulled them over to check them out,” the warden said. “As I approached the vehicle, it took me a little by surprise; a woman was driving the truck while a man rode in the passenger seat.
“He was holding his now, unloaded rifle tucked between his legs, but his ammunition was scattered everywhere on the dash and floorboard on the passenger side,” he added. “And in the middle, quietly tucked between the two adults, were these two small boys named Dan and Darren.”
Apparently, those two small boys had grown up learning to hunt as they were taught. Whether or not that is what their parents intended, that is what they learned. Hopefully, it's not the example they will pass down to their own children.