Minden Press-Herald

Sep 30th

Undercover Louisiana Wildlife Agent has Close Call

The guy drove down the road around the corner from my house; a big gobbler was crossing in front of an occupied home. Easing to a stop, he reached for his shotgun and shot the gobbler. The property owner, who was standing on his porch watching the turkeys make their daily trek across the road to roost, couldn't believe what he'd just witnessed. As soon as the shooter saw the property owner headed his way, he hurriedly sped away, leaving the gobbler dying in the ditch.

Where do you start the litany of violations this criminal committed? Turkey season was closed, the thug shot from across a public road onto property that was private and legally posted. Failing to retrieve a wounded game animal, even if shot illegally, adds "wanton waste of game" to the list.

To my knowledge, the shooter was never apprehended and probably bragged to his buddies about what he'd gotten away with. Did it bother his conscience? I doubt it because outlaws who do this view the illegal taking of wild game for profit or thrill care nothing about hunting season dates, legal shooting hours, bag limits and such. Do you think it bothers the conscience of a robber who sticks a gun in the face of a convenience store clerk and makes off with the day's receipts? Not likely at all.

The criminal who poaches wild game is in the same class as the convenience store robber. Both take property that belongs to someone else. In the case of the store owner, it's his livelihood. In the case of the poacher, he is robbing law abiding hunters and fishermen of what is rightfully theirs, resources they've paid for with hunting and fishing license sales and taxes on guns and ammo and such.

My friend Chip Gross, outdoor writer from Ohio, has written a spell-binding book about such outlaws, how they operate and how one brave innovative undercover officer infiltrated groups of poachers, bringing many of them to justice, risking his life in the process.

"Poachers Were My Prey – 18 Years As An Undercover Wildlife Officer" is the gripping account of R.T. Stewart, one such undercover officer who spent a goodly portion of his career gathering information, recordings and clandestine photos of the poacher groups he infiltrated.

In one of the cases the book documents, after gaining the confidence of some of the poachers, Stewart rented a run-down trailer in close proximity to where the illegal activity was taking place, making the bad guys believe he was one of them. The first night Stewart and a partner were invited to come along on a night-hunting expedition, he was able to see just how bad these guys were.

"That night was my first up-close encounter with men who appeared to have no conscience about killing wildlife illegally, and it shocked me. The casual cruelty of (the poachers) sickened me. I realized they were hardcore poachers who didn't care at all. To them, each deer was just another carcass with a dollar sign on its head. I wanted to see them arrested and convicted, and I was willing to place my life on the line to make it happen," Gross quoted Stewart.

After fifteen months of undercover work on this case, sufficient evidence was collected to put the gang of poachers out of business.

This is a book that every responsible ethical hunter and fishermen should read. Should you wish to add this nearly 200 page illustrated book to your Christmas giving list, you can get an autographed copy from Chip Gross for $19.95 plus shipping and handling. Contact him at www.chipgross.com.

Glynn Harris Outdoors is proudly sponsored by DSK, Ltd. of Minden.






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