July 17, 2008
BuckTracker: The Thrill Killers
By Scott Bestul
My truck was at the end of the driveway when we spotted the deer. It was laying in a little square of timber—fifty yards wide, the same distance deep—just beyond my mailbox. “Oh,” I said to my hunting pal Mark, “someone hit a doe and she died right there.” But when we walked toward the “roadkill,” the deer was not only antlerless, but headless as well.
In an instant I knew the deer we were approaching. In the weeks prior, most of my neighbors had seen a giant 10-point feeding and chasing does in the field across from my home. While there are always one or two decent bucks in the area, this deer was special, a monarch that was making himself visible and getting folks pretty excited. I had high hopes that one of the neighbors (or of course, me or my dad) would get a shot at him. I called the warden out to investigate, but they never were able to nail the poachers who shot the buck with a small-caliber rifle.
A few years ago, I’d have been tempted to think the buck was shot by a pro; someone who could benefit financially from killing a trophy buck. But the more I read, the less I believe that. Many of the top poaching busts made in this region lately have basically amounted to the thrill-killing scenario described in the news account preceding this blog. These cases seem to play out in similar fashion; a local (often a kid or group of kids) shoots a deer from the vehicle. They get away with it once, then twice, then…Well, they get hooked. Pretty soon they’re out there all the time, killing stuff off the road. Sometimes they take a head, sometimes not.
Unfortunately I’ve read about several cases like this, including an Iowa man whom wardens caught with over 40 deer heads in a shed, and a group of Wisconsin teenagers who shot a pair of twin albino fawns and left them lay. Is this scenario playing out in other areas of the country? Or are the poachers finding a way to market their deer? And perhaps most important; is there anything we can do to stop this disturbing waste of wildlife? I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.