Poachers make dumb mistakes all the time. An Indiana violator tripped himself up when he shot a monster whitetail that area hunters knew well. According to this story in the Indianapolis Star, Don Ward confessed to shooting “Nightmare,” a 300-pound, 10-point buck, with a rifle and a spotlight last week.
The buck has been pursued by a pair of passionate bowhunters for several seasons. Jesse Fulwider and Mike Marsteller, both law enforcement officers, recorded their encounters with a buck they nicknamed “Nightmare,” a monster whitetail that eluded them on multiple occasions. The pair’s hunts have appeared on the popular “Dream Season: Working Man” television show, which is produced by Drury Outdoors.
According to the newspaper, the owner of a property that Nightmare frequented heard a shot in the hours just before daylight. He drove quickly toward the rifle blast, arriving just in time to get not only a description of a truck leaving the scene, but a license plate number.
Authorities quickly traced ownership of the vehicle to Don Ward and confronted him. Ward confessed to poaching the buck with a .270, though he denied setting out to do so; claiming he was trying to shoot coyotes that had been harassing local deer. When his spotlight shone on Nightmare, however, Ward said the sheer size of the buck presented too much temptation.
“The buck itself, it just got the best of me,” Ward told a reporter.
Of course we don’t know if Ward is telling the truth about his original intent. But if he is, this represents an interesting poaching incident. I count several conservation officers as friends, and they tell me most poachers fall into one of three categories: “Thrill killers” (typically younger men) who shoot animals merely to rack up a body count and test their marksmanship. Serial poachers are more calculating and shrewd, killing animals that have value to them or others. And opportunistic poachers–those who claim to be like Ward; though they don’t set out to illegally kill a game animal. They are overcome by the temptation in a certain situation and wind up violating the law.
Whether the judge buys Ward’s plea is yet to be seen. He faces the possibility of several Class B misdemeanors, fines, jail time, and the loss of his rifle and vehicle.