Poaching some amazing tales of the wild

OUTDOORS

December 28, 2003|By CANDUS THOMSON

Ah, yes, it's the end of the year and time for the annual "Things That Make You Go Hmmm" column.

These are outdoors tidbits collected from colleagues and total strangers that make you realize that perhaps not all things alien stay at Area 51.

Sure, recycling other people's stuff is cheap, but that's nothing compared to what I got friends and family for Christmas presents. Besides, recycling is environmentally correct.

A ranger at Natchez Trace Parkway near Nashville, Tenn., stopped a station wagon on New Year's Day after he noticed a bullet hole in the driver's door and fresh blood on the bumper.

Seated behind the two occupants was a dead doe, which might have been OK in an HOV-3 lane but was definitely out of place in a national park.

With little prompting, the two men admitted to poaching. The passenger said he shot the deer from the vehicle, and as he jumped out he threw the rifle with a round chambered on the front seat. The gun went off, almost striking the driver and putting a neat hole in the door.

The men were arrested and fined. The deer went to charity.

Semper fi-sh

Good buddy Mike Bolton of Alabama's Birmingham News told this one at the BASSMASTER Classic this year:

Bob Mullins Jr., a Marine Corps reservist and avid angler, was stationed in Iraq last spring just outside one of Saddam Hussein's palaces along the Euphrates River.

One day on patrol, he noticed huge fish that looked like bass, only thinner.

Mullins e-mailed his father and asked for a rod and reel and some lures. Within a few weeks, the gear arrived by mail and young Mullins was soon tossing crankbaits and plastics in the shadow of the palace.

After just three casts, he had his first strike. Enthralled Iraqis told him he was reeling in the dictator's prized fish. Pretty good showing for a guy with no knowledge of local waters.

"Needless to say, I haven't found any Guides to the Freshwater Fish of Iraq," he said.

Labor of love

Here's a tale from the opening day of deer season, as reported by The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill.:

A hunter pulled into the check station parking lot in obvious distress and approached state wildlife biologist Mike Wefer.

"He said, `I've got a deer down, but my buddy is going to have to check it in. I know I'm supposed to, but my wife is in labor and I've got to get her to the hospital,' " Wefer said.

"Technically that would be illegal, but it's one of those things where I think he made an earnest effort," Wefer said. "And you could tell she was in labor."

Inside job, Part I

A Florida man was arrested in November by Louisiana game officers and charged with selling 96 undersized red snapper.

An honest mistake? Afraid not. Russell Underwood is a commercial representative on the Red Snapper Advisory Panel for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which is supposed to suggest ways to reduce overfishing the dwindling species.

Perhaps Underwood was operating under the theory that if you eliminate the fish, you eliminate the problem.

Inside job, the sequel

Federal and state game officials spent months trying to crack the protective shell of the biggest clam poacher in Washington's Puget Sound.

When they finally caught him in March, it was obvious why Doug Tobin was so good at his illegal trade: The officers had trained him as an informant for their undercover operation.

Tobin wore a wire when he wasn't stealing $2 million in geoduck, a leathery clam highly sought on the Asian market. He used his clout with the feds to scare off other poachers or have them arrested.

He pleaded guilty to 160 clam crimes and was sentenced this month to 14 years in prison.

Sleep with the fishes

At the San Antonio Zoo, groups pay up to $10,000 for the privilege of having a sleepover party with a 350-pound grouper named Gordon.

Gordon, according to the San Antonio Express-News, is the hottest attraction at the zoo's Sea Center.

His fans have written a book and song about him, and tchotchkes bearing his likeness are the gift shop's best sellers.

"If we were fishing, Gordon would be the rod and reel," center director David Abrego told the newspaper. "He's the tool that lands those little kids. Then the bigger kids come in, and they're asking questions about Gordon, and pretty soon they're learning things about fish, their habitat and the sea."

Maybe ESPN will allow Gordon to host The New American Sportsman if Deion Sanders departs. Probably works cheap.

No chocolate moose

L.L. Cote Sporting Goods is a tiny store in a tiny town in a state that seems tiny except when it holds the first presidential primary every four years.

But the Errol, N.H., store boasts a bigger crowd pleaser than Howard Dean, literally if not figuratively: a white bull moose - post-taxidermist, of course.

The piebald beast was a gift from a hunter to store owner Luc Cote. But there was one small hitch. The 1,200-pound moose, like a tyke's bicycle, required "some assembly."

To get the carcass out of the woods of Ontario, the critter was carved up and the parts put in seven boxes. A taxidermist in Michigan stitched Bullwinkle back together, and now it stands in Cote's store, its 54-inch-wide rack poking above displays of blaze orange vests and shotgun shells.

"We've had people come from all over to see the moose," Cote said. "He's a one in a million."

Buck stops here

Here's a story outdoors writer Al Jones of the Biloxi (Miss.) Sun Herald swears is true:

A bow hunter sitting in a tree stand sees a four-point buck feeding in a food plot. The deer doesn't run as the hunter shoots. It raises its head, looks around and then goes right back to feeding.

After the buck moves on, the hunter climbs out of his stand to see what went wrong.

There, just beyond where the four-pointer had been standing, lay an eight-pointer, dropped by the arrow.

Talk about trading up.

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