By Wildlife Officer John Partain
Photo submitted by Wildlife Officer John Partain
Summer 2014 AWOA Magazine
One of the top qualifications of a good hunter has always been persistence. Persistence is also a good attribute for a wildlife officer.
Back in October 2012, I was patrolling a section of Caney Creek Wildlife Management Area in the Ouachita National Forest during the last weekend of the muzzleloading deer season. I had driven into a deserted primitive campsite. The campsite was a mess. The campers had left a sack of trash hanging in a tree, a deer carcass was left lying on the ground, and a campfire was left smoldering.
I sorted through the trash looking for names. The only item I found was a Wal-Mart receipt from the Wal-Mart in De Queen, Arkansas. I cleaned up the campsite and extinguished the smoldering campfire. The following day I contacted the De Queen Wal-Mart to inquire whether the receipt would reveal the purchaser’s identity. Unfortunately the records search did not reveal the identity of the purchaser. Having nothing more to go on, I decided to wait until the 2013 muzzleloading season, and return to the same campsite.
I returned to the primitive campsite October 19, 2013 to follow up on the offense. I made contact with some deer hunters who were present at the camp. I asked them if they had camped at this location the previous year. They eagerly said they had, and went on to say they been camping here for several years.
By now, I had noticed a deer on the back of an ATV. I inquired who had harvested the deer. One of the hunter’s stepped forward stating he did, and began explaining it was a legal buck because the antler was only 2 inches. Any time a hunter has to explain WHY he shot a buck, you just need to let him talk; so I did. The hunter who we will call Elmer explained that when the buck walked up to him he could see that one of the antlers was 1 inch which made him legal; so he shot. The problem was he didn’t wait to observe both sides. Elmer said that when he walked up to the deer he saw that the other antler was 2 inches, but thought he was still okay; so he tagged and recovered the buck. I wasn’t able to see the tag since he had used black electrical tape to fasten the tag to the buck’s antler.
I thought this would be a good time to bring up why I actually stopped by the camp; so I quizzed them about the trashed up campsite from the previous year. They acknowledged they must have forgotten the trash sack in the tree, and did acknowledge leaving the deer carcass; however, they didn’t realize the campfire wasn’t fully extinguished, commenting they had poured water on it before leaving. I admonished them for their infractions and encouraged them to do better in the future, which they all agreed to do.
I then returned to the matter at hand. I got my tape measure, and went to examine the buck antlers. After removing the tape, I noticed Elmer had not noted the correct deer zone on the tag. I measured both antlers. One was one inch, and the other was 2 ½ inches.
After explaining to Elmer what the definition of a legal buck was, I issued him a citation for legal buck requirements, and a warning for the wrong zone on the deer tag. Before leaving, I reminded them of their responsibility to clean up the campsite, and I would check the campsite after they broke camp. Persistence does pay off.