Keep a close eye on your deer carcass
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you talk to deer hunters, as I do, you'll eventually hear someone gripe about shooting a deer and losing it because someone else swooped in and claimed the carcass.
It's an unethical practice, and one that seems to happen disturbingly often.
And not just in West Virginia.
Twice this week, hunters in other states have killed deer only to have their venison vanish.
My friend J.R. Absher, who compiles outdoor news tidbits on his website, The Outdoor Pressroom, had accounts of both incidents.
The first, in Oregon, followed the classic pattern. A hunter killed a deer. He field-dressed it and left it to fetch a cart so he could wheel it out of the woods. While he was gone, someone swiped the carcass.
A news account in the Lebanon (Ore.) Press said the incident was being investigated by the Oregon State Police. In Oregon, state troopers double as game wardens.
Investigating officer Kirk Burkholder said that during his five-year law enforcement career, he'd never investigated a case like it - so apparently deer theft isn't as prevalent in the Beaver State as it is in ol' Wild and Wunnerful.
The Oregon Hunters' Association, under the state's Turn-in-Poachers program, is offering a $250 reward for information leading to the thief.
The second case didn't follow any of the usual scripts. A New York sportsman killed a deer, field-dressed it, dragged it out of the woods, took it home, hung it up, skinned it, and left it on his porch overnight to cool.
According to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, a Department of Environmental Conservation officer was conducting interviews in a nearby community - on an unrelated case, no less - when he came across the deer's carcass.
The officer asked the homeowner where the deer's tag was. The homeowner said he'd found the deer dead beside the road, figured the venison was safe to try to salvage, and brought the carcass home.
Problem was, the officer had a detailed description of the deer missing from the hunter's house, and it matched perfectly the appearance of the "road-killed" whitetail.
The 24-year-old alleged venison pilferer was arrested and charged with fifth-degree possession of stolen property.
Reading those two stories, and writing this column, reminded me of a story. It probably never happened, but whatever it might lack in credibility it more than makes up for in entertainment value.
A city slicker came to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday at his country cousin's home in West Virginia. When the city boy learned that the Mountain State's buck season was in full swing, he asked his cousin to take him hunting.
On the morning of the hunt, the country boy dropped his relative off at a tree stand and left him with the following advice:
"If you shoot a deer, someone might hear the shot and move in to try to steal your deer. Don't let anyone take your deer. I'll be around the side of the hill on my stand. If you shoot, I'll come help you field-dress your deer."
Only minutes after the country boy reached his stand, he heard a shot from his city cousin's direction. He sprinted that way and, sure enough, found his relative standing with his rifle leveled menacingly at another man.
"All right, buddy! All right! It's your deer! It's your deer!" the man screamed at the city slicker. "Just let me get the saddle off it, OK?"