CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Wow. That was the first word that went through my mind the other day when I read that four guys from South Carolina admitted that they routinely used poisoned arrows to paralyze and kill deer, elk and bears.
The report, from the Grand Junction, Colo., Daily Sentinel, said the men acknowledged in a court hearing their participation in the highly illegal practice. One of the men, George Plummer of Timmonsville, S.C., said he had hunted in the Collbran, Colo., area since the late 1980s, and had used arrows tipped with poison since then.
Authorities said the poison, a powerful muscle relaxant, paralyzed the animals' muscles and shut down their breathing within seconds.
The four men - Plummer, Joseph Nevling of Timmonsville, S.C., Michael Courtney of Florence, S.C. and James Cole of Sumter, S.C. - were fined thousands of dollars. An investigator said it was "hard to say how many animals they've taken illegally."
The part of the article that most blew my mind was a quote from Cole, who defended his use of poison.
"Back in South Carolina, everybody hunts with [poison arrows]," he said, calling the poison "an insurance policy."
I seriously doubt that "every" Palmetto State bowhunter heads into the woods with a quiver loaded with poisoned arrows, but Cole's statement raises a question: Just how widespread is the practice?
And if indeed it's popular in South Carolina, how common might it be in other southeastern states? Could it also be happening in Mid-Atlantic states? If so, is it being done here in West Virginia?
"Over the years, I've had people ask me if it's legal here in West Virginia, and of course it isn't," said Lt. Col. Jerry Jenkins of the state Natural Resources Police. "To my knowledge, we've never caught anyone using [poisoned arrows] in the field."