Monday, November 3, 2014

Corn and Cameras

 I am feeding corn to wildlife on my place, and have one of those trail-cam things tied to a tree trying to get photos of what comes there. So far it has been only small deer and big fat raccoons. I have put up a sign there that reads… “This corn has been put here for squirrels and birds and other small creatures that have a hard time in the winter. It is ABSOLUTELY NOT to be eaten by deer. Any deer caught eating this corn WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT.” That should clear me in the eyes of any passing game wardens, who I am sure will understand better what I am trying to do.
As deer season approaches, there are corn feeders all over the Ozarks with game cameras attached to nearby trees or stakes. It is the way of things today. Trophy hunters, ever enamored with a big set of antlers, can set up the feed and cameras and tell just where to hunt to get a shot at the biggest buck. If you don’t get any photos of people or game wardens in your camera, you don’t even have to worry about taking down your feeder. Just do this, illegally of course, way off in a wilderness setting where conservation agents can’t get close to with their vehicles and there is little chance you will get caught.

The trophy hunters are doing this now on public land like Truman Lake, bringing the feeders and cameras in on posted private land that adjoins a remote part of the Truman Lake watershed where agents don’t go and can’t get to without having to really work hard. A few years ago, an agent sat in his running pickup all day, with the MDC insignia on the side, staying warm while within a few miles there were three such baiting operations. I got my photo taken at each one whilst out exploring and roaming those thousands of acres along the lake in October.

It is what deer hunting has become. There are few serious trophy hunters in the country now that don’t feed deer and photograph them with those game-trail cameras. And the real savvy deer hunters no longer talk about their deer as 8-pointers or 10-pointers or whatever… they refer to them in antler inches and scoring points. With the coming of the awful disease we call ‘chronic wasting’ they are the real winners, because you will have an excuse for leaving the deer carcass in the woods and taking only the antlers. You can say your buck looked sick, and in time, a large number of them will be. There may someday be as high a percentage of deer with that mad-deer disease in the wild as there will be in the deer farm herds.

This is a good place to print my confession as required by the two conservation agents who visited me last week. As I wrote in a newspaper column, I killed a turkey on my own place and found that in the string of nine different landowner tags I had received at Walmart, there were no firearms turkey tags. So while I was twenty-five miles from the Walmart store, I headed there to get the right tags late in the evening, knowing that if I got caught with that untagged turkey it would be the happiest day of some conservation agent’s life. I stopped to get some gas and found a man and his daughter at a truck stop that had been hunting with no success. The little girl was downhearted because she had missed a turkey, and I told her if she would tag it and call it in I would give her mine. That’s what I did, and let me say here publicly that I would do the exact same thing all over again if the same situation occurred again, because it seemed the right thing to do, rather than leave that turkey where it fell and forget it.

After the column came out, the two agents came to my home and we argued a lot of things for three hours without any ground given on either side. But here is what the agents want me to tell you, just to give their side of the story. First of all, it wasn’t anyone’s fault the machine gave me the wrong tags, but it was indeed my fault for not looking at them much more carefully to determine there was an error. 

  Secondly, upon finding that an error had been made I should have called a conservation agent to come and decide what to do. If he had decided to let me just drive back to Walmart, get the correct tag and put it on my turkey, everything would have been fine. If he had decided the whole thing was a technicality he could write a citation over, I could have given him my confiscated turkey and possibly my confiscated shotgun and went to court to try to present my side of the story. I could have even had a 50-50 chance in court if I would hire a lawyer for four or five hundred dollars, which is what judges prefer if they have to waste time on violators like me.

But mostly, the agents wanted me to tell all of you readers that you cannot give away a turkey or deer that you have killed unless you get their permission. If you have a problem, just call them. If you can’t get them, keep calling every hour until you do. Remember that commercial they had on all the radio stations a few years back… “If we don’t say you can… you can’t.” When confronted with any situation outdoors regarding the wildlife of the Missouri Department of Conservation, be sure they say you can. They did not say I could give away a turkey I killed and you can’t either. Remember that. I am so sorry for what I did. I feel so worthless! I should stop worrying about what I see as the RIGHT thing to do, and worry about what is the LEGAL thing to do in their eyes.

Now that I have presented their side of it, I might say that in my opinion… and this is only my opinion… they need to stop straining at gnats and swallowing camels. About half of the rules and regulations they want us to adhere to is strictly petty nonsense which they should repeal. They need to get out and try to catch real violators and poachers, and stop nailing innocent people on meaningless technicalities. 

The agents who came to confront me use technicalities in the law to oppress people who have no desire to break any laws, and what they do makes little difference in protecting our wildlife and restoring our woods and our waters. It will continue to be so, because they hold so much power they can actually break the law and get away with it, and they can ignore your constitutional rights and never be held accountable. 

I am a conservationist and will always be. I am glad to stick with the rules and go by the limits. I always have. But it is my belief that men in such powerful positions should stop trying to exploit innocent people with petty technicalities. They target the least of people, common citizens who can’t find defense in local courts because they do not have the money. 

I was told that I need to remember that if I have a problem of any kind, I should call them and let them decide what is right. Last week I hit a young deer with my pickup and killed it about seven p.m.. It could have been cleaned and eaten. So I called both of those agents and let the phones ring about ten or twelve times. I got neither of them.

You can write me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email

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