Poachers in the woods: A sobering Saturday

Before I start, I ought to warn you: There’s a pretty graphic photo attached to this blog post. If that troubles you, you might want to stop reading now. I’ve included the photo not to gross anyone out, but to illustrate a nasty little problem … or big problem, if you prefer. And if the photo angers you, you’re not alone. The scene I discovered in the woods more than a week ago angered me, too.

Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, the story: The second Saturday of deer season was similar to so many other Saturdays that I’ve shared with my hunting buddy, Chris.

We rose early, met at a wide spot in the gravel logging road that we call “The Parking Lot,” and chatted for a few minutes. Then we went our own ways, and ended up seeing no deer.


The story took a turn just before we readjourned at our vehicles.

My two-way radio crackled just after I’d descended from my tree stand, and while I was loading up for the hike back. It was Chris. And he had a question.

“When you parked did you see the two does that somebody dumped in front of your car?” he asked.

It had been dark, and I hadn’t. But now, as Chris poked around in the weeds near both of our vehicles, he’d made a disturbing discovery.

Someone had indeed dumped two deer — one of them turned out to be a buck which had had its antlers crudely removed — not 30 feet from the “parking lot.”

As we looked over the scene, everything made more sense: When we had chatted before heading into the woods, we had heard the yipping of nearby coyotes. We thought nothing of it — coyotes are out there, and we often hear them. They’ve never been as close as they were that morning, but after our discovery, we understood why that had changed: They’d been scavenging off the carcasses, and our approach had driven them off.

As we surveyed the scene, careful not to touch anything that a warden might consider evidence, I tried to rationalize our find … to figure out a way that what I was looking at wasn’t evidence of a crime.

A hunting party may have had some luck, and two members may have legally shot the deer, I mulled. They could have legally tagged the deer, then butchered them at home, and headed back into the woods to discard the remains.

They could have.

The problem with that scenario became obvious as we talked about what lay before us.

Poachers among us

The people who’d dumped the deer also left plenty of other trash. Among those items: The large, black trash bags that had held the carcasses, field-dressing gloves and scent-free cleaning wipes. The most damning piece of evidence, though, sat on top of the pile, as if an afterthought (or, perhaps, a taunt directed toward anyone who found the deer): An empty box that had once held .22-caliber shells.

A .22 isn’t typically the weapon of choice for deer hunters. But if you’re hunting in the dark, and you want to create as little ruckus as possible, it would make sense that a .22 would make far less noise, and would be a much more stealthy choice.

Upon returning home, I contacted the warden responsible for that district and told him what we’d found. A week later, I returned, hunted with Chris again, and snapped the photo that you’ve already seen.

Graphic? Yes. Gross? Perhaps.

Disturbing enough to warrant inclusion in this blog, in hopes of driving a point home? I thought so. You may disagree.

Either way, we’ve gotten this far, so here’s the point: Far too many of us look the other way when confronted with evidence of poaching. Far too few are willing to stand up against the activity, which some wardens will tell you is rampant in certain parts of the state.

Thus, the blog entry. And the photo. And this phone number: 1-800-ALERT-US. It’s called Operation Game Thief. Remain anonymous. Report a poacher. You’ll be glad you did.



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John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.