Finishing the Season

Met CO Jeff Rabbers  somewhere in Barry County Saturday afternoon at the end of a cool, bluebird day, and we immediately headed for a house where a violator and convicted felon allegedly had been stashing a gun. Turned out not just one gun, but a shotgun and two rifles. CO Gary Raak took the weapons into custody. Officers from Prairieville Township PD were also on the scene.

Sandhill cranes in Kalamazoo County field
Sandhill cranes in Kalamazoo County field
CO Jeff Rabers (left) and Pat McManus confer after making stop in dark in cornfield in Allegan County.
CO Jeff Rabers (left) and Pat McManus confer after making stop in dark in cornfield in Allegan County.
CO Mike Mshar's truck in deer season often resembles an abattoir (knacker's yard). Here Officers Ivan Perez and Rabbers are checking identity on some waterfowl Mike confiscated. There is also an illegal deer in the bed of the truck.
CO Mike Mshar's (center) truck in deer season often resembles an abattoir (knacker's yard). Here Officers Ivan Perez (left) and Rabbers are checking identity on some waterfowl Mike confiscated. There is also an illegal deer in the bed of the truck.
Dead feral pig, about 150 pound of it with hair the texture of steel wire.
Dead feral pig, about 150 pounds of it with hair the texture of steel wire. The deer in the background was taken illegally and confiscated by Officer Rodgers in Kent County.
Pig in a bed. Heard of a pig in a poke? Here's the DNR equivalent of it. BIG piggie! It's legal in most (not all) Michigan counties to shoot feral swine. Left alone, they will propigate with great speed and this leads to problemos.
Pig in a bed. Heard of a pig in a poke? Here's the DNR equivalent of it. BIG piggie! It's legal in most (not all) Michigan counties to shoot feral swine. Left alone, they will propigate with great speed and this leads to problemos.
Some of the illegal "lures" confiscated from whitefish snaggers.
Some of the illegal "lures" confiscated from whitefish snaggers.
This illegal device looks a lot like a small grappling hook. It's designed to dig into anything it contacts.
This illegal device looks a lot like a small grappling hook. It's designed to dig into anything it contacts.
CO Chuck Towns looks askance at a whitefish Torpedo.
CO Chuck Towns looks askance at a whitefish Torpedo.

COs Rabbers, Raak and I went to the house of the alleged weapon owner and Gary talked to him to let him know the DNR had the weapons. The man, of course denied any knowledge of such things and more or less put it all on his brother. We then bugged out to start working with the flight patrol.

The flight lifted off to look at bait sites prior to dark, and after dark switched attention to shiners and lights on the ground at times and in places where they shouldn’t be. We moved in a rough pattern approximating the flight’s route.

Late in the evening the airplane, with Sgt. Dave Shaw aboard as the spotter, vectored Officers Rabbers and McManus into a field where a vehicle was observed head-lighting. The truck was stopped in the middle of  the cornfield, where they were sitting dark. There were four passengers, a .22 in the back seat, where the right-rear passenger was clumsily and hurriedly trying to zip the casee when the officers lit him with  their flashlights. Two dog cages were in the bed of the truck. The people claimed to be raccoon hunting, but they were in the middle of the cornfield and had been watched from the air making various headlight maneuvers, obviously scooping the cut corn for deer. They did have dogs, one of which came back. But the driver was ticketed for what amounts to head-lighting with a weapon in possession. CO Mike Mshar arrived on scene to report on history he had with various individuals  in the stopped vehicle. CO Ivan Perez was partnered with Mike. Another passenger was on probation and not supposed to be in the presence of firearms or anyone using them. He was taken into custody and later released.

At the time we were making the dark-stop on the vehicle in the field, Sgt Dave Shaw reported from above that the airborne component  had a slight issue and would have to land at Hastings.

We didn’t learn the full story until the next night when we met Dave for a group fish patrol.

At the moment Dave was directing ground-trucks to the target, his pilot, a very experienced and talented stick-jockey, switched to his secondary gas tank and the gauges came up zero. The conversation in the cockpit went something like this:

“Uh, X, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, Dave, no problems.”

“X, the fuel gauges show zero. We have gas, right?”

“Dave we HAVE gas. Relax. I KNOW there’s gas.” [This last statement was in the form of a “memo-to-me” sort of thing.]

“You’re sure we have gas?”

“Dave, I know we have gas,” the pilot says in a tone that Dave thinks sounds pretty tentative.

“Damn that kid,” the pilot adds, not identifying the kid or the cause of the damning.

Dave doesn’t ask which kid and gets right to the point. “What are we going to do?”

“Gotta land and get gas. You want to go into Hastings or Plainwell?”

“Which is closest?”

“Hastings.”

“We have enough gas to make it, right?”

“Right, we have gas.”

Just not in the auxillary  tank, which was truly, totally  empty. Even so, the main tank still had adequate fuel for an hour’s worth of flight, but with auxillary empty, there was no point in pushing the envelope of chance.  The pilot approached Hastings and used his microphone to turn on the landing lights. They landed, taxied to a gas pump, filled the tanks, and were back in the air within twenty minutes or so, all the officers in their trucks basically clueless about the air “adventure” that had taken place.  Sgt. Shaw told officers the next night that once he got his pants cleaned out, he was just fine. Officer Mike Mshar said, “If that had been me, I would have puked.” Other officers agreed. The thing I’ve noticed over nine years of riding with officers is that many of them are not eager to be the airborne spotter, thought most do it at least once to get a feel for what it takes and what the possibilities and limitations are. The pilots who fly for the DNR are very experienced, very cool and have contributed immeasurably to law enforcement success over decades. But sometimes the gremlins of the air  decide to nibble on we humans — as they did Saturday night. For one of the first times since I started going out with the DNR, I felt like I knew something the officers didn’t. Having been in a plane that did run totally out of gas, I was probably the only one in the entire entourage who could really appreciate what Dave Shaw had gone through.

Sunday morning I filled thermoses with  New Orleans soup and coffee and made up  some trapper sandwiches: Jif eanut butter and Mary’s Berries, Quaker oatmeal, and honey, the ingredients mushed together and spread on wholewheat sandwich thins. I met CO’s Rabbers and McManus  and we drove to Officer Mshar’s home and the four of us headed for Lake Michigan to conduct patrols on whitefish snaggers. Last year the patrols had taken place in sideways-blowing  snow, with accumulations on the ground. This night there were just some rain squalls and a little spitting snow and reports indicated the previous night the various Lake Michigan sites had been heavily populated with night-snaggers.

Whitefish spawn in November-December along the Lake Michigan shore. Depending on weather the spawning period  might stretch almost to Christmas. Typically whitefish feed by day and spawn by night. (Sort of like most people, yes?) In any event you can catch them legitimately in the daylight hours on wax worms and salmon eggs. But at night there is little to no bite and all the jigging fishermen are basically seeking to snag fish. It is illegal to attempt to take by illegal methods, or illegal equipment, or to keep foul-hooked fish. The limit on whitefish is 12, and it is also against the law to exceed that number.

Officers rolled into a central site for a briefing from Sgt. Shaw and then headed out in teams to begin the night’s patrol.

CO Dave Rodgers was en route to the group patrol when he got a call of a feral pig in a family’s back yard. He was close, moved in and dispatched the gigantic swine.  CO Rodgers, is known among his colleagues as “Straight Meat.” Dave was certain the swine was a Russian wild boar and he told a story of it charging him and him shooting and the corpus sliding snout first up to his boots. The other officers listening to this tale countered with a critter idea of a Vietnamese potbellied pig of gargantuan proportions and they pointed out the bullet holes seemed to be in the aft end of the charging creature. I’m not going to referee this debate. The officers will eventually sort it out. Rodgers will no doubt consume the swine, and the evidence will be gone forever. I took photos. These are all that will persist for future discussions.

Jeff Rabbers and I managed to walk up on a snagging crew within ten minutes of arriving, but they were the last one  we could verify for the night. The wind came and went. The rain came and went. The snow came and went. I wandered around,  listening to the murmur of voices, muted coughing, people telling tales of DNR officers, people telling tales of all sorts of things, but steadily  bouncing 1-ounce spoons and illegal rigs  on the bottom and reefing with only the slightest modification of the extremely obvious “Newyago Twitch”  used by some rats to take salmon and steelies.

The thing that stands out is that when weather is bad, most hunters can’t sit. They get up from their blinds and stands and come out of the woods. Fishermen sit and fish, in just about any weather.

The group patrols this night included:  Sgts. Dave Shaw and John Jurcich. Conservation officers: Jeff Rabbers, Mike Mshar, Patrick McManus, Ivan Perez, Greg Patton, Brian Lebel, Chuck Towns, Gary Rodgers, Steve Orange, Chris Simpson, Ken Lowell, and the legendary Mike Bomay.  And one slightly aged imbed: me. With 1300 grams of Thinsulate in my boots my feet remained toasty all night.

A dozen or so tickets were issued and a couple dozen fish confiscated and donated to charitable organizations. Last year there were more arrests and fish taken, but word is getting out that the DNR won’t condone the snagging and that’s the whole point of this effort in behalf of the resource.

This has been a terrific deer season , I logged a dozen patrols totaling more than 142 hours, which doesn’t include travel time to meet officers.  But now it’s time for this writer to retire back to doing something with all the information and experience I’ve gathered. Page proofs for Shadow of the Wolf Tree are here and awaiting my electronic attention, which I will give, just as soon as I figure out what the various glyphs on the program stand for in English. I also understand that Glen Young has a feature on yours truly in the latest issue of Michigan Out of Doors. Will put up a link when I can.

Hope all of you who hunted had a safe and productive season.

Snow is coming. Count on it. Curse it or bless it. But it is coming.

P.S. All you folks traveling to Tierra del Fuego and various merit badge ports looking for humongo brown trout, take a look at the 41.7 pound brown taken September 9 by Rockford Mi angler Tom Healy. The fish has been certified as the new state brown trout record. The world record ruling is pending.

World record brown trout from Manistee River?
World record brown trout from Manistee River?

Over.

A Big Buck in the Woods, The Writing of Others in the Works…and Sundry Thots

Crystal Falls Forest Park H.S.  lost yesterday. This was their sixth consecutive MHSAA Div 8 championship game. I won’t be surprised if they are back again next year. NOTE: Some of the players have Woods Cop pops. Nice to see that. I love small school high school football.  My old school, the Rudyard Bulldogs,  had a fine season this year, 9-1, losing to TC St. Francis in the playoffs. Wanted to get over to Ford Field for the Crystal Falls – Beal City game, but couldn’t organize it.

Walked midday yesterday, northwest wind, guessed where the deer herd might be bedded down, walked in, and kicked them up, including a handsome 8-point buck with estimated 10-inch tines. Tried to put the creep on the big guy to get some pix, but he kept to the heavy cover and eluded me. I’ll get him another time.  Or I’ll look for his sheds.  Jambe Longue kept mumbling, “Whoo-boy!” as the buck ghosted away with his harem. We were within thirty yards when he showed himself broad side and looked at us for the longest time.

Off with the DNR again very soon, reports to follow. Old friend and copilot,  Mike “Goose” Vairo, sent along copy of first effort on Vietnam memories he is assembling.  He had the nickname “Goose” decades before Top Gun was made and popularized the handle. Nice work by Mike, interesting stuff about aspects of the air ward in Vietnam  most people will never know anything about unless those who lived such times tell us about them. Old pal Bob Lemieux continues to work on his hockey memoir, Off Wing. I expect to see a new chapter soon.

Word around here that some retail operations are cutting back employee hours because sales are not going the way they hoped. Not a surprise. All the economic bombs of the last two years and we are expected to spend like “the old days?” Not going to happen.

Got a nice Thanksgiving message from President Obama. Of course I still don’t have an answer to the original question I posed. Let’s just say this the way it is: I hear a lot of grousing about the President from a very wide range of folks. Sorry to say, but I read almost  all of  it as coming down to the color of the President’s skin.  If he played in the NBA, he would be immensely popular in disparate  circles. As President, not so much. There is a level of eye-gouging meanness and chickenshit pettiness in American politics these days that surpasses anything in my feeble memory. Until our elected officals and so-called public servants get back to actual public service and leading the country we are likely to continue to be mired in our national malaise. We used to be the most admired country in the world. Now it sucks to be us, to put it in the vernacular. You don’t believe this? Wake up, dudes.

Over.

Tools, Fools, and Fond Memories of Turkey Days Past

Morning, all. Note yesterday from one of my CO pals who was riding down main street of a town Tuesday night, so warm the truck windows were down. Ahead, there was  a man walking in front of two females and one of the females yelled, “Don’t (name withheld), you’ll be arrested!” Where upon Mr. Name Withheld proceeded to unzip and water down the fire hydrant nearest the corner.

Mister Name Withheld was of course drunk and a little pushy when the officer got  out of the truck. Not violent pushy, more like, “Sit down on the street bench,  Mr. Name Withheld, and the drunk grunts, , “Wha…? Why?” (Sway…stagger…slur…eyes rolling like pin balls).

Officer says, “Do what I say,” and Mr. Name Withheld says, “Hmph. Mebbe.” (Sway…stagger…slur…eyes rolling like pin balls).

Mr. Name Withheld spent the rest of the evening in the clink on a drunk and disorderly charge, and after being booked in resisted  (refused) to go into his cell for the jailer, so our intrepid officer had to help carry/drag  Mr. Name Withheld into his temporary abode. “What a tool!” My friend ended the note, adding, “Wished you were there!”

Hey, it’s turkey day, a time to give thanks for everything we have, like family, friends, health, not stuff.  It’s also not  time to moan over what we don’t have. Even Mr. Name Withheld is out and free today, and ought to be thankful he is not  lingering in the hoosegow. Cold and overcast here, it even looks like a typical Michigan Turkey Day. Many many years ago Thanksgiving morning was a time to hunt deer early , trudge back in about midday for a big meal and hope food coma didn’t forestall going back out for the evening hunt. Those were the days when everyone also looked forward to a Lions -Packers game as well. With the Lions winning.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.

Over.

Eye Warts, Gobies and Goat Rodeos

Da Bambi Motel
Da Bambi Motel
Walking a bait complaint.
Walking a bait complaint.
Ahhhh...back on dirt roads with disgusting black mud and deep puddles!
Ahhhh...back on dirt roads with disgusting black mud and deep puddles!
Devil's smiles, a sign of things ahead?
Devil's smiles, a sign of things ahead?
viral disease of Great Lakes, called lymphocystis and Walleye Dermal Sarcoma.
viral disease of Great Lakes, called lymphocystis and Walleye Dermal Sarcoma.
another view of extreme wart problem
another view of extreme wart problem
looking for a violator
looking for a violator
Michigan's conservation officers are all trained to age deer, and to tell how long a deer has been dead, but looking at it's eyes.  The state of the eyes holds a lot of secrets.
Michigan's conservation officers are all trained to age deer, and to tell how long a deer has been dead, but looking at it's eyes. The state of the eyes holds a lot of secrets.
Nice buck, legally taken, properly tagged.
Nice buck, legally taken, properly tagged.
Sunshine always smiles.
Sunshine always smiles.
Checking registrations.
Checking registrations.
Checking for tags.
Checking for tags.
Where'd the head come from?
Where'd the head come from?
And the skin?
And the skin?
CO Nick Atkin arrives to take over.
CO Nick Atkin arrives to take over.
Boys on the Pier
Boys on the Pier
The whitefish are in -- for sure.
The whitefish are in -- for sure.
Pier Wagon
Pier Wagon
Getting around on trikes.
Getting around on trikes.
Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus). Unknown in Great Lakes until 1990. Came in with ballast water discharged by trans-oceanic ships.
Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus). Unknown in Great Lakes until 1990. Came in with ballast water discharged by trans-oceanic ships.
Readying the manhunt.
Readying the manhunt.
J.P. Taylor of USFS and Co Tami Pullen
J.P. Taylor of USFS and Co Tami Pullen
Getting started. Let the dog loosen up.
Getting started. Let the dog loosen up.
Giving the dog a scent to follow.
Giving the dog a scent to follow.
Bane.
Bane.
What does the writer do when all the action accelerates? He picks up feathers by the road and ducks all dangers.
What does the writer do when all the action accelerates? He picks up feathers by the road and ducks all dangers.
Success: the .243 rifle and camo coat are discovered and taken into evidence.
Success: the .243 rifle and camo coat are discovered and taken into evidence.
Bane's reward is his tennise ball, which he LOVES!
Bane's reward is his tennise ball, which he LOVES!
A wrecker removes the vehicle.
A wrecker removes the vehicle.

November 21 – jumped out of Grayling at 0700 to meet CO Becky “Sunshine” Hopkins in East Tawas, 10-ish. I checked into the Bambi Motel. (Honestly, how can anyone pass up staying in a place named Bambi during deer season? Huh? Nice place, good location, close to the state park.)

Becky collected  me and we headed out and bumped into a guy who went on and on about a 6-pt buck he shot, one he prayed on and prayed on to Jesus for a long time. He called it his spiritual deer. Had we not excused ourselves and moved on, he’d still be yammering away at us.

Becky talked about “Georgeing” a couple of places. Retired Iosco County CO George Robeson used to not bother sneaking around and would drive directly into areas and situation with suspected wrongdoing. In the district such a direct approach is now called a George. This is the kind of really good stuff I pick up on patrols with officers around the state. I told her about a guy we took an illegal deer from in the UP and while the CO was writing tickets and paperwork to take the man’s weapon he leaned over to me and said, “I still get the patch right?”

“What?”

“My patch man, I get my patch, right?  It’s for killing a deer and I killed one.”

“You killed the deer illegally,” I said.

“Boy that’s some chicken-shit,” the poacher said disgustedly,  shaking his head.

Becky and her county partner Tami Pullen have located a deer feeder designed to look like a stump. It’s out in the woods and they keep swinging by it, looking for the owner.

Officer Hopkins also told me about recovering a body this summer, a presumed suicide. She went out with the Coast Guard, whose boat lacked proper equipment and they were forced to haul the victim over the gunwhales onto the boat deck. There is a kind of perforated body bag, which can be used for this. Personnel get in the water, slide the bag around the victim and then take it out of the water. No such equipment this time.

First we checked a bait complaint, but saw nothing to warrant taking action.

We spend much of the day checking haunts of known poachers and violators, but find nothing. Toward dark we get a complaint of a certain vehicle with a certain set of plates, alleging someone fired from the vehicle the previous day. Within five minutes of getting into the area, we locate the vehicle and get out. The owner of the property invited us to look at all the deer they have gotten and says fifteen people are hunting the property. This figure will vary greatly from this moment on, as will all other facts involving who, what, when, where and what time, etc. We are about to descend into what Rod Serling called the Twilight Zone and COs call a goat rodeo.

The property owner tells us who shot the deer.

A family member comes out and claims differently.

The family member’s mother says something entirely different from the first two.

Meanwhile, there are fifteen dogs running around the property. There are deer hearts and livers and guts all over the muddy ground, a deer head on a pheasant pen (no pheasants) and a shriveled deerskin on a dog house. Nobody seems to know anything about the head and skin, but the owner says a woman shot it. The woman says no, it was somebody from Bay City. And so it continued. We left the premises and headed into the woods and on our way ran into a vehicle, in which sat the young man we had moments before talked to at the property. This is now a half mile away. He has run all the way to the woods. Why is not clear. Becky tells him to go back to where we first met him.

We then continue on to the public land woods and there are two vehicles. Two men come out with flashlights, neither with loaded guns, but one of them is odd acting and slurring words and Sunshine wonders if he has been drinking, or something.  After verifying he hasn’t we await the next crew, relatives of the property where this adventure first began. Out comes three men and one of them has a loaded gun after dark. Says he kept in loaded in case of coyotes. Huh?

One of the dogs at the place was named “Bastard” and the owner kept screaming, “Put Bastard in the house!”

I was so confused by the time we left I needed to check my own ID to verify my name.

Back to the property, long story short, the first young man we talked to shot two deer, tagging one with him mother’s tag, and lied to us over and over again. CO Nick Atkin from Arenac County came up to join us and took over the investigation, and we pulled out.

Becky dropped me at 2030 and I  read a little and slept the sleep of the near-dead.

On the way to the Bami, we checked a night-fishing spot where she found a cast aside walleye covered with warts. The photos are disgusting, but they are interesting. According to Vermont Fish & Wildlife, the tumors result from lymphocystis and Walleye Dermal Sarcoma, both viral diseases and both of which can occur on the same fish at the same time. These viruses usually strike adult walleye, but are also known in other freshwater species. They are common in the Great Lakes. Both diseases are most common in spring during spawning season – a close example of how close contact among creatures can spread disease. Neither disease is usually fatal to the fish, but if growths are dislodged, bacterial and fungal infections can occur, which can be fatal. Neither disease is known to infect or affect humans.

We were out the door again the next morning at 0745 and drove directly to Tawas Bay and the Fishing Pier, where we talked to and checked close to 100 fishers trying to catch walleyes and whitefish. There were dead round gobies [an invasive species] all over the cement and fishermen were pushing their equipment in every kind of cart known to man. Earlier in the week she had caught two men 19 over the limit for whitefish and word had gone through the angling committee that she was working the site hard.

As is usual this morning, some fishermen had some luck and many didn’t. Some had been there since midnight and others had trickled in at various times. We had a report of an immature loon chasing a big whitefish a man was reeling in and of an immature loon caught in green plastic – a trash bag or something. We located him but he seemed to be peeling the plastic away, and short of fetching a boat and chasing, there was no way to solve the problem, so she let it go. But I could tell it bothered her.

From the pier we went to an area where duck hunters had been firing repeatedly, all the time we were checking fishermen. When we got there we saw a boat buzzing around and Becky speculated the boat was “rallying” ducks – driving them off the water to fly toward two hunters in a blind in the bay.

After making a pretty good identification of who was involved and who she would talk to later we headed north into the county toward Alcona County.

Where we visited “Elvis Camp,” a place where a man comes every year. The man served in the army with Elvis in Germany in the 1950s and will gladly show his photo of he and the Pelvis together.

At 1125 on federal land we hit a crossroad and could just barely see the hood of a truck creeping along and headed for it. The man said his rifle was cased and unloaded. It was stuck in an unclosed case and loaded. He got a ticket.

Moments later we encountered three ATVs on a USFS trail and Becky talked to them.

We then met Retired DNR Sergeant Peter Malette, Becky’s former boss and  a Sault boy for lunch.

After lunch we headed north again and made contact with CO Pullen who said she was in a goat rodeo with some state police. We kept moving north. On M-65 we were passing a swamp, just north of the Au Sable River when we saw a man in camo carrying a rifle and walking off the shoulder near the cedars. We both got a good look at him. No orange. Becky began to stop the truck and the man bogeyed into the bush.

We ran across. She headed into the woods thinking he might just duck in and lay down, but he was in full flight. I headed south on the road to a gap in the swamp to see if I could see him moving. No luck. Then Sunshine popped into the opening and signaled she could hear the guy and pointed southwest.

I ran south along the road to the far side of the swamp, still no side of the man.

Becky then came out.  She said right after she cut the man’s tracks in the swamp she came upon a ginormous pile of fresh bear crap and all she could think was that this was not a complication anyone needed, including the bruin. Several times she used her hands to show me how large the specimen was. She doesn’t impress easily !

The Oscoda Township sergeant Eric McNichol and Officer Tracy Pulla pulled in. The sergeant headed into the woods with Becky  to try to pick up a track. Officer Pulla and I remained on the road with our vehicles, watching the roads. (My apologies if I have any names wrong.)

I moved on  a bit further to the south trying to monitor M-65.  Meanwhile Becky located a vehicle and ran the plates.

Trooper Scott Trefelet then rolled in to help, as did USFS law enforcement officer JP Taylor. A BOL was issued.

Trooper Mike McEuan pulled in next and reported he had seen a man crossing the road back to the south.

Trefelet talked to a woman who said she also saw the man on the other side of the road.

McEuan drove back  to where he had seen the man, caught him in the woods and asked him to step out and took him into custody.  His legs were soaked, he was sweating like a pig and he was wearing a blue sweatshirt. No rifle, no camo coat

Civilian vehicle began to rubberneck everything.

CO Tami Pullen, having gotten clear of her goat rodeo,  rolled up to pitch into this one.

A witness then identified him as the man who came out of the woods. Interviewing began and he was Mirandized and refused to talk. He wanted to have a cigarette. Beck said, no cigarettes.

The state police dog was summoned from Lincoln and the man was told the dog would find the gun and the coat. By they it was established that the plate on the vehicle in the woods came back to another vehicle, and another goat rodeo was heating up.

Becky searched the car, found a gun case and ammo. In talking to the man she found out he lived with someone and he claimed that someone was hunting. A Retails Sales check showed the person to indeed have a Combo license. CO Pullen took the name and phone number of the individual and drove to where she could get cell service. There was none where we were. She raised the individual who said the man was hunting and she described the exact location where we were. The person described the suspect’s clothing and the caliber of the rifle, which fit the box of ammo in back of the vehicle. Problem is the man was a felon and could not possess a firearm.

Becky found marijuana seeds in the vehicle. The man had been convicted of marijuana manufacture at one time.

The man said he had a medical condition that caused swelling in his wrists and the cuffs hurt. Beck agreed to take them off he promised to not rabbit. He immediately wanted a cigarette, which was denied.

He had not applied to have his hunting privileges restored., which can be done in the wake of certain crimes, after a number of years, depending on the crime convicted of.

CO Pullen told the man what the person he lived with had said.

Then Trooper Jamie Pullis arrived with his black German Shepherd, Bane.

McNichol, with the suspect’s permission, allowed the dog to sniff the man.

The man then caved and agreed to show where the gun was if he could just have a cigarette.

The team then walked to where the man had come out of the woods and he guided the way, but wasn’t quite sure where the gun and coat were.

Bane the dog took over and found the weapon and coat buried in a mound of leaves. The rifle was a 1940 .243 caliber with a scope. He sniffed it and sat down. If the dog finds property, he lays down on it. If he finds drugs, he sits on it. Turns out the man had smoked a joint that morning, and perhaps had thrown one away during the pursuit. Bane got a tennis ball to munch as his reward and he was a very happy camper. Talk about a beautiful animal!

And talk about cooperation between agencies: DNR, USFS, MSP, Oscoda Township. As it had been at Sleeping Bear, the participants looked to Becky to command the event and went and did what they were trained to do. CO Pullen’s phone call to the suspect’s living companion turned the trick on getting him to own up to the whole thing.

A wrecker was then called to tow the vehicle after CO Hopkins drove it up from the swampy woods. We then headed into town to book the man at 1800, and for Becky to write a preliminary report.

Ironically this event took place about 400 yards from where Jambe Longue and I had once launched a boat to go small mouth bass  fishing. This even also took place only because Sunshine saw the man not wearing orange.

At 7 am the next morning Tawas was fogged in. I drove in fog until it finally lifted all the way over by Big Rapids.

The next day I went out with CO Paul Higashi and we handled a trespass complaint involving a 17-year-old and made contact with the boy and his father and took the appropriate action.

Later in the afternoon we watched two bucks halfheartedly pushing each other around, antler to antler. They were too far for my camera, but we could see them well with our binoculars.

Pix follow. I’ll be out again with game wardens in the next few days and will share those events later, when time permits

Another irony, pulling up to the Sunrise side of the state to work with Sunshine.
Another irony, pulling up to the Sunrise side of the state to work with an officer known as Sunshine.If you’re hunting, be safe, and good luck. Know what you are shooting at and wear orange.

Its a privilege to watch law enforcement work. Don’t believe the things you see on cop dramas. The real thing is a lot different.  Happy Thanksgiving, all y’all.

Over.

Another Chapter

Loaded gun in vehicle.
Loaded gun in vehicle.
and a loaded handgun, same owner of both.
and a loaded handgun, same owner of both.
bloody evidence from night stop. Beer aplenty in back.
bloody evidence from night stop. Beer aplenty in back.

Good game warden work requires sitzfleisch (extreme patience) and the ability to withstand chronophagia (time-eating, often unproductive tasks).

Wednesday morning I left the Traverse City hotel at 0400 and drove  east to Mio on black ice, arriving at the meeting place in front of pal Bob Linsenman’s Au Sable Angler shop. CO Bobbi “Blaster” Lively scooped me up at 0700 and seventeen minutes later wrote a bait ticket. Thirty minutes later we were checking another reputed bait site, but had no luck in finding anything and at 0900 another complaint of baiting and early shooting came in and by 0930 we were hiking into a camp nestled against a low ridge and the first two things we found were butchering tools on the seat of an ATV and two boots sticking out of the ground like they were the visible remains from a tumulus. Remembering this was the general area  where two hunters had been murdered some years back and their corpses dissected and fed to pigs,  the boots gave me a good dose of foreboding. CO Lively began interviewing the two men and began to get varying stories and details. Blood on leaves and a dog’s interest led to deer fat under leaves and then  we located a bait pile in an area far from where the hunters said there was one;  we then quickly learned there was a butchered, untagged deer in camp. Then it came out that yet another deer had been shot and hauled away by another individual  on a borrowed license.  The various explanations and non-answers amounted to mega-gallimaufry and steadily working her way through to the truth, Blaster made phone contact and arranged for the other hunter to return to Mio with the doe. Then it came out that the second man in camp – from another state, was indeed hunting despite not having a license, and had been doing so for several days.  This individual also carried an officer safety caution. In the end CO Lively sorted it all out, wrote tickets, confiscated the two deer and wrote the tickets. The main hunter-owner complained that stores can sell bait, but hunters can’t use it in the lower peninsula. Basically he was saying he lacked willpower to avoid temptation,  and grudgingly admitted to this.

Lunch followed at the Mio office – chicken sandwiches with Mexican peppers and we  discussed the baiting issue and how some stores were now posting signs stating: Wild Goat Feed for Sale.

After lunch Bobbi took a frozen coyote out of the evidence locker and passed it to wildlife to use for a mount. The animal had been caught in a trap and shot and the pelt was in primo condition.

We spent the afternoon checking federal land blinds and bait sights, all of them not in use.

Mid afternoon we came into a camp with an odd assortment of creatures on display — all of them legal, and later found two individuals hunting behind a closed gate which someone had opened without authorization. Bobbi re-oriented the men and sent them on their way.

Dinner that night at Officer’s Lovely’s, with Trooper husband Jim and daughters Allie and Madie (like Anna Torsky, also a budding writer.) After  veggie lasagna we toured Jim’s “man-cave and I hit the road for Grayling.

CO John “Hulk” Huspen picked me up at 1100 Thursday morning and we headed north in Crawford County, where we immediately ran into old pal Steve Southard and his son, Luke, who were looking for tracks of a buck they had gotten glimpses of.

We pressed on from there looking for various wood-ticks, and at 1315 drove up on two gents quaffing brews as they sat at the back of their vehicle. Both tried to stash their beers as we drove up. The encounter was gismat.  Both had been hunting. One admitted to having had five beers already, and he had a loaded rifle and a loaded .45 caliber automatic in the truck. Tickets were written and both men sent back to camp with a buddy who showed up, to not hunt any more that day.

At dark we saw a vehicle slow-rolling in the south county,  and followed it for quite a distance. When it stopped someone apepared to run behind the brake lights and it appeared like someone was being dropped – not an uncommon practice for night poachers. We moved up quickly and found two men, blood all over the back of their vehicle, bags of butchered venison in the back. The driver had no license or insurance. The vehicle was borrowed.  Both men had been drinking. The passenger was wanted on a warrant. No weapons were found. The men said they scooped up the road kill without a permit, which was there was of hunting since neither could possess a firearm. Crawford County Deps took the two men to jail, one on the warrant, the driver for OUIL.

John and I pretty much got most of the world straightened out in between encounters that day. Enjoy the day’s pix.

Friday it was on to East Tawas. That tale tomorrow. Over.

Bloody leaves attract the dog, which attracks CO Lively's attention.
Bloody leaves attract the dog, which attracks CO Lively's attention.
Bloody leaves led to deer fat under leaves.
Bloody leaves led to deer fat under leaves.
blood and fat led to a gutpile behind some rusted equipment and admission by hunters that more was going on than first admitted to.
blood and fat led to a gutpile behind some rusted equipment and admission by hunters that more was going on than first admitted to.
Blind # 1
Blind # 1
Blind # 1's bait pile
Blind # 1's bait pile
Blind # 2 AND it's baitpile in foreground. The unlicensed hunter was using a bow from this blind.
Blind # 2 AND it's baitpile in foreground. The unlicensed hunter was using a bow from this blind.
The first thing I see walking into the camp
The first thing I see walking into the camp
The second thing we see in camp.
The second thing we see in camp.
CO Lively checking evidence into station's locker.
CO Lively checking evidence into station's locker.
Deer check station at DNR Mio station.
Deer check station at DNR Mio station.
Frozen coyote
Frozen coyote
CO Lively at unusual buck pole of some southwest michigan hunters. The deer and squirrel are all legal.
CO Lively at unusual buck pole of some southwest michigan hunters. The deer and squirrel are all legal.
What a 30.06 does to a squirrel.
What a 30.06 does to a squirrel.
Redirecting the misdirected.
Redirecting the misdirected.
This radio has seen a lot of use and juryrigged repairs, sure sign of an experienced officer.
This radio has seen a lot of use and juryrigged repairs, sure sign of an experienced officer.

Orchard Country and QDM

Took a walk at noon today  and bumped into two self-proclaimed  missionaries in black suits and ties wanting to talk about whatever. Told them thanks, but no thanks. Shanny wasn’t in the least interested.

Most of my work and chores are caught up, so I thought I’d continue the DNR reports.

November 16 I drove from Gaylord to Traverse City to Meet CO Mike Borkovich, who saw two 18-wheelers get into an accident en route and was late as a result. His truck back was coated with blood from five illegal bucks and a pair of illegal does confiscated on opening day. Nobody was hurt in the truck wreck, which was all that mattered. Borkovich’s colleagues sometimes call him 36/24 —  meaning he seems to squeeze 36 hours of results out of each 24-hour day. I nicknamed him “The Force.” He works with remarkable intensity, which shows in his great PR skills and in his analytical abilities.

Jumping off, we wended our way through the orchards and hills of Leelanau County, which is one of the most beautiful and scenic in the state. Seven years ago Borkovich helped initiate voluntary Quality Deer Management.  The people in the county believe in this method. Like hunters in other counties they reported fewer deer and fewer does, but the bucks they were seeing and bagging were big and that’s what QDM aims for. Mike moved from taxidermists to meat processors to private hunting camps, talking and  extracting information and leads, analyzing things he heard. . People seemed remarkably happy to see him. The largest deer we saw taken was rough scored at 145 and he checked dozens over 100 in the first two days and took photos of each, all of which will go in the local newspaper, where he maintains good relationships.

Midday we were closest to a possible house-breaking and rolled in, but could not locate suspects based on the information we had, and we got there less than one minute after the radio report. We then checked minnow runs in various creeks including some with emerald shiners (Notropis atherinoides) also called blues and other things. The blue run spring and fall, and biologists aren’t sure why. The minnows are considered to be topnotch bait . The minnows congregate such that you can scoop 2200 – 2300 per gallon scoop and they sell at bait shops for $3.50 a dozen, so the potential  profit is quite enticing and this attracts rat activity. Mike makes several busts yearly, and gladly leaves deer enforcement to bust minnow thieves. He has caught some emptying the river with pumps! The main natural threat to the minnows are otters, whose feces litter the bank and are so full of fish scales the scat is silver.

We moved from there to a place where we looked to locate a felon’s blind, but it had been moved and we backed out of heavy cover to the truck to keep moving.

As sunset approached we turned up a paved roach toward a scenic overview and there encountered a male and female road hunting and trespassing. Mike has been “looking” for the male for three years and this night was the night. Both hunters got tickets.

We went to check another creek for minnow runs and ended up using flashlights to pick up small Petoskey stones. After leaving there we got a radio BOL for a man from another part of the state, who might be suicidal and might be headed to Sleeping Bear Dunes. We then commenced to patrol, looking for the vehicle, but no contact.

We were in and out of the truck dozens of times during the day and by the time I got to my room, I was gassed.

The rendezvous the next morning was at 0700. Mike immediately reported that the Troops found the potential sucide’s vehicle parked at Sleeping Bear at 0130 and put the K9 on the track at 0300, but so far no results. The Coast Guard out of T.C. was standing by to launch at first light. They couldn’t fly at night because nobody knew how or if the missing man was armed and what his intentions might be other than what had been reported.

We arrive at the parking lot and I see a huge  “SHAYNA”written in the sand by someone’s footprints.

The chopper came overhead at 0800 and within a few sweeps reported seeing a body face down. Borkovich earlier told me if this was the man, he’d probably be on a scenic overlook, facing the lake.

He was.

Troops, Mike, local EMS, and Leelanau County Sheriff’s Department, and National Park Service personnel met in the lot to organize what would come next.  Locating and examining the person for health condition.

Mike and a Troop officer named Bloom headed up into the dunes for a 1.25 – 1.5 mile hike. A steep and exacting one.

The K-9 officer Chris McKowski and her partner for the effort Peterson also headed for a rendevous in the sand.

EMS personnel went in from another location.

After awhile the victim was located, death established and a plan assembled to move the victim. The Coast Guard landed in the parking lot while the foot search went on and the pilot agreed to take the victim in a basket to Traverse City and transfer him to authorities there.

Plan made, the chopper’s swimmer roped down to prepare for the evacuation.

The chopper headed for T.C. with it’s sad cargo and all the rest of us resumed patrols. Suicide is a permanent solution for what is often a temporary problem. All this fall I have been amazed by all the chatter on radios in various counties of suicidal individuals. Is it the times? Not enough data or experience to judge. But it’s mind-jarring.

Mike tells me he works so many nights sometimes that his wife complains that she feels like she’s living with a vampire.

He also talks about chasing some guy who Forest Gumped it [ran in panic] into the woods.

Borkovich takes me to an apple orchard where the ground is literally covered with tons of apples and tons more hang on trees. The landowner can hunt over those fruits legal. 75 yards outside the orchard, if a hunter puts down a couple of gallons of bait, he’s illegal and will get a large ticket for baiting. Our baiting laws make some sense IF nose-to-nose contact is the way cervid diseases are spread. From my reading, the science is far from certain, and ironically, conservation officers who started years ago writing tickets for offenders intent of shrinking the herd for their own benefit, now must write tickets to people who feed deer to keep it alive and growing. It’s a strange full 180-degree turn. This of course simplifies the situation, but it does help make one stop and think.

Mike also tells me about a young man caught and convicted of taking deer illegally and when Mike later bumps into him the man is in tears. Everywhere he goes in the county, people are shunning him and greeting him with “You must be that asshole poacher!” The rejection is causing him to come apart emotionally.

We pass farms with maraschino cherry brine and the pukessence is second only to fermenting tapioca. Too much time in either fug will leaving you blowing cookies with industrial strength velocity.

We get a complaint of trespass and check into a blind set beside a grass runway. We interview a man who says he has permission, but he doesn’t and because it’s not clear what is private or township property, Mike decides to way and verify ownership before making a decision on what to do. No rush to judgment in this officer.

At dark we hear a call of a drunk in a beer store and we intercept him heading out of town running as high as 71 mph through an extremely curvy stretch and when he skids into a driveway we block him from behind and two county Deps arrive right behind us to take care of it and take the man to jail, where he belongs.

We cruise by a couple of places where illegal deer have been reported and take some photos of untagged deer hanging and Mike drops me 15 hours after picking me up.

Next in the series, Oscoda and Crawford Counties.

To repeat:  I do not reveal all details in these reports and no suspect’s identities because cases have not yet been adjudicated. I also leave out a lot of details most people might find extremely upsetting in their graphic reality. Enjoy the photos. Our COs work mostly alone in isolated places amongst many questionably human beings. Officers walk the talk, and deserve our respect. Over.

CO Mike Borkovitch checking tagged deer at a processor's.
CO Mike Borkovich checking tagged deer at a processor's.
ONE VIEW: It's legal to hunt over this orchard, which is filled with ripe apples.
ONE VIEW: It's legal to hunt over this orchard, which is filled with ripe apples.
THE OTHER VIEW: But if you put down some apples on this little hill, 75 yards from the orchard in the other photo, you are illegal and will get stroked by the COs.
THE OTHER VIEW: But if you put down some apples on this little hill, 75 yards from the orchard in the other photo, you are illegal and will get ticketed and fined.
Emerald shiners
Emerald shiners
More emerald shiners -- money with fins.
More emerald shiners -- money with fins.
Checking deer camps at night.
Checking deer camps at night.
While searching for break-in suspects we turn around in this driveway I name Eclecticville and of course I have to have a photo. Borkovich rolls his eyes.
While searching for break-in suspects we turned around in this driveway I immediately named Eclecticville and of course I had to have a photo. Borkovich just rolled his eyes.
Checking another meat processor
Checking another meat processor
Venison awaiting the butcher.
Venison awaiting the butcher.
Mobilizing search elements at the Bear.
Mobilizing search elements at the Bear.
Coastie chopper beginning search.
U.S.Coast Guard chopper starts search at 0800.

While search teams make their way to the victim on foot, the Coastie chopper sits in the lot conserving fuel.
While search teams make their way to the victim on foot, the Coastie chopper sits in the lot conserving fuel.
CO Borkovitch and Trooper Bloom head into the dunes. The dunes behind the front dune are a lot steeper and harder going!
CO Borkovich and Trooper Bloom head into the dunes. The dunes behind the front dune are a lot steeper and harder going!
The K-9 team tops the dune returning to the vehicles.
The K-9 team Troopers Chris McKowski and Peterson top the dune returning to the vehicles.
Bottom of the hill. Even the dog seems tired. They've been out nearly six hours in sand, which is exhausting.
Bottom of the hill. Even the dog seems tired. They've been out nearly six hours in sand, which is exhausting.
This is a 145-point Leelanau buck.
This is a 145-point Leelanau buck.
Otter poop, filled with emerald shiner scales to make it look silver inthe sun.
Otter poop, filled with emerald shiner scales to make it look silver in the sun.
Slug dug out of illegally killed deer by CO Borkovitch. With this he will be able to match the bullet to the offending weapon.
Slug dug out of illegally killed deer by CO Borkovich. With this he will be able to match the bullet to the offending weapon.
Morning at the T.C. State Police Post. The frost is heavy.
Morning at the T.C. State Police Post. The frost is heavy.
This deer has a sarcoma of some kind on it's face and another on its body. Sometimes you see some disturbing things in nature.
This deer has a sarcoma of some kind on it's face and another on its body. Sometimes you see some disturbing things in nature.
Sun rise coming to the Sleeping Bear.
Sun rise coming to the Sleeping Bear.
Blood on work truck  from illegal deer confiscated opening day.
Blood on work truck from illegal deer confiscated opening day.
The force, making notes. He is always making notes and filing things away in his steeltrap mind. COs are all good at remembering things, events, places, faces, names.
"The Force" making notes. He is always making notes and filing things away in his steeltrap mind. COs are all good at remembering things, events, places, faces, names.