Saturday, November 10, 2012, PORTAGE – Two more wakeups until I mosey north again, this time for some days or ride-alongs with COs in the UP. Deer season can be the defining time for a game warden’s year, but not all Cos. In some locations the “deer season” lasts about three days and other things take up the CO’s time and focus. But in most places the firearm deer season is pretty much the top of the game, with lots of folks afoot and out and about.
Packing gear is a special challenge: how cold, snow or no snow, etc. I follow3 the Navy SEAL approach in terms of clothes and gear: One equals zero and two equals one. Losing stuff is my specialty, or leaving stuff in CO’s trucks. Over the years I’ve managed to leave behind a fair amount of gear.
Here’s what I usually carry inside the truck: bag of snacks; small equipment bag for batteries, flashlights, hot packs for hands, regular gloves, cut gloves, latex gloves, first aid materials; a knife or two; two cameras; 10 x 42 waterproof binos; NVD and batteries; sunglasses in cases (brown lens and dark lens); notebooks; and, pens. I also carry a bag of baseball caps and chooks, which we switch off according to circumstances and location – sometimes black, sometimes hunter orange. I sometimes bring plat books with me, even though mine are largely out of date and officers have the Automatic Vehicle Locator system rolling maps to guide them, my map-reading skills are above average, and I can be of assistance. I also carry a cigarete-pack size digital recorder, but rarely use it.
I also usually have a cooler or board for making cold lunches, And an eight-pack of Diet Pepsi in plastic bottles.
In my waterproof “dry bag” I carry extra warm outer clothes and a change of dry clothes; sometimes I have waders in the truck, but not usually in deer season. And, one pointed, metal walking stick, for out-of-truck ambulatory events.
And I wear body armor under my outer gear. Makes no good sense not to.
Heavy boots, usually 200-800 grams of Thinsulate, though if my partner warns that we may “sit” on a situation for any time and it’s cold, I might throw on my 1200s, which keep the cold out longer when you are not constantly moving.
Between two of us, the truck is cluttered and as the days wear on we have to constantly juggle gear to keep things handy. Much of what I need goes on the dash in front of me, or between my legs, within easy reach.
Much of my time now is spent visualizing what will be coming, the sort of contacts we will make and varied locations and contexts, and I try to remember what we did in past situations and how that turned out and what we learned.
Most of the patrol day will be spent in the truck and on the move. UP counties tend to be physically large and it takes time to cover ground. As we move, my eyes stay out the window and I provide any feedback my partner wants. As night comes in, we often settle into a single area where we might suspect something might occur that is a bit off the reservation. Some of these places are quite remote and backup is either far away or doesn’t exist. If we have something that looks potentially dicey and there is another CO in the area, we will ask him or her to start moving toward us as we make our contacts – in case backup is needed. Usually backup isn’t needed.
If we (figurative “we) have to make an arrest, we sometimes transport the prisoner to jail; other times we call other police agencies to transport for us. Hauling people to jail is fairly rare, at least in my dozen years of doing this thing with COs.
The time I meet my partner varies, depending on number of hours she or he has for the day (how much overtime from the state), and what the partner thinks might be most productive that day. Pat patrols would run typically 8-12 hours, with a few up to 17 hours, but there is a pittance of overtime now and officers sometimes have to disengage because they have no time left. This typically pisses them off because our Michigan COs are highly motivated individuals, sworn to do the resource protection job, and they take their mission seriously.
The time problem is a continual irritant this time of year with so many folks in the woods and all I can think of is how the National Rifle Association worked hard to block Governor Grandholm from working to increase funding for DNR and DNR law enforcement because she was of the “undesired” party. What we need to do is apportion a percent of sales tax to the DNR, as Missouri and other states have done; this would allow us to staff fully and do the job as it’s meant to be done. You’d think republicans and democrats cold agree on this, but they can’t. or won’t and shame on them for their self-serving short-sightedness.
This country is changing. The breakdown on voters from the just finished presidential election shows this pretty clearly. The number of people in the population hunting and fishing has fallen steadily over the past 20 years and we rarely see young hunters in the field during firearm deer season. Deer hunting in the UP is an old white guy’s game. Black, Asian, or Hispanic hunters in the UP, and generally across the northern lower are statistically insignificant.
The NRA, which was started by a New York Times reporter long ago to help Americans males improve their shooting skills (sort of an unofficial preparatory scheme for wartime and a citizen-based Army), has morphed into the gun manufacturers’ lobby, which sings of defending gun ownership rights, but operates primarily to sell guns and help manufacturers. Think of a National Warmth Association whose publicly stated mission is to keep the people of America warm in winter, but who is funded solely by utilities, and actually intended to push forward their funders’ agenda, which is to see more and more power.
What little respect I had for the NRA disappeared when I saw the games they played in this state, games that ended up negatively affecting our state’s sportsmen.
Right now, I think only about what is ahead with my partners, and getting the Green Streamer truck loaded. My favorite time of year, and every single year is different in experience and tone and lessons learned.
What I look forward to most is working with the greatest collection of individuals I’ve ever had the privilege to work with — and I’ve had some pretty good ones in other parts of my life.
Let the season — and the games – begin. And, be safe out there. Please.