Today’s Hunters Face A ‘Growing’ Problem

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Aug. 19, 2009

Today’s Hunters Face A ‘Growing’ Problem

As hunters prepare to head to the backcountry for early season big-game
scouting, authorities in an increasing number of popular hunting locales are
warning sportsmen about the likelihood for confrontations with armed and
ruthless marijuana growers on public lands. You’ll also read about an Ohio
eagle with a bad grip, and an Alaskan fishing guide with excellent reflexes.

Going To Pot
It’s a disturbing sign of our times, but more and more hunters in virtually
every region of rural American may potentially stumble upon clandestine
drug-making and marijuana-growing operations these days.

With the California Zone A deer season opening August 15, hunters there were
being warned to be especially vigilant when in remote areas of the Mendocino
National Forest, a region notorious for illegal pot-growing plantations. It is
also an area where armed confrontations have occurred between growers and
unsuspecting deer hunters in the past.

J.R. Absher

The previous week, deputies with the Glenn County Sheriff’s Department and
U.S. Forest Service personnel removed 15,521 marijuana plants with an estimated
street value of $62 million from the Elk Creek area of the Mendocino NF.

No one was apprehended, but authorities also dismantled two separate camps
and an extensive irrigation system.

In recent years, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has
stressed that illegal cultivation on public land has grown to highly
problematic levels in many areas. The operations are often run by Mexican drug
cartels and guarded by heavily armed members of U.S.-based street gangs and
illegal Mexican nationals.

An ONDCP spokesman said violent Mexican drug cartels construct, operate and
manage 80- to 90 percent of all U.S.-based marijuana plantations — most of
which are located in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Oregon, Tennessee,
Washington, and West Virginia.

Simply, there are some real bad guys out in the mountains and woods these

Authorities agree that hunters should avoid contact with the individuals at
these remote camps at all costs. Instead, they should obtain a GPS reading of
the location, if possible, then immediately retrace their route away from the
area and contact law enforcement to make a report.

Additionally, hunters should also report anything they see that might be
associated with marijuana growing operations, such as PVC drip lines, brush piles
placed in long rows, empty fertilizer bags or garbage.

One That Got Away … From An Eagle
In the late summer months, it’s not unusual when motoring along the banks of
Lake Erie in northern Ohio to have some pretty substantial flying objects go “splat!” on your windshield such as June bugs, dragonflies, and the occasional
hard-hitting bumblebee.

An 8-pound fish, though? Well, that’s somewhat unusual!

Messy, too.

Leighann Niles and her 5-year-old daughter were traveling on the main road
through scenic East Harbor State Park on Monday when they were treated to the
sight of a bald eagle flying overhead, a freshly caught fish grasped in its

"I look in the air and see the most beautiful eagle I’d ever seen in my
life," Niles said.

It was about that time that the eagle evidently developed some difficulty
with its landing gear, so to speak.

"The next thing I knew, the fish wiggled — it dropped like a brick and
completely shattered my windshield," reported Niles.

The combined impact of a 40-foot fish freefall and a 2004 Toyota Matrix
traveling at 40 miles per hour resulted in one totally ruined windshield.

Neither Niles nor her daughter was injured, but they both have a whopper of
a fish story to tell.

‘Total Luck Shot’ Takes Down Charging Grizzly
Soldotna, Alaska, fishing guide Greg Brush was walking his dogs not far from
his home on the morning of August 2 when he turned at the sound of a snapping
twig. There, less than 20 yards away, was a charging 900-pound brown bear,
"ears back, head low and motorin’ full speed."

In a single motion, Brush drew and fired his Ruger .454 Casull revolver. One
shot proved fatal.

"Came with zero warning," Brush later told the Anchorage Daily
"No woof, no popping of the teeth, no standing up, nothing like what
you think."

Brush told the newspaper he carries a pistol on his walks because bears have
chased his dogs in the past.

"It doesn’t get any closer. He slid by me on his chin when I shot him,"
Brush said. "I was backpedaling as fast as I could. I wasn’t even aiming.
I tripped over my own feet as I pulled the trigger."

Brush estimated the bear weighed 900-plus pounds, and was 15- to 20 years
old. It had grass packed in its molars and little fat on its bones. He said he
figured the bruin was starving and saw an opportunity.

"I never ever thought it would happen to me. It’s always some other
(guy), right? It totally wiped me out — (I was) dry heaving and
hyperventilating, with some abdominal cramping."

The fishing guide considers himself fortunate.

"Total luck shot," he said.

Wisconsin Youth Mentor Bill Becomes Law
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle has signed into law a mentored hunting bill allowing
youngsters 10 years old and older to hunt under the supervision of a licensed

The bill was written and sponsored by state Sen. Jim Holperin and Reps. Ann
Hraychuck and Scott Gunderson, and supported by dozens of co-sponsors.

"Wisconsin has become the 28th state to pass a law reducing barriers to
hunting since 2004," said Rob Sexton, vice president of U.S. Sportsmen’s
Alliance. "It’s great to see Wisconsin providing more hunting

The legislation does not lower the hunting age for hunting without adult
supervision, nor does it change the requirement for hunter safety education.
Wisconsin law allows 12-year-olds to hunt with supervision provided they
have passed hunter’s safety training. Hunters must be at least 14 to hunt

The bill also makes legal the common practice of children under 12 being
able to target practice with their parents.

"Over 280,000 new hunters have been added across the country by
initiatives like this," said Greg Kazmierski, chairman of the Dairyland
Committee for Wisconsin’s Safari Club International. "This proposal
creates a safe way for youth or adults to experience hunting with a mentor
before going through the necessary training to be able to hunt on their

The new law becomes effective on Sept. 1, 2009. The law makes it possible
for aspiring young hunters in hunting families or youth and adults who may have
grown up in a non-hunting family to "test drive" the hunting
experience. People who decide they want to pursue hunting beyond the controlled
conditions of the mentored hunting program will be required to pass an approved
hunter education course.

Quote Of The Week
"You can’t be unconventional until you’re conventional first."
-Col. Charlie A. Beckwith
“Delta Force,” 1983

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear
in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the
outdoors weekly for You may contact him at

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