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I bet they poach, too

I grew up roaming "The Woods" — a wooded area behind my house. One side of The Woods was bordered by our property (and that of several neighbors up and down the road), the other side was bordered by I-64. Through the magic of Google Maps I've measured The Woods to be about fifteen acres. To my mind, they were infinite. When we first moved into that house I imagined The Woods to be filled with bears, lions, and other dangerous animals. The most dangerous thing I ever saw there was a squirrel... or maybe one of my brother's friends.

On the other side of the street, there was a larger wooded area, about a square mile in size. My house, and the road in front of it, sat in the middle of all this — so I literally lived in the middle of The Woods. It was a great place to grow up.

Mom and Dad moved to Summersville several years ago, so that place is now just a childhood memory. But their new place is also in the middle of a wooded area, a much larger one, close to 24 square miles in size and bordered on one side by Summersville Lake. It actually does have a few dangerous animals in it. On his way to work one foggy morning recently, Dad hit a bear with his car. The bear was arguably the dangerous animal, but for what it's worth, the bear did not survive this incident.

At the back of their yard there's a creek, and on the other side of that creek the trees start. They stretch up a hill and the ridge at the top marks the edge of their property. Around twilight, you can just about guarantee seeing a few deer venture down that hill and out of the trees into their yard, walking along the creek and sniffing around until something scares them off.

At twilight on Thanksgiving Day, Andrew got excited and started saying there was a moose in the back yard. So we looked, and six or seven does had popped out of the trees like some kind of magic trick accompanied by a huge ten-point buck. Dad went and got some binoculars and a deer call while I rounded the kids up and took them out on the back porch to watch the deer sniffing around and eating. We passed the binoculars around and everyone got a good look. Dad grunted into the deer call, and all the deer raised their heads up. Andrew giggled — I reminded him he needed to be quiet so the deer wouldn't get scared away. Given the situation, though, he was being exceptionally good.

The buck decided to investigate the call and started easing toward the house. Then from the road, two shots cracked through the air — the does scattered, and the buck fell. First instinct, of course: Get the kids inside.

Dad was visibly upset. He used to hunt, many years ago... always squirrels. When he quit, I never asked why. The closest I ever came was using a pellet gun to pick off rats living around the dumpsters behind an apartment building at Tech. Like many other "recreational" activities, hunting seems like a whole lot of work to me, and I do plenty of that as it is. I don't object to hunting in principle, though, when it's done legally.

Shooting a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling is illegal according to the WV DNR. It's also illegal to shoot from the road or across a road. Given the way the land is laid out and where the buck was standing, the hunters who killed it broke at least one of these laws. Then they marched right onto Dad's property without permission, collected their prize, and took off on an ATV. Dad told me this wasn't an isolated incident. He has, in fact, reported previous incidents (perpetrated by the same people, all of whom live around him) to the DNR Office serving his district... and they agreed that yes, the law had been broken, and they would get in touch to get more information. But they never did.

I'm glad Andrew got to see his "moose" and was exceptionally well-behaved while watching it, and I'm glad none of us were injured by the lawbreakers. Dad will probably give the DNR a piece of his mind tomorrow (rightly so), but something tells me it will be an exercise in futility. And I think that's a shame — especially when plenty of other hunters make the extra effort to do things the right way.

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