John Harrigan: Hunter foiled by deer, and international poachers pay up
This has been one of the stranger weeks in my career, and considering that this column is in its 38th year, that's saying something.
On Thursday, Nov. 29, Everett Gray of Cornish made headlines after he was gored by an eight-point buck he shot on his property in Cornish. This kind of thing has happened before, but it's not all that common, so I called Everett.
"I made a good shot on that buck, right in the center of his chest," he said. Still, when he approached the downed deer and felt it to make sure it was dead, it sprang to its forefeet and gored him in his side, just below the ribs, lifted him off his feet, slammed him to the ground and began pushing him downhill.
"I don't know how far he pushed me, with his hind legs pumping. I've got to go back up there to see. How I got the antler out I don't know."
Everett weighs 142 pounds. The buck's hanging weight - after it was retrieved by friends - was 144, meaning that its live weight was around 180. The horn penetrated four inches into Everett's side.
"He had some spirit, I'll give that to him," Everett said, after being patched up at Windsor Hospital and sent on to Dartmouth Hitchcock. "I tried to kill him, and he sure tried to kill me."
The next day, another strange event unfolded on the Kilkenny Loop Road, north of Berlin, where authorities were alerted to a dead moose about 30 feet off the road. Conservation Officer Geoff Younglove found tracks in the snow, indicating that someone fired a final shot into the animal's head and then walked away, without taking any meat. Fish and Game called it "one of the most egregious cases of poaching that conservation officers have seen in the North Country this year."
My take on this is that it was either a thrill killing or was an interrupted attempt to illegally kill and haul away the moose for its meat. Investigators believe that more than one person was involved, and anyone with information is asked to call Fish and Game dispatch at 271-3361.
Meanwhile, a sting operation in October along the Canadian border in Pittsburg that netted two moose poachers was made public on Dec. 3 by Fish and Game, the Border Patrol and the Quebec Provincial Wardens, who worked together in what I'd call a stellar example of cross-border cooperation.
Poaching from the Canadian side of the 20-foot-wide cleared boundary, locally known as "The Slash," has been a longtime problem. What, no moose in Canada? Well, along this 56-mile stretch of border the land is pretty much cleared for agriculture on the Canadian side. On the U.S. side, it's pretty much heavily forested and, thus, well populated by moose. Ergo, there are hundreds of blinds and hunting shacks along the Canadian side.
"Some of the shacks are rudimentary," Colebrook's News and Sentinel reported, "and others resemble elevated camps, equipped with propane heaters, cookstoves and sleeping bunks."
Investigators could reach the remote area only on foot, and spent chilly nights in sleeping bags until Oct. 13, when they heard shots nearby. As they approached the source, several hunters on the U.S. side told them that some Canadians had shot a moose on the U.S. side. Conservation Officer Mark Hensel and his police dog, Sig, led officers to a salt block and a freshly killed young male moose and, a bit further, a dead adult bull.
"During the investigation," a Fish and Game report said, "the suspected poachers returned to the scene on an all-terrain vehicle with the intent of extracting the moose back to Canada. Quebec Provincial Wardens assisted at the scene, and served as interpreters during the interviews of the French-speaking hunters."
I can only imagine the scene, with much gesticulating and flapping of arms to emphasize certain words, and much pointing at the international line, with officers and accused mingling and moving on both sides.
The hunters eventually pleaded guilty in Colebrook District Court and were fined $3,240. As for the moose, it was processed by a local meat-cutter and will be distributed to needy families throughout Coos County.
John Harrigan's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. His address is Box 39, Colebrook 03576. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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