A press release issued last week by Colorado Parks and Wildlife brought back a subject that has pretty much been totally off my archery and bowhunting radar for more than 20 years.
According to the report, as the result of an ongoing investigation, four South Carolina men were arrested for violating a variety of Colorado's wildlife laws, including the use of poisons and toxicants with their archery equipment.
The suspects, George R. Plummer, 51 and Joseph Nevling, 50 both of Timmonsville, Michael C. Courtney, 25 of Florence, and James Cole, 55 from Sumter were arrested at their hunting camp east of Collbran on Saturday evening, Sept. 7.
I can't remember the last time I read or heard about the illegal use of arrow "pods" containing paralysis-causing muscle relaxants like succinylcholine chloride to bring down game animals by using chemistry rather than a well-placed broadhead to the vitals.
Like many industry veterans, I vividly remember the intense controversy surrounding the 1989 book by Texan Adrian Benke, "The Bowhunting Alternative," which not only advocated the use of pods to kill game, but raised unsubstantiated claims that bowhunters fail to recover more than half the game animals they shoot with regular hunting arrows. Thankfully, the fame and newsworthiness of Benke's book as well as his unethical agenda were short-lived, and as a result, most hunting archers under the age of 40 have probably never heard of him or his misguided mission.
But last week's arrest in Colorado brought those unpleasant memories roaring back, especially after the defendants appeared before a judge in Grand Junction for their Sept. 11 hearing.
According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, George Plummer told authorities following his arrest that he'd been returning to the same leased cabin and using the drugged arrows since the late-1980s, according to Michael Blanck, District Wildlife Manager for the Colorado agency.
Plummer and his nefarious hunting activities in Colorado had been under scrutiny for nearly two years, after a tip was received from another hunter. This year, Plummer's group was under surveillance since shortly after they arrived around Aug. 31, which marked the start of archery season, Blanck said.
"It's hard to say how many animals they've taken illegally," state wildlife investigator Rich Antonio told Judge Arthur Smith in court last week.
All four pleaded guilty to the charges. They received thousands of dollars in fines and court costs in addition to losing their hunting privileges in Colorado - and likely others states - for four years.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," Judge Smith told one of the defendants during the sentencing. "This isn't hunting. This is just going out and killing things."
Perhaps the most disturbing part of Wednesday's hearing was the reaction by one of the four men, who not only lacked remorse, but dared defy the court.
"Back in South Carolina, everybody hunts with (poison arrows)," boasted James Cole, further describing the illegal method as an "insurance policy" that works for all types of game.
We can only hope Cole's statement, as well as the case itself, doesn't indicate there's any sort of clandestine movement among some ne'er-do-wells and bottom feeders in certain regions of the country who regularly engage in this reprehensible and blatantly unethical practice.
- J.R. Absher
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