Hunter-Ed Applicant Fails to ‘Watch’ for Photo of Illegal Deer

No matter how crafty and careful wildlife poachers might be, there are always trails of incriminating bread crumbs to be found

By: Carlos Gomez,


This photo of a buck with a unique rack helped open and provide evidence to a poaching case. (Photo courtesy of Carlos Gomez)


There may be a million ways to poach, which simply means there’s a million ways to get caught. Reminds me of an unusual poaching case involving a guy we will nickname, Rick, for the sake of this true story.

I met Rick when he was applying to become a volunteer hunter education instructor. Our agency – Oklahoma Depart of Wildlife Conservation – requires the local warden to meet, interview and perform a background check on applicants as part of the process.

I noticed on our first phone call discussion, Rick had a bit of a northern accent, so I ask him where was he from, originally. “New York,” Rick said. I had a brief but humorous vision of a salsa commercial and a rope.

All joking aside, I’d found a felony entry on Rick’s background check, indicating he’d either lied when checking the appropriate box on his application (that would disqualify him) or simply made a mistake. So, before rejecting his application, I made an appointment with Rick to go by his house for a chat.

He’d been very friendly up to this point but after mentioning the reason for my visit, he sounded a bit agitated. This was either going to be a “Dear John” visit following verification of his conviction, or a “welcome to our group” meeting, assuming we could dispel the criminal allegation.

After a discussion, I learned the crime reported on the background check was accurate; he admitted to feeling embarrassment for what he described as a youthful mistake.

Sitting in his living room, and wanting to divert from the distasteful topic at hand, I began admiring the unique rack of Rick’s big buck mount on his rock fireplace. The unusual 14-point didn’t demonstrate much in the way of quality taxidermy work, but I bragged to Rick on the size and distinctive antler frame of his trophy.

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