BY JOEL CAMPORA –
Reprinted with permission by The Arkansas Wildlife Officer Magazine who received this story from Wildlife Officer First Class Joel Campora before his tragic death during a rescue operation May 31, 2013, but was not published until their Sept/Oct 2013 issue. Arkansas Wildlife Officer Magazine Editor Jeff Williams said, “We could write about his dedication to conserving Arkansas’s wildlife while remembering that hunters are only human, but it’s better to hear from the man himself.”
April 24, 2012, started out as a great day of turkey hunting. As the season was winding down, I finally had some time to hunt. I was using some personal leave in an effort to bag a big old Tom.
The turkeys were gobbling and heading my way when my phone went off; I’d forgotten to take it off vibrate. Any turkey hunter knows what happened to my hunt from there.
I answered the phone and received violation in progress traffic from Little Rock dispatch. It was in reference to a hunter killing two jakes. My hunt was blown anyway, so I changed out of my hunting clothes and into my uniform; I headed to the location.
I spoke to the reporting party about what happened. They said they were calling in some turkeys when someone shot the birds. They went over the hill and saw two dead jakes.
I didn’t have the suspect’s name or where he was parked, so I set up on a main road most people in that area use to travel to and from their hunts. After about an hour, a white suburban drove up. As I watched the eyes of the driver, I knew immediately he did not want to see the game warden. I asked him if he had any luck.
He responded, “Yeah, a bunch of bad luck.”
He said he and his buddy were trying to get some good video footage of a turkey hunt when they heard a turkey off in the distance. They set up and started calling to what turned out to be one mature gobbler and two or three jakes coming with him.
When the gobbler was in range, he pulled the trigger, but the gun didn’t do anything. He racked a new shell and fired, but again nothing happened. By this time, the birds were scattering. He racked one more shell, found a red and blue head and finally got off a shot.
“All of a sudden, my stomach sank,” the hunter said.
He had not only shot one of the jakes, but had accidentally dropped two with the shot.
The hunter said he didn’t know what to do, so he took the birds and decided to take the chance. He said if he got caught with the birds he would come clean right away and take the punishment.
He showed me the two bad shells and the video of the hunt, which matched his story exactly. I told him I appreciated his honesty and the fact that he didn’t want to waste the birds. B
Because of his honesty, I wrote him only one citation for one of the jakes. He could have received several other citations, including tagging violations, but it was an honest mistake and he had confessed without any hesitation.
When you think you are having a bad day – somebody else is having a worse one.