“This will leak 'B'. All we have to do is sit on it for a while,”
Mel Weis stated. He was speaking to me, using the nickname “B” that he had
hung on me sometime earlier.
It was the opening day of Ohio's small game season in mid November,
1964. We were witnessing the ultimate in wildlife carnage and waste as we
examined the whole carcasses of two trophy sized eight point white tail deer
killed during the closed season. We had been summoned to the scene via
radio by our District Office in Findlay, Ohio, who had been notified of the
violation by the Williams County Sheriff's Department. The Sheriff's
Department received the report of the two dead deer from two opening day
pheasant hunters who discovered the carcasses while hunting earlier that
Both bucks had been shot through the heart. Both were laying on
their right sides facing each other. The deer “rutting” season was in full
swing. Both animals were heavy necked and showed signs of having engaged in
battle. The vegetation and brush was mashed down around both animals,
further indicating they were doing battle when shot. They were lying in a
thicket within easy gunshot of a county road known as the Quarterline Road.
The only county road in Williams County free of dwellings for human
habitation and thus, possible witnesses. It was the ideal location to
commit this heinous and despicable crime.
The eight point racks on both animals were perfectly symmetrical.
They were thick at the base and “trophy” in every aspect. The meat of both
deer was spoiled, thus wasting about 320 lbs. of good venison. We estimated
they had been illegally shot and killed during the closed season about four
“Both well placed shots were near the back of the heart,” Justice
“Sonny” Bashore stated as he wrapped two .22 magnum bullets in cotton and
dropped them in two separate plastic “coin” tubes and screwed the lids on.
Sonny Bashore was a Commissioned Game Protector who worked in
Fishery Management. As all Commissioned Fish and Game Management folks, he
was on duty checking hunters on the opening day of small game season. He
was working in nearby Defiance County when I summoned him (and his wench
equipped truck) via radio, to the deer killing scene in Williams County. He
was especially adept at tracing and removing bullets from shot animals. In
this instance, he had completed his task quickly and efficiently as was
usually the case.
“In my opinion, you have a single shooter here. The bullet paths in
both deer went straight in. I would bet the shooter was in a vehicle on the
Quarterline Road,” Sonny stated. I photographed the animals where they laid
and the surrounding scene. We winched both deer into the bed of Sonny's
truck and he hauled them to the tankage company. I asked him to remove and
preserve the two trophy racks to have mounted for a state office display and
also hold for future evidentiary purposes. Sonny stated he would gladly
take care of both and he would have the racks at the Oxbow Lake Headquarters
if and when they were needed.
“What makes you think this whole thing will leak?” I asked Weis.
“Because he or they didn't field dress the deer or make any attempt
to take them home. Hell, they let them lay here and rot. They didn't even
try to collect two darn good trophy racks. Why? Because he's running
scared. He shot these deer while they were fighting. I would say in broad
daylight – not with a light at night. He thinks someone may have seen him.
He's afraid to come near these deer. But he knows he's killed two big
trophy bucks. I read him as a dumb head who will have to brag about it
sooner or later. When he does, we're going to get the word. All we've got
to do is hang in there and stay quiet,” Weis concluded.
Weis's theory sure made sense and I agreed with it. I had learned
that Mel Weis had a way of pretty well ascertaining how a violation
(after-the-fact or unseen by a Game Warden) went down. I also knew he had
the best informant network I had ever seen even to this day.
With no homes on the Quarterline Road, there wasn't even a door to
knock on in search of a possible witness. This left only a “happen along”
witness as a possibility. Although I had been able to ferret out a few of
these in the past (and did in the future), I agreed with Weis. To pursue
this avenue of investigation would make “too much noise.” We needed to stay
“Staying quiet” was hard as heck for me to do. I wanted to seek out
and interview the two pheasant hunters that made the initial complaint to
the Sheriff's Department. I wanted to seek out and find that “happen along”
witness if he or she existed. Doing these kind of things during an
investigation was pure joy for me. However, I knew Weis knew his people and
how to get things done in Williams County. I impatiently bided my time.
Mel sensed all this and shortly thereafter stated, “Okay, when it
does break tiger, it's all yours. If you get the information first, go get
him. If I get it first, I'll give it to you and you can still go get him.
In the meantime hold – just hold.”
I'll have to say this case taught me there were times when you “just
hold.” Over the next few months I revisited the scene several times looking
for any other clue we may have missed. It was all I could do to keep from
knocking on doors the next road over to the north and south of the
Quarterline Road. One of them may have been traveling the Quarterline Road
and observed something – a vehicle, a license number, anything.
Naturally, there were plenty of other cases to work on. My assigned
investigation case load in Henry, Fulton and Defiance Counties were
growing. Weis and I were getting well into a much bigger deer
Finally, it happened. A certain male resident of Montpelier, whom
we'll call L.B., participated in an ice fishing trip to Houghton Lake,
Michigan in January 1965. Those who went on this expedition all worked for
a local gas company. The head of this gas company, whom we'll call W.B. Had
a strong dislike for Game Wardens, thanks to Mel Weis who had busted him on
two occasions – a factor that would help greatly in the successful
conclusion of this case.
While on this trip, L.B. began drinking and boasted about shooting
two big trophy buck deer from the Quarterline Road in early November of
1964. A Weis informant, who also participated in this ice fishing trip,
heard all this and passed the information on to Mel. However, he didn't
give this information to Weis until later in July of 1965. Nevertheless, as
Weis predicted, “it leaked.”
Mel called me at my home. He gave me all the information on L.B.
and his bragging (and admissions) about killing the two trophy buck deer the
preceding November. “You've been darn patient on this one, Mr. B – it's all
yours. Go get him,” Weis stated. He was chuckling as he gave me my
Immediately after the poaching scene investigation, I delivered the
two .22 magnum bullets, removed from each deer by Sonny Bashore, to BCI
(Bureau of Criminal Investigation) Lab at London, Ohio. I had a BCI
forensics report stating both bullets were fired from the same rifle, along
with the attendant chain-of-custody receipts.
I thought for a while about how I was going to go about apprehending
L.B. Soon a plan developed in my mind. I phoned W.B. -- L.B.'s boss who
hated Game Wardens. W.B. answered the phone.
“My name in Ron Bailey, I'm a State Game Protector and I work with
Mel Weis. Do you have a L.B. that works for you?” I asked.
“Yes, L.B. does work here and he's a mighty fine man. What the hell
do you want with him?” W.B. asked.
“Never mind – never mind, I'm just confirming his place of residence
and his place of employment. Thank you.” I hung up listening to W.B. yell
“What the hell do you want with him – damn you - - - - Bailey.”
I gave W.B. nine days to do what I knew he would do. I “reasoned”
it would put L.B. in the right frame of mind for my forthcoming interview
with him. It worked like a charm. I chose a Saturday when I knew L.B. was
not working. I arrived at his home at 8:00 a.m. sharp. I parked my patrol
car directly in front of his home and went to the front door and knocked.
He answered the door. He had just finished his breakfast.
“Good morning L_ _. My name is Ron Bailey. I'm a Wildlife
Enforcement Agent for the State of Ohio. I'm here to talk to you about the
two buck deer you shot and killed out of season, off the Quarterline Road on
or about November 1, 1964. Go in the house and get your .22 magnum rifle.
The one you used to kill the deer. I'll wait here on the porch,” I stated.
“Yes, sir,” he responded. He was trembling. I knew he was “all
mine” and W.B. had done his job well. Shortly he returned with his rifle.
“I'll take the rifle,” I stated. He handed it to me.
“Now we'll go to my car,” I stated. We went to my patrol vehicle.
“Be careful, don't bump your head,” I stated as I opened the door on the
passengers side and pointed to the seat. He got in and I slammed the door
(on purpose). He jerked – he was scared as hell and I knew it.
“The first item we'll get out of the way is your rifle. I'm going
to give you a receipt for it. I'll take it to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal
Investigation at London, Ohio for test firing. I'm sure the test bullet
fired from it will match the two .22 magnum bullets taken from the two deer
by one of our experts,” I stated.
Now, he was really nervous – on the verge of tears. “May I go get
my wife? I'd like her to be here with me,” he asked.
Somehow, I can't explain it, I knew his wife's presence would be to
my advantage. “By all means, go get her, and try to calm down. You're a
nervous wreck,” I stated.
He went into his house and returned with his wife. She was a nice
looking girl that weighed at least 300 lbs. As she seated herself in the
back seat of the passenger's side of my Plymouth patrol car, it sank a good
As soon as L.B. had seated himself in the front passenger's side of
the vehicle, his wife stated, “You little son-of-a-bitch, you tell him the
truth. We've had to live with this thing for almost a year and I'm sick of
it. Do you understand me?” she stated in no uncertain terms.
“Alright honey, I'll tell him the truth,” L.B. Stated.
It was obvious I had a willing ally in Mrs. L.B. as well as
an unwilling one in W.B. “Your wife is a very wise woman – she
obviously has your welfare at heart. I'll take your statement in writing,”
I advised him. With that, I took a sworn and signed statement from L.B.
that substantially told the following story.
He (L.B.) had been a participant in a “fox drive” between Bryan,
Ohio and the Defiance County line. At that time, a legal method of
taking fox during which many hunters surround a section of land.
They walk to the center and shoot the fox therein. At the conclusion of
the fox drive, while returning home, L.B. drove several county roads,
including the Quarterline Road, hunting for whatever he might come
across. While on the Quarterline Road traveling west, he saw the two buck
deer fighting. He shot both in the heart. Then an interesting thing
happened. The deer kept on fighting for a short time after they were shot,
before dropping dead. Another car came along behind him and he fled the
scene. He didn't know what the occupants of the car may have seen. He (and
his wife) had worried about the whole affair ever since.
“You caused about 320 lbs. of venison to go to waste. You kept two
legal hunters from getting a trophy buck – do you realize that?” I asked.
“Yes, sir, I fully realize it. I’ll never do anything like that
again,” L.B. stated.
I cited L.B. to appear in Judge Reuben Hayward's Court the following
week. I advised L.B. of the maximum fine he was facing -- $200.00 for each
deer. I also advised him of the bond posting and forfeiture procedure.
Shortly thereafter, Ohio increased the maximum penalty for illegal deer
violations to $500.00
Subsequently I test fired L.B.'s Magnum rifle and took the bullet to
BCI for comparisons. The BCI report that resulted, stated the bullet fired
from L.B.'s rifle matched the two bullets removed from the deer “to the
exclusion of all others.” Thus, cinching my case.
L.B. later posted and forfeited a $400.00 bond. I returned his
rifle to him after he signed a receipt for same.
This case exemplified a typical poaching scenario in many respects.
One in which the illegal killing of a game animal results in the total waste
of that animal. In this case, 320 lbs. of venison went to a tankage
company. The trophy racks of both deer now hang on a state office wall
rather than in a proud hunter's trophy room, where they could bring back
many memories of a legal and successful hunt.
It took nine months, but Officer Weis was right, “It leaked.”