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Quarterline Deer Poacher


James (Ron) Bailey

        “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 day.

        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 days earlier.

        “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 quiet.

        “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 investigation.

        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 assignment.

        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 four inches.

        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.” 

Ron Bailey started at the Olentangy Wildlife Research Station at Delaware in 1953. He later served as Spring Valley Wildlife Area Mgr, Union County Game Protector (old District 6) and Wildlife Enforcement Agent (District 2). Ron entered the Federal Service in 1968. Retired from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as Special Agent-in-Charge of both North and South Carolina in 1992. He had fourteen years with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

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Last update: October 25, 2013.