"Kill da Wabbit:
Valley Police Department, October 1990
Poaching is a very serious issue in Nebraska, and the Game and Parks commission, as well as many other law enforcement agencies take it very seriously.

Within a year or so after I started working at Valley, I had the opportunity to meet the new Game Warden who would be working our area. “722” called on the radio and asked if he could meet me at my office.

On arrival, the tall young man with blond hair in a gray uniform steps out of his patrol car, and introduced himself as Craig Stover… Before his name sunk in, I mentioned, “You look awfully familiar…” He glanced at me and while squinting his eyes he replied, “So do you…”

We both pondered that for a few seconds until I said, “Kearney High, Class of 77!”

Craig Stover put out his right hand and announced, “Kearney High, Class of 75!”

“Ok! You’re Morey’s brother!” Morris Stover graduated in my class, while Craig was two years older.

Craig and I hit it right off, talking about people and places we both knew. Another Game Warden who also worked the area was Duane Arp, who was also from Kearney, and graduated with Craig’s class. We pretty much decided that Western Douglas County should simply be renamed, East Kearney!

For the most part, Game Wardens work out of, and respond from their homes, and Craig and his family had recently moved into a house just south of Valley. Not only did we see each other often, we backed each other, and assisted on various incidents and cases.

You have to give the Game Wardens Credit. While fishing violation might not be too rough, consider that most other game violations almost always involve some sort of fire arm. Even if it’s simply checking for a valid hunting license, the citizen is almost always armed with a rifle or a shotgun!

The first case I worked with Craig and Duane, was a report of a local resident who had been poaching deer out of season. We knocked on the subject’s residence to talk to him, but got no reply. As we looked around the property, we looked through a window into the unattached garage, and observed a miter saw choked full of what appeared to be blood and dear hair. In the trash cans, we found dear legs, and a pile of pheasant fathers. (Pheasants were also out of season…) The guys came back the next day with an arrest warrant and a search warrant to search the subject’s residence. The guy’s freezer was full of the butchered and wrapped game. This was a very expensive arrest for the subject!

While we were lucky to have two Game Wardens resident in our county, most areas of the state were fortunate if they had one Game Warden, as in some cases, the area Game Warden had to cover two or more counties. Because of this, many law enforcement agencies took an interest in assisting the game officers, and we mutually supported each other.

Poaching is a very serious issue in Nebraska, and the Game and Parks commission, as well as many other law enforcement agencies take it very seriously. The Game Commission owns a very realistic, fake dear they call Elmer, which they will put in a field, and then simply wait, and watch. Eventually, some guy will come along the county road, see the dear, pull out his rifle, and take a shot at it. Most time, the guy will take several shots at it before he figures out he’s been caught poaching. It is all recorded!

The other kind of poaching is known as Spotlighting. The aim is to collect furs for selling on the market. Basically, the offender(s) drive slowly, all blacked out along a county road. They will light up an electric spotlight, which will typically reveal the eyes of wild game glowing back at them. These guys will shoot at anything with eyes that glow back at them! Rabbits, raccoons, possums, skunks, coyotes, livestock, domestic pets, you name it! So on one hand you have the poaching offense, wrapped up in the potential danger and property damage these guys can cause. Most of these guys who enjoy the “sport” of spotlighting have more than a rifle and a spotlight in their bag of standard operating equipment; they also usually possess radio scanners to monitor police, sheriff, and game wardens who are on the lookout for them. In this manner, the "spot lighter" can avoid apprehension by the authorities.

Catching and apprehending spot lighters can be very challenging, and takes a bit of finesse. The first thing to watch for is the beam of the light tracking across the horizon, most typically along roads near creeks and rivers. Effort has to be made not to confuse these lights with vehicle head lights, and airport beacons which can be seen from miles and miles away. (I once got Craig up in the middle of the night to chase the airport beacon at the Wahoo Airport, nearly twenty miles away!) Then, while not alerting the poachers to your presence, get close enough to them to actually see the light being held from the vehicle, and shots being fired. You have to actually see them commit the offense, or you don’t have a case. I know of at least one Buffalo County Sheriff’s Deputy who blindly drove his patrol car into the ditch while trying to sneak up on some poachers at night!

After making a successful arrest, a recording of the Looney Toons’ Elmer Fudd singing to the Flight of the Valkyries might often be heard on one of the side channels; “Kill da wabit! Kill da wabit! Kill da wabit!

It was around 2:00 or 3:00 AM during an evening in October 1990 when I pulled into the Guard Shack at Valmont Industries late one night for a coffee break. Their main guard shack was located just off Nebraska Highway 64 and County Road 104. I poured my coffee, grabbed the morning paper, and sat down, when I saw a red pickup truck slowing traveling west on NE-64. What caught my attention was that it was traveling so slow… The truck get’s just west of the gate when all of the sudden, a spotlight come on, shining into the road ditch, follow by four shots in quick succession. POP! POP! POP! POP!

This brought my coffee cup down on the desk! I ran outside and jumped into my patrol car to go after these guys as the truck takes off west on NE-64. I catch up to them just as soon as they were heading into Ginger Cove, where I turned on my Red and Blue lights. While calling out the stop, I asked dispatch to summon 722 and have him meet me at my location.

There were three good old boys in the truck, each with a rifle and one six inch spotlight plugged into the dashboard. In the bed of the truck were quite a variety of freshly killed game consisting of the usual fare; rabbits, raccoons, possums, etc.

Craig arrived in very short order, and I brief him on what I had. Craig issues citations to all three of these individuals, but the lesson didn’t end there. Their rifles, and all their ammunition was confiscated, their spotlight was confiscated, and they would be receiving a bill from the State of Nebraska for liquidated damages to account for each one of the twelve dead critters found in their possession. …Oh! Craig confiscated the critters too!

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