Sixteen-hour shifts, 22-hour shifts, ’round-the-clock watches.
Exhausted Fish & Wildlife officers curled up on the hard floor back at headquarters.
One hundred and twenty citations issued in just nine days by five guys.
Vehicles impounded. Rifles seized. Dead deer taken away.
A suspect hauled off to jail.
While my father and I and several friends were hunting the Methow Valley’s highlands during last month’s general deer season, Sgt. Jim Brown and the rest of the Okanogan Detachment of WDFW’s Enforcement Division were trying to keep order everywhere else — and having a hard go of it.
“The common thread is these people come from elsewhere — and I’m not singling out the Coast — and they disconnect their brains. Did you think you were going to the moon and there were no game laws?” Brown wonders.
According to a local paper, most of those citations occurred in the Methow Valley, and included the usual suspects — “trespassing and alcohol violations” — but five hunters also shot at a robotic deer decoy.
One guy who allegedly shot at a real deer and shouldn’t have was Jack W. Hill of Darrington, caught by the State Patrol along the Conconully Highway outside Okanogan with a 4×4 at, oh, 2 a.m.
Brown says because the man, described as in his 20s, has been convicted before, it was a felony offense. Hill was booked and jailed and had his Jeep Grand Cherokee seized.
Two other men were cited for illegally shooting two does, not tagging them, killing them in an area not open for does and for illegally transporting them. Their Nissan Frontier was seized, and while it has since been bought back, Brown says a criminal case is still pending.
It’s always busy, of course, when it comes to the general rifle hunt in Okanogan County, one of the state’s top destinations for big muleys. And Brown says he’s always asking for more help from elsewhere in the state, but they’re just not available.
That meant 10- and 16-hour days for he and his officers, even two who were out 22 and 24 hours, the latter lengthened by the arrest of Hill. Brown says his men were too exhausted to drive home after their shifts, so they rolled out sleeping bags and crashed in the office.
“I came into the office and said, ‘What’s this?'” Brown recalls.
And no, they didn’t get overtime.
“These guys are dedicated,” says the sergeant.
As it was, the 120 citations represent 20 to 25 percent of the annual case load for the detachment, which also covers northern Douglas County, Brown says.
He seems to have a particular distaste for trespassers hunting on private land who won’t leave, or who leave gates open, or who cut fences.
“It gives (landowners) a bad taste in their mouth,” he says.
And then, he says, hunters wonder why a rancher won’t give out permission to access their land.
“Well, let me tell you the history behind that guy,” he says.
Brown himself hears about it. He’s a hunter, but when he goes a’knocking on farmland doors, he doesn’t reveal that he’s a warden.
“Those guys who do that stuff give all hunters a bad name,” he says.