"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.
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.
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
pondered that for a few seconds until I said, “Kearney High,
Class of 77!”
Stover put out his right hand and announced, “Kearney High,
Class of 75!”
You’re Morey’s brother!” Morris Stover graduated
in my class, while Craig was two years older.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!”
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!
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.
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.
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!
Purple Sage Law Enforcement