Stories from a Game Warden
Episode 11 “Prayers”
Disclaimer: All names have been intentionally changed.
It was a cool spring morning during the opening day of turkey season. I previously located a fresh pile of corn on a piece of private property. Hunting turkeys within 100 yards of any bait is not only considered unethical, but it was also illegal. I snuck into the area before daylight to conduct surveillance. I picked 3 big pine trees to hide behind and to conceal myself.
Just after daylight, a hunter arrived at the area. Most turkey hunters hunt on the ground by hunting out of a blind or by sitting on the ground but this guy had different plans. He walked up to the 3 trees that I was hiding behind and attached a climbing tree stand to one of the trees. Up he went and I was only 3′ away from him! I couldn’t move a muscle or make a noise because the hunter would have seen me. He was facing away from me and looking out into the field but all he had to do was to look over his right shoulder to see me laying on the ground. I was stuck and couldn’t move!
I had to be able to prove that the hunter was targeting turkeys as other types of animals such as wild hogs are considered a nuisance and can be hunted year-round over bait. I needed the hunter to either use a turkey call, use a turkey decoy, or shoot at a turkey in order to prove that turkeys were his intended species. My body started to ache because I couldn’t move a muscle or make a sound, so I did the only thing that I knew to do, I prayed! I prayed that if the man was turkey hunting, give me some type of sign that he was. I waited and nothing happened. I prayed again, nothing happened. My body was really aching, so I prayed some more. Again, nothing happened.
After about an hour, the hunter’s buddy walked up to him, and I thought to myself that they would talk about turkey hunting and that would be the proof that I needed. I heard every word, but they never mentioned turkeys. I prayed some more. Again, nothing happened. My body was aching all over. I couldn’t move a muscle because I was only 3 feet from the hunter. I prayed some more. My body ached. All I needed was for turkeys to show up to see if he would shoot at them. Again, nothing happened. I prayed some more.
After a couple of hours, the man started to climb down from the tree. As soon as he neared the ground, I jumped up and hobbled my aching body over to him and said, “Wildlife Officer, good morning”. The hunter immediately responded by yelling out, “I’m turkey hunting! You caught me! I’m hunting turkeys over bait!”
Prayers were answered!
By Steve Wayne
About the Author:
Steve Wayne has spent 30 years as a Fish and Wildlife Officer in the state of Florida. Steve has worked in various roles and locations throughout the state and has promoted to the level of Area Captain supervising 30 officers in 3 counties. During his career, Steve was selected as the State Wildlife Officer of the Year and 16 years later was selected as the Statewide Investigator of the Year by both his agency and from the State Law Enforcement Chief’s Association. In 2019, Steve was part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Port Investigations team which received national honors as Team of the Year.