Episode 9 “Shots Fired”
Stories from a Game Warden
As Game Wardens, we came across dangerous situations all the time. Chasing bad guys can be rather risky as many people we encountered were armed. This was one of those times.
I responded to a ranch on the Kissimmee River to help my partner, Jeff Greer. It was nighttime and Jeff had watched a truck driving around on a ranch shining a spotlight and occasionally firing a gunshot into the still of the night. We believed that the occupants of the truck could be illegally night hunting. It was against the law to shine a light and possess a firearm in an area that deer were found, and it was also against the law to take many species of wildlife at night with a gun and light.
We drove our patrol trucks as close as we could without being seen by the truck. We watched the truck as it slowly drove back and forth on the ranch while shining a spotlight. Occasionally a gunshot would be heard coming from the truck. The area consisted of a wide-open pasture with very few trees around. The truck was working its’ way towards the center of the property which contained an interior fence and gate. Our plan was to set out on foot to the gate. We would hide in the tall grass next to the gate and stop the hunters when they stopped their truck to open the gate.
We arrived and the gate and both waited in the tall grass next to the gate as the truck got closer. Suddenly, the truck stopped and shined a spotlight in our direction and a gunshot exploded through the silence. A bullet whipped through the grass that we were hiding in, missing us by inches! Then another shot and another bullet came whizzing by us, missing us by inches! There was nothing to hide behind, only grass! Another shot rang out! Jeff and I were under fire with nowhere to hide! It got so bad that we actually gave each other our farewells. We thought that we were going to get shot!
Gunshots came shooting through the tall grass for several minutes before the truck decided to take a turn to go through a different gate on the property. We ran back to our patrol trucks and drove around to one of the entrances on the property and met the truck as it was leaving the ranch. We stopped the truck who ended up being the landowner who was eradicating armadillos from his property because they were tearing up his pasture. At the time, armadillos were a nonnative species that could be legally taken at night. He was legal. We risked our lives and almost got shot for an armadillo! The landowner had no clue that we were hiding in the tall grass.
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.