I don’t know how many times I have written that Missouri Department of Conservation game wardens are the friends of no one they choose to visit. When they come with hat in hand and ask, all friendly like, if they can come into your home for a visit, don’t be fooled. They are there to see if and how they can find a technicality which can hang you. Tell them they cannot come into your home or any outbuilding without a search warrant! Use your head– they are there to nail you on something that involves a technicality you never dreamed of. They are not your friends.
With this weeks column I am going to tell you about a perfectly innocent hunter who learned that the hard way. But first I want to say that I had a long conversation by phone with the MDC director, Mrs. Sara Pauley, who has surprised the hell out of me. Mrs. Pauley has agreed to come down to the Ozarks to meet with me and see some of the things I have been writing about. I have met with and interviewed five different MDC directors over the years with tremendously disappointing results. Most of them were merely puppets, and couldn’t have cared less what happened to Missouri’s wildlife, forests and streams.
For some reason I cannot explain I feel a little bit of optimism in this new director’s words. She asked me to meet her halfway on some of the problems I have seen and written about, and want to see corrected. I told her I would meet her 90 percent of the way, and I intend to do that. I will give the MDC’s side of any story, but I have said that often. They do not want to try to defend the things they do and I don’t blame them. Defending some of their actions calls attention to what they do not want known. If any readers want to send me questions to ask of Mrs. Pauley, I will try to get the answers you seek.
The young man who is now suffering from trusting a pair of agents, is Jeremy Henshaw, an air force veteran and school board member living in Rushville, MO. He bought five acres and a home in 2005 and since then he and his wife have killed eight bucks on his land with landowner permits which are allowed by Conservation Department regulations if you own five acres of land.
Those two agents came to get those eight mounted deer heads! The value of them may exceed $30,000 or $40,000. They told Mr. Henshaw that they had done some checking and found that his five acres did not actually involve five acres, but somewhere around 4.86 acres. He got out all his paperwork and like most tracts sold in the Ozarks, it doesn’t give exact acreage to the tenth of an acre. The seller and real estate agent said five acres and Henshall believed them. When he pays his property taxes, the acreage isn’t given. He could never have known what those two low-life agent had found out.
Can you imagine a pair of agents stooping this low? Who is paying them to come up with those eight deer mounts? Someone is! Henshaw is going to court with a lawyer, but here is the problem there. That judge may be one of many that has reaped rewards given to lawyers and judges by the Conservation Department.
Do you doubt this assertion? They gave almost a quarter million dollars to a judge in western Missouri named Kelso because he allowed high level MDC people to hunt his private refuge. And forever and ever, the MDC will use our money we give to them, to pay the annual property taxes on his private hunting preserve.
Tim Ripperger, a deputy director with the MDC years ago finally admitted to me that 14 lawyers and judges had received such payments to use at their discretion in developing their private hunting grounds. One judge, of great political power, got the zone boundaries between two waterfowl zones changed to run through his land so that he could hunt ducks and geese in two different seasons just by stepping across a highway.
On the private land of one of the state’s wealthiest judges, the Missouri Department of Conservation helped build a half-mile levee to create one of the best waterfowl hunting areas I have ever seen, only for that judge and lawyer friends to hunt. He never paid a penny for it, according to sources within the MDC who are incensed about it. Isn’t it a surprise that members of the MDC also hunt there?
Meanwhile if Mr. Henshaw could have this decided by a 12-man jury, he would easily win in very little time. I intend to go to that trial and look into possible involvement between lawyers of that area, and the judge, and the MDC. It may be that his deer heads were doomed before he so graciously let those friendly agents into his home with no search warrant.
You know, as do I, that those two agents did not find such a detailed legal description of Henshaw’s land on their own, without direction. Where did that aid and direction come from? And why has his lack of knowledge about his 4.8 acres not being the 5 acres he thought he bought, become such a serious issue 12 years later? Those two agents ought to be ashamed of themselves, and perhaps look into the Bible to find some advice on how to treat your fellow man. All men, in time, will stand before a judge and they are not exempt.
I am very anxious to see if Mrs. Pauley is as concerned about this as all Missourians should be. Larry Yamnitz, chief of enforcement for the MDC, is of no use in getting any problems dealt with in a just manner. Over the years of meeting with him and hearing him promise a change, I have given up any hope that he can do anything about rogue agents. I have seen such agents who are beneath him just ignore his directives, and he does nothing about it. It is as if they are untouchable, out of control, and they know it.
But remember that if agents come to your home and ask politely to come in, tell them politely to go obtain a search warrant first. While they are doing that, hide any legally taken deer mounts or turkey mounts… because they are there to take them.
Henshaw will lose his deer heads without ever going into that courtroom. He doesn’t have a chance. It is already decided. Because there is a fraction of an acre he knew nothing about, his deer heads will be sold, or perhaps someday hang in the office of friends of the commissioners, judges or lawyers. And as always, the MDC people involved in this will lie and say they are going to destroy those eight deer heads, all $40,000 worth of them. Baloney!! Ever wonder why no media can see that happen, why all witnesses to such an event are barred. No one has ever seen that destruction of confiscated property occur, because it doesn’t happen.. never has!
After I attend that trial I will report back to readers, and after I meet with Director Pauley, I will tell you what we discussed, and her side of the story. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope that someday our Conservation Department actually serves to advance the notion of resource conservation– and fair treatment of the state’s citizens who aren’t rich and special and powerful. And I hope someday, that all men and women who wear a badge are held to the same standards as the rest of us, and can be prosecuted for breaking the law, perhaps sued for violating a citizens rights.
Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to order our spring magazine or any of my books, or any other reason, you may call our office to do so. Remember too that we still have free tables for vendors at our March 24 outdoorsman’s swap meet. Call 417-777-5227.