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Lewes, Delaware
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November 8, 2002     Cape Gazette
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November 8, 2002

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CAPE GAZETYE, Friday, Nov. 8 - Nov. 14, 2002 - 107 Fish and wildlife agents on the prowl for poachers Senior Cpl. Robert Legates ex- pects it to be a banner year for deer poachers. Legates is a Division of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officer. He staked out a nearly deserted spot, Nov. 1, and allowed me to tag along with him as he tried to nab deer spotlighters. We worked an area west of Millsboro, although Legates didn't want the road name used. For four hours until nearly midnight, Legates sat in a dark truck with the headlights and brakelights turned off and watched from his vantage point deep in a grove of trees. The area was so deserted that we saw only one other person dur- ing our four-hour patrol, a perfect spot for deer poachers. It proved a quiet night with no arrests, but that is typical of most stakeouts. Agents are more likely to be shot at than are police officers. Delaware has had no fatalities among its understaffed Division of Fish and Wildlife agents, but such incidents are commonplace across the nation when poachers are cornered. I wasn't disappointed by the quiet night. "This isn't exactly thrill-a- minute stuff sometimes," he said. While it was a quiet night, Legates explained poaching is common and many nights are far from quiet. Spotlighting involves "freezing" deer motionless. We watched for the telltale slowly moving vehicle and spotlight or headlight shining across farm fields. It's considered an extremely ef- fective tool for poaching. Poachers face the loss of their vehicle, fines, loss of weapons and hunting privileges. It's a stiff price, and some of the poachers have upped the ante. Night vision goggles are now standard equipment for many OUTDOORS Michael Short spotlighters and they often place nails to flatten or slash tires in spots where fish and wildlife agents are know to wait. Such messages are-common- place. "It's a cultural type thing," Legates said. "It's not sport and it's not food. Sometimes they brag about how many deer they shoot. Sometimes they are left in the field or racks are taken...We had a banner year last year and it looks like we might have another one this year." Spotlighting may" not be on the rise, but it is common and it isn't expected to drop any time soon. It becomes, in some ways, a game of cat and mouse between the two sides. New surveillance techniques, like hidden camera,s are used by agents, but they have to be in the right spot at the right time to make an arrest. High powered rifles, with am- munition that can carry more than a mile in pancake-flat terrain lo- cally, are considered extremely dangerous. That makes poaching at night, often near homes, extremely haz- agdous, Legates said. Many use all-terrain vehicles for quick get- aways across fields and streams. Poachers often run and the 12- gauge shotgun laid carefully across Legates' seat was evidence that poachers are often found car- rying $900 rifles that are state-of- the-art. His sidearm would be no match. Most cases aren't violent and many spoflighters actually bring children and leave them on the backseat of their truck while they shoot deer. Agents work closely with the police and they rely on hunters to be their eyes and ears. They use stuffed deer, night vision goggles and remote controlled deer to en- tice would-be poachers and to spot them when they take aim at deer. They tend to be understaffed and underpaid. But sometimes, the work can actually be fun. There's also the great stories, like the man who was so startled that hc jumped out of the back of a moving vehicle or the spotlighter last year who shot through his floorboards. Once, Legates and three other agents watched as a well-meaning pair of elderly ladies tried to get the mechanical deer to move away from the open field. He enticingly moved the head and flicked the tail. But instead of poachers, they attracted two women who looked like they had just left their church The ladies, obviously fearing hunters would kill the deer, walked further and further into the field to shoo it away. The deer didn't move and the ladies never did figure out that they were trying to save a me- chanical decoy. Legates loves making an arrest and he loves the battle of wits with poachers. For example, he can tell if a deer has been killed before the hunting season opens. Call him the "Quincy" of the wildlife world, because a medical examiner has little on these agents. The big blues are running in earnest ,By Michael Short Big fall fish have started to run in earnest with the first real slam- mer bluefish showing up in the surf and the striper fishing expect- ed to be the best of the year in the next two to three weeks. Action for both has been good with striper action producing many large fish over 30 inches in length. Smaller fish of slot size - 24 to 28 inches - are actually harder to come by than lunkers right now. Striper fishing continued to re- main red hot on fishable days. Limit catches in the Delaware Bay rips were common some days, and other days it was tough to find a slot fish. Live spot has been out- fishing live eels in both the rips and Indian River Inlet. A few fish have been boated on bucktails and trolling lures. Bob and Sleepy Joe boated 16 stripers to 33 pounds on live spot at Overfalls. Paul Valk- stellar reported nine bass to 36 inches on spot and eels behind 8A and Terry Gragg had fish to 40 inches in the same areas. Indian River is also red hot. Tang fishing was also holding up this week on area reefs and rockpiles with "Biff" Barton and crew bagging 40 keepers, Craig Rockewll bested a 9.38 pounder at the wall, and Wilson Graham had his limit. Bottom fishing remained good on inshore snags and broken bot- tom. Frank Smith, Jon Smith and Clayton Miller had 75 seabass to three pounds at B Bu W. Surf fishing produced a mix of bluefish, puppy dru and stripers with some real big bluefish to 14 pounds caught Nov. 2. Cut bait, clams and metal will all produce. Melanie Heft caught a 29-inch, 3- pound croaker at Broadldll Beach. Big blues, according to Bill's Sport Shop, have slammed the beach and the striper action has gone wild. Jeremy Diehl, Dave Rodriguez and Matt Thompson caught 10 stripers with five keep- ers up to 33 inches also on live spot. Travis Sandsted and his dad Jeff boated three stripers with one 36- inch fish in the inlet. Scott Aiken and Jim Crowe also got in on the action drifting white bucktails and white worms with three fish to 35 inches. mau, G m.t  Droney honored for work with CIB Clarke Droney received a Friend of the Bays award from the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays (CIB) Nov. 4. Droney - has worked extensively with the James Farm and owns Droney Marine and the local Tow Boat U.S. business. He has been especially helpful in placing the new oyster reef at the James Farm and the award is in recognition of his outstandin n support for Delaware's inland bays. He is shown receiving the award from Center for the Inland Bays Restoration Coordinator Jim Alderman. Shotgun season opens, new checking system in place It's time for shotgun season for deer to begin. The season runs from Saturday, Nov. 15 to Sunday, Nov. 23. The di- vision will implement the new automated phone-in deer checking sys- tern. By calling 800-Wetland (800-938-5263), hunters may now officially register their deer without going to a local checking station. Hunters will answer a series of questions by using the telephone key- pad to improve efficiency and quickness. MARYLAND-DELAWARE-De Press Service For informadon call 410-721-5115 Reach over 1.7 million households per week with the best network coverage anywhere! Call Today To Reserve Your Space! WET BASEMENTS STINK!! You've got mold, mildew, and if it rains hard, you get water leaking into your basement. You need to get it fixed before your foundation is ruined. What can be done to fix the problem? Allstate American Waterproofing is an honest, ---t-rardworking local company. We will come to your home, give you a free evaluation and estimate and a fair price. We have repaired thousands of basements in the area; we can provide local neighborhood references. When your neighbors needed waterproofing, they called Allstate American. Why don't you? 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