How the Game Warden Saved Christmas

School of hard knocks

This mule deer buck was headed for the happy hunting grounds – that is until a local game warden and his helpers showed up on the scene.

How the game warden
saved Christmas

    On Nov. 20, 2004, Whitecourt Fish and Wildlife officers were alerted to a matter of great concern for a young mule deer buck. I took the call and listened while Scott Young of Whitecourt and Keith Maygard of Devon reported that they had observed a young buck that had broken through a thin sheet of ice on the Mcleod River. The ice sheet looked as though it was about to break away and be swept downstream. 

     I jumped into my truck and drove the 20 kilometres to the location in order to rescue the animal, secretly hoping that the deer would be free and on shore upon my arrival. 

     No such luck. I found the deer still treading water; however, it was apparent that with each kick more of its energy was lost to the current beneath the ice. The water depth was a significant 20 feet, and with the ice breaking away each time the deer attempted to pull itself to safety, it was obvious that a direct approach would be nothing short of suicide. 

   To affect the rescue, I would be forced to test my skill with a rope and deal with a case of nerves as the ice barked out warnings with each step I took to get close enough to secure the rope to the failing animal. A good cast with an open loop and the fate of the deer became much less dire as the loop closed tightly around the antlers. Its rescue then became a matter of time. With a little effort, my helpers and I were soon able to afford the deer the security it needed to be able to establish its footing on sturdier ice. It wasn’t long before it stood firmly on the sunny side of the ice and then slowly made its way to the shelter of the river bank. 

     Following an article that appeared in the local Whitecourt newspaper, a young lad was overheard asking his mother if it was Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer that was pulled out of the river. The mother answered reassuringly, “That’s right son, the game warden saved Christmas.”

Mark Hoskin is a member of the Alberta 
Game Warden Association in Whitecourt.


School of hard knocks

     On Oct. 3, 2004, Swan Hills Fish and Wildlife officers received a complaint from a concerned landowner regarding a white-tailed deer that was shot near a residence the previous night. Witnesses reported that they woke up to two rifle shots at 11:30 p.m. and observed a vehicle’s taillights driving across a field near the residence. At 12:00 a.m., the witnesses woke again to two more shots near the residence. One witness went outside and heard people talking in the trees. The witness scared off the individuals and observed two vehicles flee the scene. The next morning the witness located a shot-and-left whitetail buck. They called Fish and Wildlife officers. 

     An officer attended the location and found vehicle tracks at the scene that led him to a residence in the area. An adult at the residence denied knowing anything about the shot deer. The officer contacted the parents by phone and explained the circumstances surrounding the investigation. A short time after the officer left the residence, the parents of a youth at the residence phoned and informed the officer that one of their children had taken a family member’s vehicle and shot the deer the previous night. 

     On Oct. 10, 2004, a Fish and Wildlife officer met with the youth and his parents. A statement was taken from the youth, who confessed taking a family member’s vehicle and going for a drive to look for deer. During that time a large whitetail buck was observed and the youth shot the deer. The youth left the area and returned with a younger family member to assist in tracking and retrieving the deer. They were subsequently scared off by the witness and fled the scene. 

     On Dec. 21, 2004, the youth appeared in Swan Hills provincial court and plead guilty to one count of hunting at night between the hours specified and one count of being a person under 18 years of age hunting unaccompanied by an adult. The judge ordered the youth to pay a fine of $150, was prohibited from possessing a recreational licence for a period of one year, was ordered to complete 50 hours of community service and was required to write an essay about the events that occurred on the night of Oct. 2, 2004 (see below).

What was I thinking?

     I have tried to start this a few times and I have decided to just tell this how it is. I am not allowed to print my name because I am only 15-years-old and I have broke the law. I was visited by a Fish and Wildlife officer, had my Dad’s gun taken away, wrote a statement, was charged, summoned, got yelled at a lot, was told by my Mother I had really disappointed her, and then went to court. Now I have to pay a fine (out of my money not my parents money) I have lost my hunting licence for a year, I have to do 50 hours of community service, and I have to write this essay. All over what happened on Oct. 2nd, 2004. This is what happened. 
     There are six of us in the family, my Mom and Dad were working away and I was staying home with one of my older brothers and my sister. We live on a farm and have a lot of coyotes around our place, and of course they like to howl a lot at night. About 11 pm our dogs were barking so my brother, sister and I decided to go out into the field to see if we could see the coyotes. We drove out there but didn’t see any coyotes, all we saw was a field full of deer. We returned to the house. My brother and sister were surprising my parents by painting the bathroom, so they went back to doing that. I watched TV for awhile, the dogs started to bark again so I decided to go back out to the field. I had to sneak out of the house as I was supposed to help the others but didn’t want to. I drove around our field there were sure a lot of deer out there but I had heard across the road there had been a monster buck, big enough to make “the book” so I drove over there. I wanted to get a look at him. I drove across the field, there were deer all over, I saw does, fawns, and bucks of every size. Suddenly right in front of me was the biggest Whitetail buck I have ever seen! Huge, Horns everywhere standing right in front of me. Without thinking I grabbed the rifle out of the back of the jeep, and shot! He started to run for the bush so I shot again. I knew he was hit, he wasn’t gonna go far. He slowly got to the bush, I didn’t want to go into the bush alone. I had to go and get someone to help me. 
     I went into the house and told my brother what I had done, he started to yell at me, telling me how stupid I was. He wouldn’t come help me get it. All I could think about was I had shot this deer I had to go get it now, I couldn’t just leave it there. 
     I convinced my sister to come with me, she could drive the quad so I would have some light, and she could help me load the deer on the trailer behind the jeep. We took off over there. After getting to the bush line, we shone the lights into the bush and there he was still standing so I shot again. Suddenly I heard a shot, someone was shooting at me. It was coming from the house on the other side of the bush. They shot again. Someone was shooting at me now, so we ran, got the quad and jeep and took off for home. I decided to go back for the deer in the morning. 
    I don’t think I slept at all that night. I knew what I had done was so wrong, but I still had to go get the deer so he wasn’t wasted. Well let me say the next day didn’t get any better. 
     I was in my room when I heard a knock at the door. I heard a man asking who was the adult in the house. My brother went to the door. He was asked to go outside. I ran to the door, it was Fish and Wildlife! It seemed like he was out there forever. I was so afraid, honestly I thought any second they were going to come for me and take me away. The phone rang in the house. I answered it. It was my Dad! What else could go wrong. I didn’t even get to talk, he started to ask me what I had been doing the night before. I said nothing, he started to yell. “I know Fish and Wildlife are in the yard, they think you shot a deer, they followed the tracks, there’s a gun in the jeep, I need to know if you did it” he said. Oh no he knew, I had to fess up. I hung up the phone, it wasn’t long before my brother came back into the house and the Fish and Wildlife officers left. I then found out that the rifle had been taken and my Mom and Dad were on their way home. 
    My brother told me the officers had questioned him, he told them he never shot a deer. They asked who else was in the house, but because I am under age, they asked him for our parents phone number. By the time my parents got home they had told the Fish and Wildlife officers that yes I had shot the deer. A few days later the officer and my parents met at the house. I told them everything that happened. I wrote my statement and waited for my summons to go to court. 
     When the day came to appear in court, I didn’t know what to think or feel. I was scared, sick and embarrassed about what I had done. Court is a place I never want to go back to. They call out your name, read all the charges, and ask what do you plead. All I said was GUILTY! 
     Now I have to write what I have learnt from this and why I will not do it again. But I don’t know how to explain what I felt when I saw that buck. It wasn’t something I was going to do when I went into that field. I wish I would of seen him when I was hunting in the bush with my family, shot him and been able to tell the story and brag about it. But making the choice I did, doesn’t prove I’m a good hunter or anything. 
     When my year suspension is over I have to take a course to get my hunting licence back. Then I am going to go hunting again. But now I am going to hunt where and when I am supposed to. I am not proud of what I have done but I hope somehow my story helps someone else not make the same mistake I did.