I have been mulling over whether or not to post this story for a week now. Anonymity bestows a certain peace of mind but I suppose if those who are in hot water right now really wanted to find me they could and this is a story worth telling. Here it is……….
Last Sunday a couple of buddies and I headed out to Maud Road to do a little waterfowl hunting in the swamp despite the reports of ducks being few and far between. We launched at Mud Lake with the intent to run back to Swan/Leaf. However, our outboard was acting up and we decided to play it safe and came back to Mud Lake and try our luck there. We set-up on the backside of the ridge about a half mile straight out from the boat launch on the right and waited for the ducks to cooperate. It was a beautiful blue-sky day on the swamp and not unexpectedly the ducks were scarce and the ones interested in our decoy spread were even scarcer.
I was sitting back enjoying the scenery when I heard three shots in quick succession off to my left. It sounded like the shots came from the boat launch area which I couldn’t see and peering in that direction I didn’t notice anyone around in my line of sight. However, a few seconds later a flight of three swans came into view on my left flying low over the water making a bee-line away from where the shots had come from. I was about 200-250 yards away but I could clearly see the swan in the back was hurting. This was confirmed when it hit the water in a crumpled mess and the other two swans made a graceful right turn landing 70 yards in front of me. I got out my binos and focused on the downed swan which had managed to pull itself together and despite what looked like a broken wing started slowly swimming away. I called over to my buddy 30 yards away and told him that I think someone had wounded a swan. He came over to where I was and at about that time a jonboat with two guys motored into view heading for the downed bird. My buddy dug out his video camera while I focused my binos on the boat and watched the guy in the front raise his gun and shoot the crippled swan on the water. I then watched as they retrieved the big white bird, wrung its neck and stashed it in the boat. All the while my buddy was recording events with his 1080p HD video camera on maximum zoom. It was about this time that I think the fellows in the jonboat noticed us watching them and quickly motored off to the far side of Mud Lake where we lost track of them.
It took a few minutes to process what we had just seen. Could anyone really be so brazen/clueless/stupid to shoot a swan here? There was no mistaking those swans for any other waterfowl and the nearest unit that has legal swan hunting is 200 miles away. A quick check of my cell phone found that I had signal (barely) and the ADF&G violation reporting number was in my contacts list. The number got me to trooper dispatch and after a quick description of what I had witnessed they promised to send a trooper if one could be spared. About 10 minutes later I got a call back from the Palmer brownshirt on duty saying he was on the way. After packing up our spread we met the wildlife Trooper at the boat launch and described what we had witnessed and showed him the video on the small screen of the camera. After taking our statement (and checking our licences) we were about to leave when a suspiciously familiar jonboat began making its way slowly back to the launch. With another trooper on the way and the Federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Enforcement officer not far behind we decided that all was well in hand and they didn’t need us around anymore.
A few days later we got the full story of what happened after our departure. The two fellows in the jonboat were questioned when they made it back to the launch and after denying any knowledge of swan shooting eventually confessed when made aware of the witnesses and the video. The dead swan had been dumped in the swamp and was not with them at the time of initial contact but was retrieved. The case was handed off to Federal US Fish and Wildlife Enforcement and that is where my knowledge of events ends. I hope all the responsible sportsmen reading this will take heart in the knowledge that “the system” does work on occasion and if we take a little time and trouble to do our part in reporting violations it won’t always be in vain.