An ongoing investigation

By DAN GEDDINGS
Posted 10/7/18

I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had just gotten a text from my son Clayton that read, "Well, we got a problem. The stand is gone." It was 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. Opening day of the deer season, and one of our stands had been …

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An ongoing investigation

Posted

I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had just gotten a text from my son Clayton that read, "Well, we got a problem. The stand is gone." It was 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. Opening day of the deer season, and one of our stands had been stolen from the property.

It was still dark, so I texted Clayton back: "Come over here." I was about 200 yards away sitting in a ground blind that could accommodate two hunters. The other stands were too far away to allow Clayton to get to one of them before daylight.

I was furious that someone had stolen one of our stands, but there wasn't a whole lot I could do about it at the moment. Shortly, I heard a slight noise and looked back to see Clayton walking toward the blind in the early morning gloom. He came in and settled into the other chair beside me. We spoke softly for a few minutes then sat quietly as daylight crept into the woods around us.

Then to our utter astonishment, we heard someone make a little whoop toward the back of our property. My first thought was that someone was releasing a pack of hounds into the woods. Now, we could hear someone talking. There is no road to that area, so I knew they must have walked across the surrounding agricultural fields to get to our land.

Our hunt was ruined, but I told Clayton to stay in the blind and listen. I was going to investigate. I walked back to the truck and drove down the nearest highway that runs parallel to our property. No vehicles or other hunters were seen. I turned around and took the nearest county road. Again, no vehicles or hunters. I stopped and listened for four-wheelers. Nothing.

My guess was that whoever was back there saw my truck on the highway and slipped away. We never heard a dog bark, so I assumed they were going to do a "push" or man drive. I was boiling mad that someone had stolen a stand, and now we had trespassers on opening day!

Later, I realized that the ground blind couldn't be secured, so I removed it from the property. In the next few weeks, we put up another stand in place of the one that was stolen and secured it with a heavy chain and lock. I brought up a stand from the Lowcountry club that we needed to move. It could replace the ground blind but needed a little cleanup work.

So, last Sunday I took the stand to the property. It was a pleasant afternoon. My son Clayton was coming over to help me install the stand. I was parked in the shade near our sign-in box, scraping off some rust and touching up the paint on the ladder.

Then suddenly, right behind me in the woods. Boom, boom, boom - five or six shots fired in rapid succession. They were heavy shotgun loads, and very close. I checked the sign-in box. No one had signed in to hunt. I've heard that sound before, and I was pretty sure that someone had startled a deer and snapped off some hurried shots as it bounded away. Someone in my woods - trespassing. The anger boiled up in me again, but this time I needed to catch them.

I stepped through a section of the woods, on a short trail that leads to the bean field that borders my property. I stopped in the edge of the woods and looked over the field. No one was in sight. I noticed a four-wheeler out on the nearby highway. It was racing away, so I returned to my truck and headed to the highway.

I didn't want to confront someone with a gun, but I didn't want them to get away either. I didn't know who to call in Clarendon County, so I called my friend Ed, who is a game warden in Sumter County. His line was busy, so I called the toll-free number that is printed on my hunting license. The dispatcher in Columbia took my information and advised me that someone would call. In a few minutes, my phone rang. It was Ed; no one was available in Clarendon County, so Columbia had called him to respond.

The four-wheeler had left the area, and I didn't know if it was involved in the event or not, so I waited on Ed to get there. It didn't take long. He had another warden with him, Frankie. I told them what happened, pointed out the woods, bean field and highway where I saw the four-wheeler. They had passed a small car just down the road, headed away from my location, with a couple of camo-clad occupants. They were interested in that car, but first they wanted to locate where a vehicle or persons may have accessed my property.

I headed back to my sign-in box to wait on Clayton. He called, and I filled him in on what was happening, but he was still a little ways out. I decided to walk back in the woods to see if I could find anything. When I got to the general location of the shots I could see where someone had walked through the brush. I noticed a deer bed in the switch cane. Then blood in the leaves.

I sent Ed a text: "I've got blood." Soon he and Frankie were there. They had found boot tracks at the back of the property. When they saw the blood Frankie said, "That's a dead deer." The trail was easy to follow, and within 30 yards we walked up on the deer. It was a very small button buck. Maybe 50 pounds. It was still warm. Someone had trespassed on my land, shot an illegal deer and left it in the woods. Why? It defies logic and decency.

The wardens took the deer out and met Clayton, who had just arrived. I stayed in the woods to look for the shotgun hulls. Clayton walked in to my location, and we started looking. We found trees that were hit by buckshot and aligned them. Soon we found the empty shells. I used a small stick to pick them up and put them in a plastic bag. Maybe they would have fingerprints.

There will be more to this story - it's an ongoing investigation.

Reach Dan Geddings at cdgeddings@gmail.com.