‘Possum Cops

What's wrong this this picture? Absolutley nothing!

Yesterday one of my editors, Sammy Reese, called me. Sammy is a former cop, a great shot, a father and all-round good guy. The purpose of the call was to inform me he had received a complaint from a game warden in Montana about one of my articles. In the article I mentioned that when my son was six years old he killed his first deer. This western woods warden proceeded to inform my editor that it is illegal to hunt when you are six years old because you cannot get a license.

Obviously this lawman was not familiar with West Virginia state law. I’ll forgive him for that. What I will not forgive him for was his comment that it is irresponsible to let a kid that is only six years old hunt or even shoot for that matter. For what its worth, the Gunwriter Assistant is now 11, has taken two more deer – one with a crossbow – and can shoot pretty darn well. (In case your reading this and think I have again disclosed a violation, the deer taken with a crossbow was in Virginia where he did have a license and hunting with a crossbow is not considered a sin.)

From what Sammy told me, he tried his best to line this fellow out, apparently to no avail. At the end of their conversation the reader vowed to call his West Virginia counterpart and have me “checked in to.” I hope he did. I’m sure if he got one of our wardens on the line, WV law and the state’s dedication to, and understanding of, the importance of youth hunting was explained to him in a manner he could understand. With some southern hospitality thrown in for sure.

As a former police officer, I have a lot of respect for game wardens. I know several and admire their work and service. They have the difficult task of enforcing the law on folks that are engaged in a historical American tradition, that is a recreational and emotional pastime, which is very often family oriented. Many violations are without any intent. On top of these difficulties, most everyone they come in contact with has a gun.

This makes a game warden’s job doubly difficult. They must balance an understanding of an American heritage with the necessity to enforce the law. All these game wardens, like any police officer, must be prepared to maybe not go home at the end of the shift – or ever again.

What they should not be is ignorant of or unreceptive to the idea that a father should be able to pass along the skills of shooting and hunting to his children whenever he thinks they’re ready. Luckily, West Virginia, as screwed up as some of her game laws are, does recognize this. [Residents who have not reached their 15th birthday may hunt without a license but they must be accompanied by a licensed adult at least 18 years of age.]

Maybe Montana should get with the program. Real hunters, shooters and sportsmen understand the necessity of introducing youngsters to shooting and hunting. Without the interest of our youth, this heritage will be lost and game wardens, gunwriters and about everyone else in the industry will be unemployed. Check out this article by fellow West Virginian Chris Ellis.

West Virginians have a name for game wardens that don’t understand this concept; we call ’em “possum cops”

By the way, I do know how to spell “opossum”

In case your wondering where I found a rifle small enough for a six year old to shoot, it was a custom rifle on loan from Charlie Sisk. Chambered in the odd choice of .25-35, it was built on a Remington 788 action and fitted with a 4X Leupold. Oh, and yeah, the shot was at 60 yards and right through the heart.


About gunwriter

Born and raised in the West Virginia hills, Richard literally grew up in the woods. He has chased coon hounds until daylight, waited out whitetails perched high in an oak, canoed the New River and hunted from the Montana Mountains to the Green Hills of Africa. During service in the Army and later as a municipal police officer and Special Agent with the railroad police, Richard obtained numerous certifications in small arms instruction. He has trained military personnel, law enforcement officers and civilians in the application of firearms for defensive, competitive and recreational use. Richard won the West Virginia Governor’s Twenty Award for law enforcement, the West Virginia National Guard State Pistol Competition and earned his Distinguished Medal with pistol. Badge turned in, Richard is now a contributing editor for several magazines. He was the compiling author of the book, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter and conceptualized and contributed to Selecting and Ordering a Custom Hunting Rifle. Richard also contributed a chapter to the John Velke book, The True Story of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. Richard has patents on a riflescope reticle and a revolutionary bullet testing media. A hillbilly at heart, Richard lives on Shadowland - his shooting range in West Virginia - with the most understanding wife in the world, their three kids and a very protective ridgeback hound.
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3 Responses to ‘Possum Cops

  1. Michael B. Saari says:

    Your response was phenomenally professional: The game warden you mention should not be employed as a game warden and perhaps would be more suited as a police officer.
    It is paramount that parents pass on the hunting heritage to there offspring when the parent feels the youngster is mature enough to handle a rifle or bow.
    Thomas Jefferson once wrote that he believed every 10 year old boy should carry a firearm because you never know when you may run into a wild dog.


  2. RG says:

    right on!

  3. C D Roberts Jr says:

    Once again you have amazed me with an obvious gift of prose and an exceptional ability to articulate your thoughts into words. I do a lot of reading and discussing on a few trapping websites and have read of an instances of a Game Warden, Conservation Police, Nat Resources police, (name depending what state you live in)who is an anti hunter. The article was about a from a fellow in Oregon or Idaho, (I don’t remember which) about a warden who was openly animal rights and stated that many new recruits of today would be likewise. He was eluding to an AR push to fill as many Wildlife resources jobs as possible with like minded people. Seems there have been a few tales of Wildlife biologists of the same thought process in recent years also. I wouldn’t want to think the warden you are reffering to is of this mindset, but with someone paying that much attention to something so trivial, who knows??? With the information that your friend seems to have provided him and still being unable to sway his thinking, he seems to have the same thought process as do most AR nuts. The Sportsman channel, OLN, Versus, and the outdoor channel, to name a few, are loaded with shows where young hunters pursue and harvest deer, turkeys, antelope, hogs and even elk with firearms. Guided by and carefully supervised by adults of course. Just the way you did with Bat. Made for an interesting read though and a well written response that may open even more avenues for your writing. The youth are the future and the only way we will continue to enjoy our outdoor loves. Common sense doesn’t rule the day anymore and too many people are disconncted from the natural world. I love the stories about Bat’s adventures. I hope to be part of one someday. Keep ’em comnig Richard.
    God Bless

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