The shortest investigation in the history of poachers occurred when lifelong Wildfowl reader Charlie Long was out shooting snow goose photos at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge near Smyrna, Del., on Feb. 15.
The Hook is the biggest staging area for greater snow geese on the east coast. Long has seen up to 100,000 snows there at once and was there was there Monday, Feb. 13 when the migration moved in.
He took a photo of geese crossing road with cars backed up, and the local newspaper ran it front page. As it turns out, some miscreant saw the photo as a scouting report.
Long was back down photographing geese on Wednesday and had just moved 200 yards down the road when he heard a single shot ring out from the spot he'd just vacated. "There is no way that was a shot," he said. "Geese flew everywhere, and I backed up to investigate only to find this gentleman standing next to his truck with a shotgun and then walking into the field."
Two other witnesses began talking with Charlie in disbelief. The trio called the police and the game warden, and the alleged poacher walked out in field to get his birds. In an especially poignant moment, Long and the other witnesses stared in disbelief at the suspect as he stared down at a goose flopping around, in the refuge.
"He was wating for one to die and also watching as two crippled geese ran into woods," Long said.
All happening and incredible 500 yards from refuge headquarters. Long took off to get the refuge manager, then left him making phone calls and went back down to the crime scene, where he and another witness saw the man's gun laying on the ground.
"I said, 'Let's go get it,' and we took his gun and the other guy took his keys. Then he came back with the birds and argued with us that it was legal," Long said.
For more photos and details, check out our friends over at Wildfowl.