Hunter and businessman Joe Balback of Millsboro pointed
across a damp field Tuesday near Georgetown to a spot where buckshot from a
poacher's gun had passed dangerously close last year.
"They jumped out of a van and shot from the road," Balback
told a state fish and wildlife officer, describing continuing poaching
troubles at a farm he leases for private hunting. "It's dangerous.
They ruin it for everyone."
As Balback spoke, Sgt. Troy Trimmer and
DNREC officials said poaching appears to be on the increase, as the
state's deer herds continue a steady rebound.
Four poaching arrests and at least six weapons seizures
have been reported since the shotgun season for deer opened Friday. Trimmer
nabbed an illegal hunter and seized three shotguns with hunting scopes
But it was a 30-caliber bullet that struck a motorist in
the forehead along U.S. 113 north of Millsboro on Jan. 31. Police and
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control investigators
traced the shot one week later to Benjamin Walls of Seaford, who already was
prohibited from possessing any firearm because of a felony record, officials
Walls was hunting deer several hundred yards from the
highway when he fired his rifle, officials said. The motorist, who was not
identified, suffered a head and hand wound.
DNREC Capt. James Passwaters said drugs and alcohol often
are involved when fish and wildlife officers make a nighttime poaching
arrest. Tall tales often surface, too.
"We hear a lot of people claim that they're hungry and
that kind of thing, but high-powered rifles might cost $800, and they have
beer and four-wheel drive vehicles," Passwaters said. "I can
remember one poacher telling me it's like a disease: When he sees a big
buck, he goes
into that area until he kills it. He can't help himself."