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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS: > 2003

POACHING ON THE INCREASE

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 Monday night.

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 said.

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."


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