Most hunters obey the law. When they don’t, conservation agents are pros at catching them. But to bust some poachers, conservation agents need a little help. That’s where we come in.
My name: Bionic Bird. My partner—the young buck who doesn’t talk—he’s Robo-Deer. Together we form an elite, top-secret crime-fighting team. Our job? Helping conservation agents bust Missouri’s laziest poachers.
I used to be a normal turkey. I ate acorns. I courted hens. I minded my business. Then one fateful day, a poacher shot me. Luckily, a conservation agent nabbed the bad guy and kept my body for evidence.
Robo-Deer stays tight-lipped about his beginnings. I’ve seen his file, though, and all I’ll say is this: different poacher, same story. The Conservation Department had the technology to rebuild us—better, stronger, faster. They screwed wheels on my feet and tied a remote-controlled car to my chest. They gave Robo-Deer a robotic head that turned by remote control. They offered us new lives, and all they asked in return was help catching poachers.
Road hunters drive around until they spot a deer or turkey. Then they shoot at it from the road. Sometimes they don’t even get out of their vehicles!
That’s dangerous with a capital “D.” Road hunters don’t have a clue what lies behind their targets. A house or another person could be back there, in the line of fire. That’s the biggest reason road hunting is illegal.
November 18, 2009
4:21 p.m.—Conservation Agent Houf installs fresh batteries in Robo-Deer and sets him in a pasture approximately 100 yards from a gravel road.
5:28 p.m.—From a safe, hidden location, Agent Houf watches a silver pickup creep down the gravel road and roll to a stop. The beam from a spotlight pierces the darkness, coming to rest on Robo-Deer. A rifle barrel pokes slowly out of the truck’s other window. A man’s voice breaks the stillness: “Shoot ‘em!”
5:29 p.m.—BLAM! The poacher fires. Robo-Deer takes a bullet but doesn’t drop. BLAM! The poacher shoots again. Robo-Deer stands strong.
5:30 p.m.—Agent Houf calls his partner, another conservation agent who is waiting out of sight in a truck up the road.
5:31 p.m.—The poacher gets out of the pickup, steadies his rifle on the hood, takes careful aim, and fires yet another shot. Robo-Deer catches more lead, but still does not fall.
5:32 p.m.—Agent Houf’s partner skids his truck to a stop behind the silver pickup. Before the gravel dust settles, the agent hops out and orders the poacher to lay his rifle on the ground. In the glare of the agent’s headlights, the poacher’s face looks first confused, then defeated. Out in the field, Robo-Deer’s snout curls into a barely noticeable smile—another poacher caught red-handed.
To see videos of road hunters caught in the act, visit youtube.com/mohunting and click on “Deer Decoy.”
April 21, 2010
Conservation Agent McArdle had been trying to catch a notorious father and son team of road hunters for three years straight. The poachers had passed up taking shots at stuffed turkeys because the decoys looked fake and didn’t move. Agent McArdle knew to catch these poachers he needed help from Bionic Bird.
5:42 a.m.—Agent McA rdle sets up Bionic Bird in an open field 25 yards off a rural road favored by the road-hunting team.
6:00 a.m.—Agent McA rdle hides in the brush beside the road. He has two other conservation agents waiting in trucks, and he radios each of them to make sure they’re ready.
6:51 a.m.—Agent McArdle’s cellphone rings. A school bus driver has spotted the road hunters. They’re driving down the road where Bionic Bird is waiting!
6:54 a.m.—The road hunters’ pickup stops beside Bionic Bird. Agent McA rdle uses the remote control to move Bionic Bird a couple feet. Nothing happens. The conservation agent moves Bionic Bird a lit tle farther. Still nothing. Agent McArdle starts to worry. Maybe the poachers won’t be fooled. He moves Bionic Bird a few more feet … BOOM!
6:55 a.m.—Af ter shooting Bionic Bird, the road hunters speed away in their pickup. Agent McArdle calmly calls another agent to chase them down.
7:07 a.m.—The other conservation agent catches the road-hunting duo at their house. A fter hearing ever y detail of the crime they had just committed, the poachers admit to shooting from the road.
7:11 a.m.—Agent McArdle inspects Bionic Bird. The t urkey has taken 26 shotgun pellets in his head and chest, but feels no pain. He’s too busy basking in the glor y of busting two more bad guys.
Nichole LeClair Terrill