The admission in a Colorado court this past Tuesday by four men from South Carolina that they used poison arrows to take big game in Colorado and in their home state has raised the ire of ethical bowhunters in the Palmetto State who are calling for legislation to ban the practice.
The four – George Plummer and Joseph Nevling of Timmonsville, Michael Courtney of Florence and James Cole of Sumter – were arrested Saturday, Sept. 7, by Colorado Wildlife officials after a two-year investigation that began with a tip from a hunter.
Plummer told authorites that he had been returning to the same leased cabin just east of Collbran, Col., and using the arrows since the late 1980s, according to Michael Blanck, a district manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Plummer's group had been under surveillance since shortly after it arrived around Aug. 31 for the start of hunting season.
All four pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, including illegal taking of wildlife and illegal use of toxins in hunting; they were ordered to pay thousands of dollars each in fines and court costs, according to The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, Colo. They were also banned from hunting in Colorado for four years, which will also deny them hunting privileges for the same period of time in 38 other states, including South Carolina.
Plummer, the newspaper reported, admitted using arrows carrying toxin to hunt deer, elk and bears for at least 20 years. Animals were targeted with arrows poisoned with a powerful muscle relaxant that caused paralysis, while shutting down an animal's respiratory system within seconds of being hit, authorities said.
Use of toxins in hunting is illegal in Colorado, but is not prohibited on private lands in South Carolina, according to Capt. Robert McCullough, a law-enforcement spokesman for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. “South Carolina is one of the states where if something is not prohibited it is not illegal,” McCullough said. “But that does not mean the agency is for it. We don't allow it on the lands we control and we do not encourage anyone to do it.”
While there is no law prohibiting hunting with arrows carrying drugs on private lands, McCullough said the drugs used are controlled substances, and users must have a prescription or be in violation of laws enforced by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
David Shull of Elloree, president of the Bowhunters of South Carolina, said the association considers anyone using such chemicals while hunting as “slobs” and urged that “the full extent of the law will come to bear against those found to be guilty of doing so.”
Shull said the primary drug used is a paralytic generally used during surgery for anesthesia.
“The drug does not kill, but merely renders the animal unable to move or breath; it is fully aware of its surroundings and it suffocates. It is not sporting in any way.”
The use of such drugs can also present a danger to other animals and humans, said Shull, who called for legislation to prohibit possession of any equipment capable of delivering such drugs on private or public lands.
“An investigation needs to be followed up on as to where he acquires his drugs. I hope someone doesn't pick up one of his lost or missed shots and gets injected.”
A few of the men expressed regret before sentencing, but one offered a defense of the practice, The Daily Sentinel (http://tinyurl.com/oxgtfqa) reported Wednesday.
"Back in South Carolina, everybody hunts with (poison arrows)," Cole said, describing the equipment as an "insurance policy."
Ronald C. Herman Jr. of Charleston, a veteran bowhunter, said he’d heard of some hunters testing poisoned arrows in the 1960s, he’s never heard of anyone using them as long as he’s hunted in South Carolina. He said the Colorado sentences were far too little and suggested the four should be banned from hunting for life.
“I find it appalling what these men did in Colorado and admitted doing for so many years here in South Carolina,” said Herman, a traditonal bowhunter who primarily uses longbows in hunting, along with selfbows and recurve bows and homemade wooden arrows. “They are thieves and poachers. They are not hunters.”
“I am embarrassed, dumbfounded, angry and hurt significantly by the callous disregard for wildlife and the act of fair chase,” he said. “They are a black eye to sportsmen, hunters and specifically bowhunters worldwide and I never want them to step foot in the hunting field again with a weapon of any kind.”