Hunter used poison for 20 years; shameful, judge says

An arrow and poison pod, in blue, recovered as part of the recent DOW investigation. SPECIAL TO THE SENTINEL

One of four South Carolina men who used poison arrows to hunt deer, elk and bears told an investigator he’s been using the illegal equipment in Mesa County for at least 20 years, taking an unknown number of big game in that time, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife official said Tuesday.

George Plummer, 51, told authorities after his arrest he’d been returning to the same leased cabin, just east of 
Collbran near Brush Creek Road, since the late-1980s, according to Michael Blanck, District Wildlife Manager.

The investigation turned up no evidence the property owner knew what was happening, he said.

Animals were targeted with arrows poisoned with a powerful muscle relaxant that causes paralysis, while shutting down an animal’s respiratory system within seconds of a strike, authorities said.

“It’s hard to say how many animals they’ve taken illegally,” state wildlife investigator Rich Antonio told Judge Arthur Smith on Tuesday.

Plummer, Joseph Nevling, 50, both of Timmonsville, S.C., Michael Courtney, 25, of Florence, S.C., and James Cole, 55, of Sumter, S.C., all pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a variety of wildlife charges, including illegal taking of wildlife and illegal use of toxins in hunting. They were arrested Saturday.

All four were ordered to pay several thousands of dollars in fines and court costs, while plea agreements specify they can’t hunt in Colorado over the next four years. The state’s wildlife commission may suspend Colorado hunting privileges for the men. Under a wildlife interstate compact, Blanck said the men may be banned from hunting in 38 other states, including South Carolina.

Each of the men received individual lectures from the judge Tuesday.

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” Smith told Nevling. “This isn’t hunting. This is just going out and killing things.”

The judge added, “If you have children, I don’t know what you’re going to tell them.”

Several expressed regret, but one of them offered a defense of the practice.

“Back in South Carolina, everybody hunts with (poison arrows),” Cole said, describing the equipment as an “insurance policy.”

“It’s common practice where I come from,” he added.

The judge noted it’s the responsibility of hunters to know the laws where they hunt. Aside from being illegal in Colorado, Blanck said archery hunting using poison arrows violates principles of “fair chase.”

“Even if you just nicked an animal, with a non-lethal hit, that animal is going to die,” Blanck said of a poison arrow hit. “The attitude is, ‘If we’re buying expensive licenses, we want to make sure we’re going home with a kill.’ That’s what this case is about,” he said.

Night-vision equipment, and spotlights mounted on bows, seized during the investigation suggests other laws may have been violated, Blanck said. Hunters are required to suspend activities one half-hour after sunset.

Authorities said Plummer and his hunting activities in Colorado had been under investigation for nearly two years, which started with a tip from another hunter. Plummer’s group had been under surveillance in Mesa County since shortly after they arrived around Aug. 31, which marked the start of hunting season, Blanck said.

A search of their campsite turned up coolers, where they’d stored meat from recent kills, he said.


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