A black eye

S.C. hunters' use of poison-tipped arrows causes uproar

This poison-carrying arrow was among the evidence seized by Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the recent poaching case against four men from South Carolina. When the arrow strikes an animal, the pod releases a strong paralytic that causes the animal to stop breathing.

These mule deer antlers and hide were hidden in a culvert when discovered by investigators from the Colorado Division of Wildlife looking into a poaching case. Four hunters from South Carolina were arrested for using drug-carrying arrows to kill deer and other big game.

In what at first sounds like something from the 1972 movie “Deliverance,” four South Carolina hunters recently were found guilty of using poison arrows to kill deer in Colorado.

One of the four, George Plummer, told officers he had knew it was illegal but had been using drug-carrying arrows in Colorado for the past 20 years.

And another of the quartet, James Cole used the lame defense that “everybody (in South Carolina) hunts with” poison arrows.

“It’s common practice were I come from,” he told the judge.

Although this might be straight out of a 1950s jungle travelogue, the question of how common the use of poison arrows is in South Carolina is hard to answer.

A search of South Carolina’s bow-hunting regulations turned up only one reference to poison arrows.

The law specifically bans poison arrows on state wildlife management areas but apparently there are no restrictions on using poisons on private lands.

“South Carolina is one of the states where if something is not prohibited it is not illegal,” Capt. Robert McCullough, a law-enforcement spokesman for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, told the online South Carolina Sportsman. “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.”

South Carolina DNR spokesman Brett Whitt said drug-carrying poison arrows are prohibited on state-managed land but on private land the regulations are “a little weird.”

“The way it’s written in our statutes is you cannot introduce any type of fertility drugs but it says nothing about a killing drug,” Whitt said. “The question we would ask is, is the drug you are using specific to the task it’s being used for?

“But if you are on private land, and using a drug, it’s not illegal,” although anyone seen using drugged arrows “would certainly get our interest,” Whitt said.

He also said any notion that “everyone” in South Carolina carries poison arrows “is a gross fabrication,” he said. “And such statements give every law-abiding hunters a black eye and bad reputation.”

According to Colorado officials, the drug used by the South Carolina quartet is a powerful muscle relaxant causing rapid paralysis and shutting down the animal’s respiratory system.

David Shull of Elloree, president of the Bowhunters of South Carolina, said on that group’s website the drug primarily is a paralytic generally used during surgery for anesthesia.

“The drug does not kill, but merely renders the animal unable to move or breathe; it is fully aware of its surroundings and it suffocates. It is not sporting in any way,” Shull said.

Shull said the bowhunters 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.”

Longtime bowhunter Ronald C. Herman Jr. of Charleston, W.Va., said the four should be banned from hunting for life.

“I am embarrassed, dumbfounded, angry and hurt significantly by the callous disregard for wildlife and the act of fair chase,” Herman 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.”

As John McCoy, long-time outdoor editor for the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette-Mail, wrote: “I seriously doubt that ‘every’ Palmetto State bowhunter heads into the woods with a quiver loaded with poisoned arrows, but Cole’s statement raises a question: Just how widespread is the practice?”

But using poison arrows isn’t the only way scofflaws try to cheat you and me of our public wildlife.

Several of the web sites discussed the appearance of the new Bow-Mag arrows carrying large-caliber (.38 and .357-caliber) bullets that fire on impact.


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