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Gene Mueller: Bagging bear equals trouble

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When is the shooting of a 707-pound black bear - easily as big as many inland Alaskan grizzlies - nothing to be proud of? When the gargantuan bruin is shot illegally.

It happened recently in Luzerne County, Pa.

An astute game warden (Keystoners call them wildlife commission officers) noticed a truck that was loaded with pastries from a local store. The officer, Cory Bentzoni, became suspicious: Who would need a truckload of pastries a week before the opening of bear hunting season?

It isn't only Jellystone Park's Yogi Bear who has a sweet tooth; black bears readily beat a path to tasty treats, and the man who had a truck bed filled with pastries knew he probably could lure a bear to the sweet bait, making it easy to bag a trophy. By the way, bear baiting is illegal in Pennsylvania.

But the culprit, Charles W. Olsen Jr. of Wilkes-Barre, didn't figure on the tenacity of Bentzoni, who wrote down the license plate number of the truck, identified the plate's owner, then instructed all fellow officers in the region to let him know whether someone with those tag numbers checked in a bear - any bear.

Olsen soon showed up at a bear check station with the astonishing 707-pounder and was told, There might be a problem with this bear. Olsen folded like a leaky tent. He confessed he shot the bear over a pile of bait in Noxen Township in Wyoming County. He was arrested and, if found guilty, faces fines and penalties up to $1,500 and the loss of his hunting license for three years. On top of that, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will request restitution for the trophy-class bear, which can amount to $5,000.

All this carrying of suspicious cargo reminds me of a Kentucky acquaintance who once was stopped by a Tennessee state trooper. The cop noticed that the tarp-covered pickup truck he was driving was so heavily loaded that the cargo bed almost rubbed the tops of the tires.

What are you carrying in that truck? the trooper asked. Sugar, answered my pal with whom I had hunted in years gone by.

Sugar? What for? came the reply.

The Kentuckian said, My mama is fixin' to put up a bunch of peaches, and she told me to get her the sugar.

The incredulous highway patrolman said, She's putting up peaches in February?

My pal said, When my mother says she's puttin' up peaches, I don't argue with her.

The trooper followed the Kentuckian to the state line, then watched him cross over and head into the hills. To be sure, there was a moonshine still waiting for the sugar.

Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show - One of the biggest hunting, fishing and camping shows anywhere, the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pa., will have its yearly run Feb. 6-14. This show is a favorite for quite a few Washingtonians and suburbanites.

The show attracts outdoor sports enthusiasts from all over to view the latest hunting and fishing products, plan or book hunting and fishing trips, shop for the best bargains and look at boats, RV and all-terrain vehicles. This year, there will be 1,100 exhibitors, including 500 outfitters from around the world.

In addition, there will be seminars conducted by nationally known hunters and fishermen. The general hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. - except on the last day, when it ends at 5 p.m. Admission is $12 ($5 for children). For more information, go to easternsportshow.com.

c Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Mueller's Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/sports.