Craig To the editor:
I am writing this letter in the regards of the "poaching men from Arkansas." One of those men just happens to be my husband, and I wanted to clear a few things up with everyone. No. 1: Never believe everything you read about someone. This is something I have never thought about before when reading of other men labeled "criminals." Just because someone is listed as pleading "guilty" to a list of charges does not mean they actually did them.
In our case, what it means is our family no longer had the financial means to fight for innocence. We lasted as long as we possibly could, paying lawyers in Arkansas and Colorado monthly as well as for three flights to attend court in Colorado. Let me just add that after paying to fly out there to court, William and Bradley, along with their Arkansas lawyer, were told they would have to come back in two weeks because a Colorado game warden was unable to make it and no one bothered to call us beforehand.
Of course they did not care, because these boys were being treated as criminals. I'm not sure what happened to "innocent until proven guilty."
The whole story was twisted to make the citizens of Colorado feel pride in the DOW and justice system for getting criminals off their territory - when really, the sting was set up specifically for someone else who did not make the trip this year.
William and Bradley bought hunting licenses and made an honest mistake of hunting in the wrong unit (it was one unit over from where they were supposed to be - not private property).
When questioned, William even drew the DOW a map to show exactly where he hunted this year and last year. He truly thought it was within the unit. He did not try to hide anything from them.
They told him it was not in the correct unit, and at that point they stated he hunted without a license. Because he told them about the deer he killed in the same spot last year, which was mounted and hanging in our house in Arkansas as his prized possession, they had Arkansas Game Wardens come to my house and remove it the next day. That is where the "illegal possession of wildlife" came into play.
The cut on William's nose happened during the week of hunting when his four-wheeler rolled down the mountain. He had broken bones and was too scared after that to load his deer due to another passenger and their deer. William's deer was tagged while tied to the tree so coyotes wouldn't get it, and it was retrieved within the hour.
This was viewed as "attempted willful destruction of wildlife," which is a felony.
The story could go on and on with all of the ways the truth was twisted in his case. I want everyone to know there was an outpouring of letters sent to Colorado from our community, explaining that these men were honest, hardworking, outstanding citizens with squeaky clean records. Criminals were not done justice in this case. Two respectable citizens were done a tremendous injustice.
This is only written to present another side to the article written July 15. In spite of all the events, my respect does remain for all men involved in Wildlife Management. We need men to uphold these positions in each community. Thank you for the job you signed up to do, but please pay more attention to the real criminals out there. Know when to admit a mistake and let it go.
I ask that Colorado and Wyoming citizens not hold a grudge against hunters from Arkansas. We absolutely love your state and respect the beauty that so many may take for granted. Unfortunately, my friends, family or community will not be back there because of the way Ben and Bradley were treated.
We have definitely passed on the word that if out-of-towners go there, it is in everyone's best interest to use a guide. The land is confusing and maps do not always coordinate as you may think. God bless.