Poaching hunting trophies more trouble than you’d think

One fear that lurks in the mind of every deer hunter is that someone will steal a trophy buck, that once-in-alifetime prize that one has finally taken and now will have mounted as a memorial to that day and that experience.

It’s happened to any number of hunters over the years and almost happened to me once long ago. We all wonder how we will handle it should it ever happen to us. Sometimes bucks are stolen from the meat pole in the backyard of a hunting cabin, or even from the top of a vehicle while the hunter has lunch in a diner while on his way home.

It’s happened to a friend of mine. His son brought down his trophy on Nov. 28 last season and this is his story in an open letter he sent to me.

“My name is Dennis Kozora. On Nov. 26, I legally shot and tagged the buck in the picture on private property. On Nov. 28, my father and I dropped off the buck at a processor to be caped and processed. They gave him a receipt with a number. When I contacted them by phone regarding the status of the animals, they said they did not have the cape or horns from my buck. They were missing and after several follow-up conversations, it became clear that the cape and horns had been stolen.

This is not a Game Commission matter because the cape and horns are personal property and therefore a police matter. After a lot of legal wrangling – which I will not outline in this column – it comes down to my having to work to recover my trophy myself.

Recovery of this trophy buck’s cape and horns is extremely important to me and my family. This buck represents years of hard work and preparation with my Dad, who is my best friend and my hunting mentor. He has recently suffered several medical setbacks and this event has become a source of great stress to our family.”

So through many media outlets throughout the state, the Kozora family is asking for help. There is a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible and the recovery of the cape and horns. The phone contact is 210-279-8346 or 724-352-1928. You can also go to if you have information.

Every hunter worth the stripe knows, or at least can imagine, the anguish of having a trophy stolen. If you can help, please do.

Keeping the faith

Whatever the weather, it always seems as if spring is surely on the way when we finally rid ourselves of February.

We are all watching for the first sight of a robin, the first faint sound of geese returning north and to the first early spring flowers bursting through the ground.

Turkeys started gobbling and strutting in February but in March, it all gets going in earnest. Fights for breeding dominance among gobblers begins this month. Later this month, hens will begin to peel away from the large flocks that gathered up during the winter.

They will begin searching for a proper place to establish a nest and gobblers will follow them around, hoping to impress them with their flamboyant displays and allow them to be the one they breed with. It’s all a very complicated dance that goes on in the woods right now as new cycles are beginning to be established.

Deer are looking for every patch of green they can find, does are weakened from the winter and have new life that will struggle to be born in another couple months.

It is a time to let wildlife alone, to NOT chase them around with snowmobiles and/or let dogs run loose to harass them. They have enough natural trouble fending off coyotes and foxes in their weakened condition. Many deer are victims of car/deer collisions as they seek salt, grit and grass along highways.

It’s time to practice with all the new turkey calls we got just recently. That’s going to take up a lot of my time this month.