'Bizarre' incidents recounted by retired Pa. Game Commission officer in book
With winter weather finally settling in Pennsylvania, it’s time to think about a good book to read.
If you enjoy the outdoors, you should consider a new book about the encounters and arrests made by a now retired Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer during his 40-plus years of service.
Dick Bodenhorn, 71, of Ridgway, Elk County, has published a book titled “Investigations and Divine Interventions.” It recounts the unusual experiences he had while working as a game warden in Elk County and earlier as a deputy warden dating to 1977.
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In 2012, he retired from service and is now able to spend time in the woods for himself.
He said many people who have heard him speak about his career told him he should write a book. “Over my career I had a lot of interesting cases,” he said. The editor who reviewed his stories told him he had enough content for two books. He’s hoping to have enough success from this book that was just published in December to print the second book later this spring.
The publication is 283 pages and has 35 chapters of stories involving animals and people. Note, he did change the names of the people involved in the book out of privacy concerns.
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He has clever, intriguing titles for each chapter that draw you into the stories. There are titles like “Divine Intervention — or a Deer’s Revenge?,” “The $1,050 Beer Can,” “Murderers on the Game Lands,” “Major Poachers, but One Seemed To Have a Charmed Life,” and “The Foxes Are in the Hen House.”
The chapter about foxes being in the hen house isn’t about foxes but about how two police officers were nabbed for poaching a deer while on duty.
While the stories are based out of his patrol area in north central Pennsylvania, he said, “It’s relevant anywhere. … It’s pretty universal,” he said about the challenges conservation officers and wardens face across the commonwealth.
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Some of the stories involve hunters illegally taking deer, and another chapter focuses on how he encountered a couple camping in state game lands who were wanted for a murder in Florida. “It was kind of a hair-raising thing'” he said.
He also reflects on a significant poaching incident involving Pennsylvania’s wild elk population. The investigation lasted about two years. There are also incidents involving a variety of other animals, too.
In many of the situations, he believed there was divine intervention that helped him solve the case. With the bizarre nature of how things would unfold, Bodenhorn said, “It was obvious something more was going on than just luck.”
On on occasion, they followed the trail of a wounded deer that ended up dying close to the home of the poacher. “This deer actually led us right to the people who killed it. … What are the odds of that.”
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There are all kinds of similar interesting incidents like that he thought people would enjoy reading. “They’re just plain bizarre,” he said.
As far as state game wardens go, he said people have the wrong impression that officers are just out there to spoil their fun. The wardens, he said, are there to protect the resources for everyone. Bodenhorn said some lawbreakers believe taking a deer illegally is a victimless crime, but “they are stealing from the honest citizen.” He believes it’s similar to someone stealing something out of your home or car. “They’re stealing someone’s opportunity for success,” he said.
Law enforcement can be dangerous work. While he never had to fire his sidearm at anyone, he had to draw it on people a number of times and had some physical encounters with suspects, too. “It’s always in the back of your mind,” he said about the danger of approaching people who are involved in illegal activities. “I’ve dealt with people that I know would have killed me if they had they had gotten the opportunity.”
For those who encounter a game warden, “The best piece of advice I can give to people is just do as the officer asks.” Bodenhorn explained the officer probably doesn’t know the person they are talking to and isn’t immediately sure what’s occurring.
It’s not always obvious when a suspect is planning to harm someone and it’s up to the officer to keep control of the situation and environment for everyone’s safety. “That’s what we do to survive.”
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Looking back over his career and his writings, he said, “It was a fascinating career.".
“I didn’t have a job; I had a way of life they paid me for," he said. "If I had to start a career over again, I wouldn’t hesitate a minute.”
You can email the author firstname.lastname@example.org for book ordering information. It’s available in stores around Ridgway for $18 including sales tax, but it can be shipped at an additional cost.
Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at email@example.com and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.