Undercover poacher was dedicated to his job, and the hunting sport


Outdoor enthusiasts are the most law abiding group ever created.

Hunters follow daily limits, time charts, and a host of regulations as if there were someone looking over their should every minute when in fact, there is practically no one checking.

Fishermen and trappers are cast from the same mold, policing themselves as well as any team of cops could. Sure, there’s an occasional slip. An extra fish in the basket, a shot fired a minute or two late because of a slow wrist watch, or some other minor clich but for the most part, there’s nary an intended violation.

At least a 99.9 percent most part. But that’s not what this story is about. It’s about that very small group of law breakers who do it intentionally and often, sometimes to extremes. Those are the guys featured in this story.

Extreme poachers if you will. Do the words Redbud, Tag, Cornerstone, and Stir-Fry mean anything to you?

Probably not if you aren’t a serious poacher or the one gutsy guy who has introduced a long list of such scoundrels to the Ohio court system. That gutsy guy is R.T. Stewart, only recently retired from a long career of being someone other than himself for the sole purpose of catching Ohio’s worst wildlife law breakers.

Lifetime of commitment

Indeed, Stewart spent a the majority of his Ohio Division of Wildlife career rubbing shoulders with unsuspecting poachers as one of Ohio’s top undercover investigators. And those words mentioned above are actually names for undercover operations that consumed Stewart’s being, head to toe, 24/7, for 18 years.

In fact, each of those operation names is a chapter in Stewart’s professional life. Stewart’s job and his passion, was to get close enough to serious poachers to gather solid evidence of their misdeeds such as hunting out of season, selling fish and game, and lots of other dirty deeds they knew they shouldn’t be doing.

Seems like someone in this kind of work ought to write about his adventures, those dangerous and those hardly mundane. Stewart once threatened to do just that, suggesting to Chip Gross, an accomplished writer, that they should get together when he retired to put Stewart’s undercover story on paper.

In a book

Maybe, the pair surmised, other folks would like to share, in thought at least, some of the excitement and danger involved in such activities. And they did just that.

Chapter by chapter, secret operation by operation. Operations Redbud, Ego, Stir-fry, and River Sweep, a dozen or so of the most significant investigations in Stewart’s career, as the stories are told by him to Gross, are now in print, thanks to Gross’s determination and skills as a seasoned author.

Gross has published other books; some outdoor-themed novels and how-to books as well, but this one is different. Titled Poachers are My Prey and subtitled Eighteen Years as an Undercover Wildlife Officer, the book is a soft bound, couple hundred pages of Stewart’s own recollections in detail.

How he infiltrated rings of poachers, how he lived a lie in order to gather incriminating evidence of their deeds, how he mixed false friendships with business at hand, and sadly, how his secret life destroyed a marriage.

As said earlier, Stewart is a gutsy guy and his story relives some gutsy doin’s with some bad actors. He’s seen greed and ego gone wild and he’s watched good folks doing the wrong things in a culture that promoted illegal deeds and for the most part, you could say that Stewart pioneered wildlife undercover investigation.

He did it right and he did it well. Go to www.Kent State UniversityPress.com to purchase a copy of Poachers Were My Prey by R.T. Stewart as told to W.H. “Chip” Cross. It’s a good read.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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