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One-time adversaries team up to promote book

“Backcountry Lawman: True Stories from a Florida Game Warden” is published by the University of Florida press.

“Backcountry Lawman: True Stories from a Florida Game Warden” is published by the University of Florida press.

Game warden chased poacher for  10 years

Pair will sign books at Chiapinni’s May 18

DAN HILDEBRAN

Monitor Editor

In 1977 illegal commercial fishing was so excessive on the St. Johns River that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission assembled a unit of six officers to track down and catch the poachers.

One of those game wardens was Bob H. Lee, who spent the better part of the 1980’s pursuing fishermen who used electric devises to stun and then catch dozens of fish at a time.

The most notorious fisherman who used the outlawed technique, nicknamed Monkey Fishing was known at the Putnam County Poacher, Roger Gunter.

For years Lee chased Gunter up and down the St. Johns around Palatka.

Now, both men have retired from their respective vocations and are teaming up to promote Lee’s book, “Backcountry Lawman: True Stories from a Florida Game Warden”.  The pair will be at Chiapinni’s in Melrose Saturday, May 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to sign books and swap stories about their confrontations on the St. Johns.

Published by the University of Florida Press, the 256-page book takes readers to the wetlands and pine woods of north Florida where poachers and lawmen played a cat-and-mouse game under the stars and around the dangerous reptiles lurking beneath the water’s surface.

Lee devotes several chapters to Gunter.

The former poacher told the St. Augustine Record that over his 30-year career, officers caught him about half a dozen times.  When game wardens did apprehend him, he had already thrown the evidence of his illicit activity overboard. He added that when he was active, fleeing from law enforcement was not illegal, so he never suffered serious penalties for poaching.

Lee was raised north of Tampa and joined the Fish and Wildlife Commission after graduating from the University of South Florida in 1977.  Over the next 30 years, he pursued wildlife law violators in Putnam, Clay and Flagler Counties.  He also taught the agency’s man tracking course to fellow game wardens.

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