I have spent the last few days visiting properties across the Midwest as part of my consulting service and thus have not been connected with social media. Last night I logged onto facebook for the first time in a few days to find numerous posts and messages regarding hunting celebrity Lee Lakosky who was apparently charged with a minor game offense. Seeing some of the negative posts made by other hunters has prodded me to add my own 2-cents to the conversation.
Back in 1996 I had my first magazine article published and about this same time I started seeing some very informative articles authored by a young man from Minnesota, Lee Lakosky. Lee struck me as a true whitetail fanatic like myself, learning the ropes through his own hard work and efforts. His love of the whitetail soon became clearly evident. I watched him rise to stardom in the hunting world based largely on his foresight to see the future of outdoor television and video long before most of us. To this day I have never met Lee, never shared an email with him, never had any correspondance of any sort. I say this because what you are about to read is not someone else from the hunting industry sticking up for a friend. What you are going to read is simply food-for-thought that will hopefully cause you to pause and think long and hard before jumping to conclusions.
I understand the situation Lee finds himself in because back in 2004 I found myself in a similar situation. I had just shot the biggest buck of my life; a buck the likes of which I had dreamed of one day shooting. Within 24 hours I was wrongly charged with breaking the law and my buck confiscated because of a couple of jealous neighbors. A good friend of mine confronted one of them and what this person whom I barely knew had to say caused me to see the not-so-good side of people. This neighbor told my friend, “He (me) thinks he is such a hot-shot writing all those magazine articles, well I am going to knock him down a notch or two.” I was absolutely astounded that someone who I had no idea had any ill-will towards me actually despised my success. It was a real eye-opener. I realized right then that the more successful one is at anything, the more some people will resent them. Clearly the target on Lee Lakoskys back is much bigger than the one on mine but I understand his situation like few others can.
A few years later I was at a deer show in Ohio and in the booth next to me was a game warden with a large buck that he had confiscated from a poacher. I had some short conversations with the young warden over the 2 days of the show and the one thing he said that stuck with me was “for us game wardens, a case like this is what we live for. (pointing to the big buck) THIS is our trophy buck!” While most game wardens are upstanding and honest people, a very small handful see a giant buck or a big name celebrity as their “trophy”. The rules change when the hunter is known and/or the buck is huge. Do you think that anyone would be talking about the minor violation that Lee Lakosky was charged with if he was just another no-name everyday citizen?
I have no idea what the details are of Lee Lakosky’s situation and to be honest I dont really care. I walk through this world after more than half a century with my eyes wide open and I have seen enough in years past to know better than to believe Lee intentionally set out to break any game law. He obviously cares too much about whitetails and his reputation to even consider such and he clearly doesnt need to shoot another big buck to prove anything to anyone.
A few years ago I was involved in an incident that I have not mentioned to anyone until now. I shot a buck, tagged it, brought it home and then went to check it in online as required by law. When I went to register the kill the website would not accept the permit number, calling it “invalid”. I tried several times before looking at the permit and noticing that it was actually a tag that I had left in my pack from the previous season. I quickly found the proper tag in my pack, went out and placed it on the deer and then registered the kill. I almost expected a game warden to show up at my door but fortunately that was the end of the story.
This story could have ended much differently however. What if I had been stopped on the way home with that deer? I seriously doubt I would have gotten off with a simple warning. As it is, I learned my lesson and now I am certain to only have current permits in my possession on any hunt. My honest, unitentional mistake could have cost me dearly even though my own ethics are much stricter than the game laws where I hunt. The name-less, face-less, jealous, internet saints would have roasted me on every internet message board just like some of them are currently doing to Lee Lakosky. I bet if we each think about it hard enough, we can all probably recall a time when we inadvertently or unknowingly broke a minor law.
I hope Lee is able to move on from this situation with no harm to his reputation and I also hope his critics wake up to reality. The hunting world has it’s share of controverial characters, some of whom I wouldnt be a bit surprised to see charged with game-law violations but I have never viewed Lee Lakosky as one of them. Those of us who have been around the block a time or two and know first-hand what it takes to consistently kill big mature bucks can spot the real-deal as well as the wanna-bes. When it comes to big whitetails Lee Lakosky doesnt need to break game laws to be successful. Let’s give the guy a break.