TRUE STORIES OF THE MAINE WARDEN SERVICE
Re-creating the full Maine Warden Service experience, Open Season includes stories from two colonels, two lieutenants, two sergeants, four district wardens, one warden pilot, and one currently active-duty corporal. Altogether, their cumulative experiences enforcing Maine fish and game laws in the north woods account for over 300 years of warden folklore. There are life-and-death situations, humorous moments, the doldrums of a stake-out, and the struggle to carry on after a rescue mission turns into a body retrieval.
Please click on the chapter titles below to read the previews. The warden who contributed the story is listed with each.
Russ Dyer couldn’t locate Saint-Pamphile on a map when he accepted a post there in 1960. A full year before he would attend warden school, his training came in the form of reading log books left behind by the previous warden. Armed with enthusiasm, Russ learned to enforce fish and game laws the old-fashioned way—by trial and error. One mistake he’d never repeat: flying with an eccentric spray pilot named Merle, who was a dead-ringer for a drunken Santa Claus.
After several hours of watching a home believed to be occupied by moose poachers, without so much as seeing a car in the driveway, four wardens debate whether to call it a night. Second-guessing is easy when the decision to leave is cursed with indecision. Upon agreeing to give it ten more minutes, a dark figure is spotted crossing the road.
A rescue attempt of several fisherman stranded on a Sebago Lake ice floe goes awry when the propellers of an airboat catch water and sink the boat. One man is submerged in the scramble, and the responsibility of fending off hypothermia and maintaining calm amongst the group falls upon Warden Mike Joy. It’s a tall order when the whipping winds of a fast-approaching cold front create massive waves that begin to break apart the ice.
A suicidal snowmobiler goes for one last ride without proper clothing on a frigid evening. He’s unconscious with a weak pulse when wardens Bill Allen and Doug Kulis find him. The clock is ticking and the wardens have to think quick to save the man's life—little did they know they were on the cusp of a miracle.
Amidst a week of subzero temperatures, a man wearing a trash bag for a winter coat is discovered in the woods around Fourth Machias Lake. Unsure how anyone can survive in these conditions, Warden Glynn Pratt leads what he thinks is a search and rescue operation. He could never have predicted the wild man’s reaction.
When a spotlight shines from an Oldsmobile sedan into a remote Norridgewock field, Warden Dennis McIntosh steps on the gas—only to mire his truck in the soggy field. Convinced the location is a hotbed of poaching activity, he returns the following evening. As does the Oldsmobile. This time, Dennis is in for a surprise when he stops the vehicle.
Not wanting to expose a valuable informant as a snitch, the wardens circumvent the process for getting a search warrant. While they hide outside a suspected moose poacher’s home, a prank call is made to the man inside. The plan is crazy enough, it just might work—if the poacher’s guard geese don't blow their cover first.
Ludger Belanger went deer hunting on the morning of November 25, 1975. He never returned. Warden John Marsh led a whirlwind investigation that turned into one of the largest search and rescue operations in the history of the Maine Warden Service. The twists and turns in this case are enough to make an honest person's blood boil.
Take flight with warden pilot Gary Dumond as he searches for a lost Canadian hunter. The clock is ticking for hypothermia, and an overnight snowstorm has concealed the hunter’s tracks. Forced to fly below the cloud cover and just above the trees, moisture in the air begins to freeze on the plane’s windows and wings, creating a dangerous situation. Gary doesn’t want to give up on the missing person, but he fully understands the perils of warden pilots—it’s how he got the job in the first place.
After a deer is shot in front of a farmhouse in Wilsons Mills, Warden Martin Savage sets up a one-man roadblock to stop a car full of drunken Canadian loggers. A scramble over a pistol ensues, and the next thing Martin knows, a rifle barrel is stuck to the back of his head. The loggers disable Martin’s truck and walk him toward the open trunk of their car. He doesn’t understand what the French-speaking men are saying, but it’s clear they plan to kill him.
Dennis McIntosh’s snowmobile goes through the ice on Long Lake, leaving him to watch in desperation as the red taillight of fellow warden Chris Cloutier’s sled disappears into the darkness. Within minutes of treading water in a heavy snowsuit, Dennis becomes too cold and fatigued to function. He accepts his fate and allows his body to sink into the abyss.
A feature attraction at the state Game Farm in Gray, a massive buck named Charlie, is killed at night by bow hunters. The resulting media coverage feeds a frenzy of inquiries and tips, one of which puts Warden Nat Berry on the culprits’ trail.
Assisting the State Police, Wardens Bill Allen and John Ford are staking out a house believed to be part of an international drug smuggling operation. Bored with police work, the wardens are quick to abandon their post when a poacher’s gunshot rings out in the field behind them.
The retirement of the Holbrook Island Sanctuary’s private security officer turned the land into an all-you-can-poach buffet. Looking to set things straight, Coastal Warden Jim Brown is on foot patrol in the sanctuary when a car with a spotlight and a rifle barrel sticking out a window lights up the orchard where he's hiding. Will his brown coastal uniform be mistaken for a deer?
Warden pilots Gary Dumond and Jack McPhee are settling down for dinner at a camp on Spider Lake when there’s a knock on the door. A devastating snowmobile accident has left two men in critical condition, one of whom is choking on his own blood. In a race against time, Gary and Jack rush to fly the men to safety.
A young boy wanders away from home and slips through river ice on a Gorham golf course water hazard. As the search wears on, everyone on the emergency response team has to face the reality that it's no longer a rescue operation.
About the only thing in Washington County more difficult to get than a fish and game conviction is a poaching tip from the public. When a tip is received, it leads to a late-night foot chase and two poachers taken into custody. Warden Glynn Pratt then makes an impromptu decision to go undercover to implicate the pickup driver.
The Rolfe Brook smelt are running, as are two men spotted illegally fishing. After a tussle ensues, one of the smelters escapes in his car, endangering the wardens in the process. After tracking the man down, and lacking sufficient evidence to charge him, the wardens find a creative way for justice to prevail.
Notorious poacher Danny James has long been a thorn in the side of wardens Jim Brown and Nat Berry. Emboldened by the fact he’s never been caught, Danny sends Christmas cards to the wardens with the message "Better luck next year" inscribed inside. Just when Jim and Nat are finally going to nab him, the doe Danny shot at night disappears from beneath their watchful eyes.
After apprehending a drunk driver, Warden David Berry responds to a distress call from an Oxford County Sheriff. Upon arriving on the scene, David finds himself face to face with an enraged, mountain of a man wielding a running chainsaw as a weapon.
About the Author
Daren Worcester is a native of Hanover, Maine, and a graduate of the University of Maine. He has been published in Backpacker and Down East magazines, and he runs the website northeasthikes.com. This is his first book. Daren lives in New Hampshire with his family.
Please Support the Maine Game Warden Foundation
As a thank you to the wardens who contributed their experiences to Open Season, we have started a fund for the Maine Game Warden Foundation. The MGWF, a non-profit run by retired game wardens, supports natural resource conservation, youth programs, families in need, public safety, and other social services. Please join us in supporting the MGWF. No gift is too small (or, for that matter, too large).
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