By Mark Lane
One of the first things Bill Lee did after finishing 30 years as a game warden for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was to sit down with Putnam County’s foremost super-poacher and have a chat.
Lee, 59, retired in 2007 as a supervising lieutenant for the northwest region in 2007, a 12-county area that includes Volusia and Flagler counties. Before working as a supervisor, he had patrolled the upper St Johns and Lake George for a dozen years and worked the woodlands of Putnam County.
“There was a heck of a lot of poaching there,” he recalls. “Just about anything you can imagine, we came across. Except for dynamiting fish. Wrong kind of lakes for that.”
Lee’s seen a lot over those years. “I feel like I’ve had an interesting career and I have some stories to tell,” he said.
Stories enough that after he retired, he started writing them down. First as a freelance writer for outdoors magazines like Florida Sportsman and then in a book, “Backcounty Lawman: True Stories from a Florida Game Warden,” published earlier this year by University Press of Florida.
But telling the story right, really telling it and not sounding like a forest cop bragging about his best nabs, meant he’d have to talk to the other side. And that meant sitting down with Roger Gunter.
Gunter was a systematic poacher who was something of a legend in Putnam County. At the height of his activity, Lee estimates he was shooting 50-60 deer a year, in and out of season, daytime and nighttime.
“He’s very analytical,” Lee says. “He’ll tell you everything that’s happening in woods ... He’s got a Ph.D. in the outdoors.” More....