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ORIOLE - The opening day of the 2007 gun season for deer had the expansive forested north of Perry County abuzz with activity Saturday. That was fine for Robert Brewington, Perry County's newest conservation officer. He spent the day visiting with hunters, checking licenses and keeping a lookout for violations. He gave out far more more warnings than citations, most for failing to place temporary tags on deer.
Like most of the hunters he encountered, the young officer enjoyed the day.
"We want to be visible on days like today, here to help and offer information and simply to let hunters know we are in the area," Brewington said during a visit to deer camps in the Hoosier National Forest in northeastern Perry County.
Most of the gatherings of hunters had a holiday-like feel to them. The tents and various-sized campers are weekend homes for hunters off all ages and many had harvested deer hanging nearby. Many of the hunters said they have been coming to the county for years. Some come seeking trophy bucks, others meat for the freezer. Many simply enjoy the camaraderie with family and friends.
Among those who found success on the first day of deer season was Nathan Keen, a Purdue University student from Greenfield who bagged a nine-point buck. Keen was issued a warning notice for not having a temporary tag on the deer, a requirement of new wildlife laws. He voiced appreciation for the admonition.
Conservation officers have full police powers and statewide jurisdiction. Brewington and other new officers completed weeks of training that covered not only accident investigations and wildlife enforcement but confined-spaces training and water rescue.
Brewington's success led him to join a cave-rescue team, a group called on regularly when explorers are stranded or lost in any of southern Indiana's hundreds of caves.
Just a few miles away from Keen's camp, Rick Baker of New Albany was celebrating. He and a hunting buddy each bagged bucks and were about to depart when Brewington arrived. Both men's deer were properly tagged and both had the needed licenses.
Another hunter, also from New Albany, panicked when Brewington asked to see his license. "I've lost my wallet," the man said patting his pants repeatedly. The story could have been a bluff but modern technology allowed the officer to radio in the man's name and address. The resulting computer check showed the hunter had a valid license. He later found his wallet in the woods where he had taken off a pair of overalls.
As darkness fell, Brewington's sport-utility vehicle traveled rural roadways near Magnet, Oriole and Sulphur. He planned to watch for spotlighters during the night, unsportsmanlike folk who use high-powered spotlights to stun deer, making them easy prey.
Brewington followed his older brother, Neal, into state wildlife service and has been enjoying his job, a view bolstered Saturday while chatting with hunters Saturday, asking about their luck and sharing news about how other hunters have been doing.
Three conservation officers reside in Perry County, First Sgt. Phil Schuetter, who supports officers across several counties; Joe Lackey and Brewington. Anyone needing to contact a conservation officer should call central dispatch, located at the Tell City Police Department at 547-7068.