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Amazing the questions that get answered if one merely keeps his ears open.

One such instance began on April 17. Some conspiracy theorists in the duck hunting community loosely organized a protest against an agricultural practice in Missouri they call "hot cropping." Landowners and lessees flood corn and hunt over it. According to the alarmists, this is part of a multi-layered effort to prevent ducks from migrating to Arkansas.

A text message on April 18 asked our opinion about non-profit conservation organizations illegally dumping truckloads of grain on the ground for ducks.

I limit my opinions to this space, and I don't fall for rhetorical ambushes, but I do dig around to see if suspicions have at least a nugget of merit. Finding no confirmed reference to this allegation, I quickly forgot about it.

The answer came, unsolicited, a couple of weeks ago in a conversation with Randy Zellers, assistant chief of communications for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. He talked about the frustration of trying to preach the conservation message amid the white noise of the rumor mill.

One prime example, Zellers said, is a persistent rumor that Ducks Unlimited dumps truckloads of corn all over the Missouri countryside in an attempt to anchor ducks farther north and keep them from coming to Arkansas.

"It's going around that people have even seen individual kernels of corn stamped with the D.U. logo," Zellers said.

Ah, so we're back to that. Imagine how much it would cost to stencil a logo onto individual corn kernels, not to mention the evidence chain that would create.

That wasn't the end of it. Zellers said there are even people that accuse the Missouri Conservation Department of erecting huge nets at the Arkansas border to turn back ducks trying to cross.

The more fanciful a theory, the more irresistible it is.

For example, there's a simmering controversy that the Game and Fish Commission is secretly breeding and releasing Sasquatches in the Ouachita National Forest.

The originator of that rumor didn't think it through. There's only one place to release Sasquatches, and that's in the Sulphur River Wildlife Management Area, home of the notorious Fouke Monster, which reportedly burst from the swamps on Sept. 20 to start a big brawl during a football game between Fouke and Glen Rose high schools. It rolled up the entire Fouke football team and devoured 26 of Glen Rose's 38 players. One week later, the remaining 12 Glen Rose Beavers vanquished the Two Rivers Gators, 48-6.

Remember the song "Fouke Monster," by Billy Cole and the Fouke Monsters? YouTube it. My best friend in grade school, the late Steve Abrams, actually had the record. "He live back in the WOODS! He don't mean no HARM!"

When I worked for the Missouri Department of Conservation, I rented a canoe from an outfitter on the Niangua River near Lebanon, Mo. As we approached the launch site, a black rat snake sunned in the road in front of us. The outfitter said that there were a lot more snakes in the area than before.

"Now, I can't prove it, but I heard that 'The Conservation' traded a bunch of turkeys to Arkansas for rattlesnakes," the outfitter said. "They dropped them all over this country from those black helicopters they have."

Folks in Missouri call their state game and fish agency "The Conservation," just as Arkansans refer to the Game and Fish Commission as "The Game and Fish."

"How is a snake going to get himself loose out of a parachute harness?" I asked. "They don't have any arms or fingers to unbuckle the straps and stuff."

"Well, now, I ain't thought about it thatta way," the outfitter said, rubbing his chin.

Unresolved was the mystery of how a rattlesnake morphed into a black rat snake. Nevertheless, releasing rattlesnakes from black helicopters is a recurring theme in Arkansas as well.

The Game and Fish did trade a mess of largemouth bass to Colorado for elk in the 1970s. At least, it did theoretically. The Colorado wildlife department's director left office before the deal was consummated. We got their elk, but they didn't get our bass.

True story.

Sports on 10/06/2019

Print Headline: Hunting, fishing conspiracy theories abound

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