Hunters: Law Enforcement’s Eyes in the Woods

You might be surprised to learn that more and more police and sheriff’s departments across the country anticipate the discovery of critical new evidence in unsolved criminal cases as millions of hunters head to the fields and forests every fall.

That’s because law enforcement is learning to depend on outdoorsmen as their eyes in the backwoods, and more and more hunters are coming forward to report finding human remains and other evidence.

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An article appearing in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week noted several recent cases in which hunters found bones of humans believed to be the victims of violent crimes.

The newspaper reports that in an area such as greater St. Louis—with both a high incidence of murder and an abundance of sportsmen—worlds often collide.

Several deer and small-game hunters as well as anglers have found human remains in recent years in the St. Louis area, according to the Post-Dispatch. Authorities say they welcome the discoveries and want sportsmen to report their findings--even if there is some doubt the bones are human.

“If you’ve never seen skeletal remains, you may assume it’s some kind of animal and not follow through with a call,” Master Sgt. James Morissey of the Illinois State Police told the newspaper.

Last year Jason Mathenia was hunting antler sheds with a friend along some railroad tracks on the Illinois side of the Mississippi when he came across the skeleton of a young woman. She has never been identified.

Mathenia says the discovery still haunts him.

“You never think it’s going to be that big of a deal,” he said. “And then it happens and you’re thinking, ‘I’ve got three kids of my own.’”

A quick search on Google reveals news stories from just the past couple of weeks about hunters discovering bodies and remains in at least seven states. Outdoor Newshound readers may remember the blog posted earlier this month about a hunter who discovered the body of a missing Colorado man, along with his two retrievers that remained by the side of their dead owner for nearly a month.

So, when you head to woods after venison in coming days and weeks, be particularly vigilant and observant.

The cops are counting on you.