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Posted by an avid reader on 4/21/2006
In the arena of natural resources law enforcement, responsible hunters are considered among the most ardent conservationists. "A Hunt for Justice" exposes the other side of the story, where greed and disregard for the animal overcome the concept of the fair hunt.
Fortunately, the Federal Investigators that protect our wildlife take on the challenge. Schroeder makes it clear that a successful undercover operation is a team effort, and includes the commitment of managers, field agents, and even family members. Her story is told in a matter-of-fact tone, and its message is definitely "Bad guys, beware."
True Crime readers and wildlife enthusiasts will find something special in "A Hunt for Justice."
Fascinating true story of an undercover wildlife agent's most harrowing case.
Posted by Monika on 8/19/2006
Until her retirement in 2004, Lucinda Schroeder was a special agent for the US Fish & Wildlife Service, only the third woman to be hired by the force, and the first woman to do undercover work in the field. But for a long while she was given only small, simple cases to handle, and felt frustrated by the lack of faith her male counterparts seemed to have in her abilities to handle the rigors of the job. Finally, after years of being given disappointing, low-priority cases, Schroeder was assigned to the project this book revolves around, a case that would give her a chance to show her capabilities by bringing down a large-scale poaching operation in the Brooks Range of Alaska, but would at the same time be one of the biggest challenges she had ever faced in her career.
The book opens in 1991. Schroeder, using the pseudonym Jayne Dyer, is working her way into the good graces of the friends of a man named Bob Bowman, long suspected by the Fish & Wildlife Service of using illegal methods to guarantee his clients trophy kills on the hunting charters he runs. It was thought that Bowman was using airplanes to herd animals to his clients, and later Schroeder would discover that he was violating the law in numerous other ways as well, including taking his customers onto the protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to hunt. It is not until the season of 1992 that Schroeder is able to get herself booked on one of Bowman's charters. But when she finally does go undercover, it is a harrowing experience. For a week she is figuratively on her own in the Alaskan wilderness with a group of poachers led by a man known to have threatened that if he ever discovered a federal agent in his camp, he would kill them. She must spend this time closely observing everything done by Bowman, his employees, and his clients, so she can later make a full report of any and all violations. She must get as much information as possible without arousing suspicions. And if anything does go wrong - if the poachers somehow discover her true identity before the trip is over - she has no way to contact her fellow agents or get herself out of the camp before her scheduled departure.
Schroeder also brings a very human element to the story. In her work, she must face many personal conflicts of emotion. Her job is to protect wildlife, but she must make illegal kills in order to accomplish this. Moreover, she must present herself as an enthusiastic hunter in order to be convincing to those she is secretly investigating. At the same time, she develops friendships with the wives of a couple of the poachers, working in the kitchen at the main camp, and at times feels the strain of knowing that she will ultimately betray their trust.
The story doesn't end once the undercover work is finished, however. As you can imagine (since obviously she has survived to tell the tale), Schroeder makes it through her the fieldwork part of the investigation, but this isn't the end of the case. For months afterward, Schroeder and her fellow agents must work to compile evidence, collect statements, etc., and thus ensure that they will be able to make their case in a court of law. Only then can they actually move in to arrest the poachers and bring them to trial. Schroeder takes us through this entire process, which is just as interesting as the field work itself. One might think all this would be anti-climactic, but it isn't.
I found "A Hunt for Justice" to be thoroughly riveting, and unlike most other books. It has all the elements of a great undercover detective thriller, and yet it is a true-crime narrative. I could easily see the story being turned into a captivating movie. The writing is excellent - easy to read, and yet vivid and engaging. Schroeder is not only a competent wildlife law enforcement agent, but a gifted writer as well, and she really brings the story to life for the reader. Also included are a selection of black-and-white photographs from the operation, showing some of the huge trophy animals "Jayne" and Bowman's other clients brought down in the Brooks Range. Overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I can't find a single thing to criticize about the book. Highly recommended.
Posted by Aspasia on 6/20/2007
As a female looking for a career in wildlife law enforcement this was a great book to read! Lucinda Schroeder did an excelent job writing this true story, it was hard for me to put it down at night. Because Lucinda is a female she had a great advantage over men at catching poatchers in Alaska, and this reminds us all that you don't have to be male to succeed in this line of work. The book was full of excitment, danger, humor and fun. A great read!
Posted by E. Martin on 8/29/2007
In 1974, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hired its third female agent, Lucinda Delaney. And unlike the first two women in the agency, she was determined to do more than checking cargo and baggage for smuggled contraband.
And thus began a career in which Delaney, who married biologist Lonnie Schroeder soon after, spent 30 years working undercover, bagging poachers and other hunting scofflaws.
Her fascinating story has been recounted in "A Hunt for Justice."
Schroeder tells of her struggles to be taken seriously in an agency that gives "old boy's network" a really bad name. A degree in criminology and an overwhelming passion for solving mysteries led Schroeder to her chosen career, and a dogged determination--some might say stubbornness--kept her in it for 30 years, despite outright and undisguised sexual discrimination and harassment, administrative roadblocks and hostility.
Today's generation doesn't remember the struggles involved for women in the 1960s and '70 to be taken seriously in formerly "male" occupations. Employers could--and did--discriminate on the basis of sex, motherhood and pure bias; those women who persisted were subjected to verbal and physical harassment. It is a testament to Schroeder's passion and determination to do her job that she not only did it, but was instrumental in bringing down an international poaching ring operating in Alaska.
And this case is the crux of the story. Her struggles in the beginning, building a family and juggling being a wife, mother and field agent are just background for the real story, the undercover "Operation Brooks Range" in 1991.
Poachers at this time could make serious money taking hunters into Alaska for "guaranteed" trophies: moose hunts began at $6,000, sheep and grizzlies cost hunters $7,000; combination hunts were as high as $18,000.
As Schroeder begins her undercover operation, at a hunter's bar called "The Bear Den, she finds out why the costs are so high: " `Wow! Pretty hefty prices,' I said, sliding the brochure and videotape into my oversized black leather purse. `Not when you consider that everything's guaranteed,' (the bartender) replied."
One of the biggest violators was a guide named "Bob Bowman" (Schroeder changed the names to protect privacy). He had "all the elements of a violator--small airplanes, wealthy clients and lots of big game ..."
But with 64,000 licensed guides in 591,000 square miles of wilderness, catching him was almost impossible.
Until Schroeder and an informant wangled their way into a hunt with Bowman by pretending to be hunters in search of big trophies who weren't willing to take the time and hardship to hunt legally.
Operating by word-of-mouth, with clients coming in from Italy, Germany and other foreign countries, staying under the radar and having an almost supernatural ability to sniff out undercover operatives (and allegedly no compunction about "eliminating" them), Bowman's operation had been going on for years, even thought the agency knew he was dirty.
Illegal hunts included using small planes to tire out grizzlies and moose, spotting game and dropping the hunters right on top of them, despite a law forbidding flying and hunting on the same day, and conducting hunts in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Schroeder spent 11 heart-pounding days in Bowman's camp, worried that violators she'd arrested would recognize her, worried her informant might slip and give up their secret, worried the illegal hunters would leave the country with their evidence--and trying to convince herself that the time away from her daughter and husband was worth the stress and fear.
This woman has guts--and smarts. She got on Bowman's good side by translating for his Italian guests, got in with them by speaking their language, worked up a relationship with the wives of the poachers by helping in the kitchen and seeming compassionate, kept the foreign hunters' evidence in the country with a well-told lie, and brought home a terrific piece of evidence in the form of a Dall sheep trophy she shot in ANWR.
Here, Schroeder's overriding reason for taking the risk is seen:
"I hated to kill a magnificent ram like this one for a case, and I wondered for a minute if I was any better than the crooks who killed animals for their own selfish agendas."
Schroeder's agenda should in no way be seen as anti-hunting. As she points out in the Preface, "... I championed ethical and legal hunting. Nothing in this book should be construed as being anti-hunting. My job was to stop illegal hunting and poaching that diminished legal hunting opportunities. I fully acknowledge and respect the tremendous contribution that hunters have made to wildlife conservation worldwide."
This book reads like a thriller, with international intrigue, heart-stopping action and a gutsy heroine who's not afraid to face her adversaries head on--even in a foreign country--in order to make her case.
Schroeder writes well, infusing her prose with imagery and action, making her characters three-dimensional, even the bad guys. She doesn't hesitate to tell of the lengths she'd go to, nor does she gloss over her fears and concerns about her family and her work's effect on them. But her passion for solving crimes and putting criminals away is obvious, and her book makes for a compelling read. I sometimes forgot I was reading a true story, it was so well done.
True crime is a genre one either loves or hates, and I happen to love it. "A Hunt For Justice" goes right up at the top of the list of well-written good reads. If you're not a fan of this genre, read it for the history, for the excellent picture of the struggles women have gone through to be considered equal, or for the damage illegal hunting and poaching does to the wildlife populating.
Whatever your reason, just read the book. You won't be sorry.