January 01, 2012On November 29, I received a phone call from an individual asking me if the buck shot by George (Ike) Swan was officially listed as a state record crossbow buck?
I replied, that it's listed on the Commemorative Bucks of Michigan website as the state record in the crossbow, non-typical category.
The caller inquired if CBM had fair-chase standards and I assured they do. The caller continued, "Someone told me that Swan shot his buck at a high-fence game ranch. There is a picture of the deer alive at the ranch's website main-gallery, check it out tell me if you think it is the same buck."
I found the picture and compared it to the pictures that Swan had provided for articles that I wrote on his buck. The live deer picture posted on the game ranch's website was obviously the same buck. The distinctive characteristics were a match. The deer has a wide spread (23 inches), abnormally tall brow tines with the right tine being slightly shorter and sporting a distinct split at the top. There is also a unique drop-tine growing outward from the left beam.
Last year, in November, I met with a youth hunter and his parents to interview the young man about a big buck that he shot on the opener of gun season. I asked the family if they had the deer scored and the father told me that they took the buck to CBM measurer George Swan. The father, a Marshall City Police Officer, told me that George had shot a giant buck himself and showed me pictures of the enormous rack. Before leaving the interview, I called Swan and scheduled to meet with him, later in the afternoon at his home to conduct an interview. While there I took several pictures of Swan with the 14-point rack. George showed me around his trophy room which had twenty Pope & Young class heads lining the walls.
Swan told me that he had been after this particular buck for the past three years and finally succeeded in taking him on October 6, 2010. I myself am a Marshall native so I asked where he shot the buck and he told me, T Drive South and explained the hunt in detail, which was published in the January 2011 issue of Woods-N-Water News. In January of 2011, I was in attendance at the Battle Creek Q1 Buck Pole prize event party and witnessed George get on stage and repeat his story when interviewed by event host, Tim Hart.
After the mandatory 60 day drying period, Swan chose to enter the buck into the CBM records. The buck was panel scored by three CBM measurers and the final net score was 188 7/8 inches, which was high enough to rank it as the new state record in the non-typical, crossbow category. To enter the buck Swan signed an entry form that has a paragraph titled, "Hunting Ethics," which stated the following. "I am the legal owner of the trophy entered hereon: it was legally acquired by sport hunting in the State of Michigan according to the game laws then in effect and not by any means considered unethical or unfair. This trophy was not acquired within any escape proof artificial confinement and was not transplanted or raised for the purpose of commercial hunting. I hereby certify the above information to be the whole truth to the best of my knowledge and not falsified in any form."
On Friday, December 2, I received another call from the individual who originally made me aware of the fraud. This individual was at Swan's home and he informed me that George confessed to shooting the buck at a high-fenced game ranch and that George wanted to apologize to me. Via a phone conversation Swan said to me, "I apologize to you, this whole thing has snowballed on me."
I asked Swan why he entered the buck into CBM and he responded, "The whole thing snowballed, I made a bet about who would shoot the biggest buck."
I asked how much the buck cost and he replied, "About 8 (thousand), I've never done that before in my life. "
I inquired about the 9-point he shot the year before that shared the same characteristics with the 2010, 14-point and he thought that the 9-point was that buck's son and I asked, "Was that buck also shot on the ranch?"
Swan answered, "No, that is the only buck I have taken from a ranch. In 1992 I shot a wild boar and Angora Goat at a ranch but nothing else."
I then pointed out that he has a turkey listed as a crossbow state record as well and asked him where that was shot? George said, "I shot the turkey on my farm."
Later in the evening, I had the displeasure of informing Commemorative Bucks of Michigan President John Knevel about the fraudulent incident. Mr. Knevel initiated immediate action to investigate this matter and released a press release on December 5, 2011 where it stated, "Swan admitted his fraudulent actions. Swan's buck was removed from the record book. Additionally all of Swan's other entries were removed from the book and he is disqualified from any further entries. Swan's status as an official CBM measurer and his membership in CBM was terminated."
CBM past-president, Dr. Dawn Merritt of Kalamazoo County said,
"This is sad and incredibly distressing. I'm angry and concerned that George Swan acted in this manner, about its impact on CBM and B & C, as well as any potential negative perceptions it may cause about Michigan hunters in general. Measurers are enthusiastic and committed volunteers who perform a community service. We generously give our time and talent and travel to provide this service for free. We measure and enter trophies in good faith. We trust hunters and measurers to have honesty and integrity. Hunters sign affidavits attesting to the authenticity of the trophy, the accuracy of the information provided, and that the animal was taken legally within the principles and practices of fair chase. Per normal practices, we did this for the Swan whitetail rack. In the vast majority of cases, this system works great. Other than occasionally verifying the accuracy of the score by a scoring panel, we don't investigate or corroborate trophy information in advance of an entry. To the best of my knowledge, other organizations don't do this either. CBM has policies and mechanisms in place to investigate a trophy or hunter if something is called into question. Thankfully, that is an extremely rare event. Then there are cases like this one—egregious misuse of the system for pride or even personal gain that then tarnishes the reputation of measurers and even the organization by association. This unfortunately reflects negatively on everything (CBM does) and everyone involved (with the Swan buck). Situations like this can make me cynical and disillusioned about hunting and hunters. It makes me heartsick and emotionally tired. At times, it makes me question why we volunteer so much of our valuable time and it also causes me to reflect upon why we do it. In the end, it is still a positive experience 99% of the time and so that's what keeps us going. CBM is taking an assertive position and is doing everything in its power to address this issue promptly."
Knevel completely agrees with Merritt; He went onto say: "We only do this for fun. People who cheat the system have lost sight of what's important. Hunting begins and ends with personal ethics and a commitment to sportsmanship. This is about traditional fair chase hunting, wholesome family recreation, eating wild game, camp fire stories, remembering those who have gone before us and lighting the path for those future hunters yet to come. I personally have never taken a record book deer in Michigan but I've always had great deer hunts. I wouldn't ever trade any of that for the biggest deer in the world."
CBM will revise the standings within the Non-Typical Whitetail crossbow category. The new #1 Non-Tyipcal Whitetail Crossbow entry was taken in Branch County in 2010 by Patrick H. McCurly with a net score of 166 4/8.n