Florida game warden recounts unusual arrests


Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 5:24 p.m.

Jeff Gager can probably credit — or blame — both genetics and environment for his latest venture, “Working on the WILD Side,” a book about unusual arrests.

Gager recently retired after 25 years as an officer for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a job that put him in an environment overflowing with odd, humorous and unique human behavior that regularly ended with someone wearing handcuffs.

Gager comes from a long line of story-tellers; he is a member of the Pepper family that once owned The Gainesville Sun.

“It seemed like anytime we got together as game wardens, I was the one who would tell the stories,” Gager said. “And, it seemed like people enjoyed hearing them.”

Shortly after being hired by the state agency in 1987, Gager began jotting down stories he collected through his work and stories involving other officers.

“I just didn't want to forget any of it,” Gager said. “And a lot of them were pretty funny.”

Gager's ability is to frame a story to entertain a crowd of fellow officers and members of civic clubs, where he is often a guest speaker.

Among those stories was one that Gager said proves “stupid never goes out of style.”

Fellow officer Lane Kinney had designed and built Buckshot, the agency's first deer decoy that was put into service before commercially-built decoys were available. According to Gager's book, a driver spotted Buckshot, slowed and even flashed his headlights in an apparent attempt to get Buckshot to move.

The seemingly comatose Buckshot held his ground. That gave the driver time to shut off his truck, remove a pillow from beneath the head of a child sleeping in the truck's cab and then put the pillow on the hood of the truck. Then, from 24 yards away, the driver rested his gun on the pillow and fired away at Buckshot.

Kinney and another officer jumped out of the bushes where they had been watching the scene unfold and arrested the furious roadside hunter.

“Personally, I think he was probably more embarrassed because they witnessed his stupidity than because he broke the law,” Gager wrote.

That story and others that Gager collected probably would have remained tucked away in journals at Gager's home if it was not for one of his friends.

“I didn't really think about putting any of these stories into a book until about two years ago when Brian Christopher” suggested it, Gager said.

At that point Gager had already started working as a charter fishing guide on his days off and was beginning to consider retirement when he reached 55 and completed 25 years with the state.

Gager became friends with Christopher, during Gager's regular on-air talks about state initiatives and laws.

“[Christopher] was the one who really got me going on this book,” Gager said. “Now I see that I have enough material for at least a second book and probably enough for more books, too.”

Gager, 55, said he plans to wait and see how sales of this first book go before he decides to write any more.

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