Anderson: Former Louisiana agent made world (and bayou) better place

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 1, 2014 - 12:47 AM

Dave Hall spent most of his life protecting ducks and other wildlife in the bayou.

hide

In this 1989 photo, L-R, outdoors writer Dennis Anderson, and the late Dave Hall and Bill Mellor, two former U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents, stood before a helicopter purchased mostly from donations by Minnesota waterfowlers.

Dave Hall rarely strapped on a sidearm. He had one but usually left it in his car.

He did carry a badge, however, designating him as an agent of the federal government, specifically the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But that was it. Otherwise, in a Louisiana bayou, he looked like just another guy — no sign of his undercover work years earlier in Alaska to bust up the illegal harvest and trade of walrus tusks. And nothing of his infiltration of New York gangsters who trafficked in Louisiana alligator skins, fueling the decimation of those animals.

I thought about this the other morning when I received a phone call notifying me Dave had died. He was 76 and had suffered the past 11 years from Alzheimer’s disease.

His body was cremated, and his ashes will be spread Saturday in a Louisiana bayou, home to the ducks and other wildlife he lived to protect.

•••

I first met Dave in 1988, when he picked me up at the New Orleans airport. I had come to Louisiana to find out whether decades-long rumors about duck poaching along the Gulf Coast were true.

Someone had given me Dave’s name as a person I should talk to.

“Come on down,” he said. “I’ll show you around, introduce you to some people.”

My visit was part of a yearlong reporting effort to determine why North American ducks had declined by 60 percent since the 1940s. Habitat loss was mostly to blame. But did illegal hunting play a role, if not along the Gulf Coast, then in Mexico?

Seeing me at the airport baggage carousel, along with a Labrador retriever I had brought with me, Dave said, “I didn’t expect you to show up. Writers contact me from time to time about duck poaching down here. But, in the end, they don’t come.”

His reference was to the mystery that can attend life in Louisiana’s vast coastal marshes when viewed from the outside.

More than 200 miles long and up to 60 miles wide (though generally less now, due to saltwater intrusion and marsh subsidence) these wetlands and the culture they’ve incubated for centuries can be a challenge to understand, as well as to navigate.

Dave’s knowledge of ducks, duck hunting, duck management and particularly duck politics benefited me in this regard, and he often fused these topics so they could be understood as a whole.

Additionally, with a bachelor’s degree in forestry from Mississippi State University and a master’s in zoology, he didn’t speak from a cop’s vantage point alone.

Not that he didn’t take great pride in busting big-time violators (he rarely “thin-pinched” everyday hunters) who thought they had covered their tracks well. He did.

But understanding human nature, behavior and motivation were his real strengths, and he used these to convert to conservation even those he helped send to federal prison.

“Ultimately, people in Louisiana are great people, and they love wildlife,” Dave said. “When you point out to them that poaching can hurt what they love, they come around; they understand.”

Still, the extent of illegal duck killing in Louisiana and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast at the time was startling. Baiting — the scattering of corn or rice around hunters’ blinds, causing ducks to lose their natural wariness — was a big problem.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 7
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 86 FINAL
Boston 100
Washington 100 FINAL
New York 103
Cleveland 92 FINAL
Memphis 96
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Milwaukee 91
Atlanta 117 FINAL
San Antonio 107
Portland 86 FINAL
LA Lakers 94
Phoenix 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 108
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Washington 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close