When I got the text message that a Game Commission officer near Gettysburg had been shot and killed, I knew instantly that it was Dave Grove.
Because Freedom Township is his sector. Because there’s only two WCOs here (Darren David’s the other). Because bad things happen to good people.
I don’t believe a game warden’s job is more dangerous than most others in law enforcement. But Grove’s predecessor, Larry Haynes, crystallized it for me with, “folks we deal with are usually carrying guns.”
It was a bittersweet surprise to learn that not since 1915 had a Pennsylvania game warden been shot and killed in line of duty.
When caught doing something seriously stupid, pulling the trigger is a false way out. That’s what it appears happened when Dave Grove responded to after-hours, out-of-season shooting Thursday night along Schriver Road, not far from the Eisenhower Farm.
Grove, 31, was shot to death. For what? Deer?
The shooter is about to find out how expensive poaching can be.
Poaching is a problem in Adams County. Moreso than we realize. Moreso than some want to own-up to. Some outlaws have been at it for years. Wardens know who they are. It’s a matter of evidence and I hope, just time before a more serious package of fines hammers them.
When given the chance, not one sportsman’s club was willing to chip in to buy a robo-deer to help address the issue of poaching. Wonder if they still feel that way today.
For the November issue of “Pa. Game News,” WCO Grove wrote the account, “A shot in the dark,” about an encounter (not this year) with two poachers who “pulled into the dead end road to the covered bridge.” (There’s a covered bridge not far from Schriver Road.) One had been drinking and they’d killed a doe and two fawns.
Dave wrote that he hoped one of the poachers would realize, “that breaking game laws and poaching will never do anything good for him in his life.”
Thursday night, about three hours before he died, Officer Grove sent an email to me, addressing a reader’s concern about headless deer found along Route 97 last Tuesday.
“The deer on Rt. 97 were reported by several people and from what I saw, it was 2 road killed deer where someone stopped and took the head/antlers off of them (which is illegal to do and most people don’t know that),” Grove wrote.
Dave Grove was one of the nicest young men you’d ever know. From the moment we met, he was patient, courteous and forthright with my requests for information.
I looked forward to being a hunter-education instructor and working with Dave.
He was a credit to WCOs everywhere in the way he worked for wildlife and for sportsmen. I never heard a negative word about him. That Dave loved his job is as clear as a crisp November morning.
I sent the Times’ “Getting to Know You” profile to Dave, thinking hunting season would be the perfect time for readers to learn more about the young man.
As fate would have it, he returned his answers earlier Thursday night. In tribute, I think today is a better time to get to know him.
David Lynn Grove
He lives: “Fairfield - sorry BJ can’t give out my actual address.”
Educated at: “High School- Grace Academy - Hagerstown, Md; College - Penn State Univ.”
Family: “Not married. Parents live in Waynesboro.”
Job: “Wildlife Conservation Officer.”
Job’s reward: “Being able to make a difference for the sportsmen and women of the state and being able to teach the future hunters of PA.”
Hates about the job: “Not being able to hunt on any of the first days of hunting seasons.”
First job: “Making hay on a farm.”
Does he have a hunting/fishing background: “Yes, hunting for 19 yrs. And fishing as long as I can remember.”
Favorite food: “BBQ.”
Hero: “My dad. He is the one who started me out in the outdoors and that developed into my passion to become a WCO.”
Pet peeves: “People who litter (especially deer carcasses).”
He collects: “Game Commission Patches (they make a yearly ‘Working together for wildlife’ patch).”
Best friend: “Josh - my best friend from high school.”
Would like to have witnessed: “Civil War - especially battle of Little Round Top.”
Changed his life: “Day I found out I was accepted into the PGC’s Ross Leffler School of Conservation.”
Who needs a kick in the pants: “Poachers.”
Favorite reading/author: “Do Cabelas magazines count?”
Website he visits most: “Facebook and PGC website.”
Bad habit: “Biting fingernails.”
3 items on his bucket list: “Visit Scotland, hunt Elk out west, fish in Alaska.”
Would like to learn: “Fly fishing.”
Surprisingly: “Even though I can gut all types of wildlife that I hate to watch medical shows or pictures where they show internal organs of people.”
How would you like to be remembered: “That I did my job with enthusiasm and passion and that I treated people with the same respect that I would want to be treated with.”