Turkey-napping case should serve warning to hunters

Everyone has to be on the lookout for scam artists — even in the world of taxidermy.
With turkey hunting season approaching (or so I’m told), there’s a recent case of a hunter, a turkey and a taxidermist that serves as a tale of caution.
When Minnesota hunter Scott Moncur bagged a 25-pound turkey last spring, it was a hunter’s dream come true. Moncur waited seven years to get a chance at a turkey. The Department of Natural Resources limits the number of turkey licenses. Apparently, turkeys are a precious natural resource, along with hockey players and the Pillsbury Doughboy. This spring, for instance, the DNR says 39,883 people applied for licenses, and only 16,937 actually received a license.
Shortly after he shot his bird, Moncur recieved a flyer from a taxidermist by the name of Robert Poppovich. Poppovich had bought the list of licensed turkey hunters in Minnesota and sent them flyers for his business.
One problem: Poppovich had let his taxidermy license expire, Moncur says. Did that inhibit Poppovich’s ability to buy the list of people who had licenses?Of course not. Should it have raised a few eyebrows with the DNR?
Even though it is public information, the fact that someone with an expired taxidermist liscense is buying hunting information sounds awfully suspicious — even to us pansy media types who’ve never hunted for anything more than a clean pair of Fruit of the Looms.
But Moncur didn’t know that. He gave his bird over last spring and hasn’t seen hide nor feather of the turkey since.
“Two weeks before Christmas he called and said he’d have the turkey ready by Christmas,” Moncur said. “Before that, he told me I’d have it by my birthday, which is in October, and I never heard from him until before Christmas.”
Since Christmas, Poppovich’s line has been disconnected, and Moncur says his attempts to find the taxidermist haven’t been fruitful.
Moncur hasn’t taken the loss of his poultry easily. He called the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, who told him to call the DNR.
“I’m trying to get the DNR to prosecute him,” Moncur said last week. “I’ve been waiting four days for one of their officers to call back.”
Whether or not he gets his bird back is almost irrelevent now. Moncur says if the taxidermist took care of the bird properly — put it in a freezer — it probably has freezer burn.
So, which would Moncur rather have: the $165 down payment he gave Poppovich to stuff the bird, or his trophy back?
“Oh, the bird,” Moncur said. “It took one-and-a-half hours to get that trophy. I got one, and now it’s gone.”
While he’s almost given up on getting the turkey back, he hasn’t given up on Poppovich. In addition to calling the DNR, Moncur says he’s looking into taking out an ad in an outdoors magazine to round up other Minnesota hunters who might have done business with Poppovich.
After all, there were around 16,000 turkey hunters in the state last year.
“I know I wasn’t the only one who gave him $165,” Moncur said.
The only turkey hunting I’ve ever been involved in has involved a Butterball and a grocery store. But if you’re heading out turkey hunting this spring, be on the lookout for fake taxidermists.

Jim Schortemeyer is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]