Book review: ‘Open Season’ by C.J. Cox

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Joe Pickett is the new game warden in the Saddlestring District of Wyoming, following Vern Dunnegan, a warden who was somewhat of a legend. Joe, along with Wacey Hedeman, had trained in Saddlestring, and it was somewhat of a coup to get the job. Establishing himself following Vern was another matter. Joe’s wife and two girls were now settling there as well, and the job was underway.

Things were just building up for elk season when Ote Keeley came riding full tilt into Joe’s yard and promptly fell from his horse, dead, on the family woodpile. Besides an uncommon amount of blood, an empty cooler had fallen with him. Even stranger, Ote could have sought help at several houses before Joe’s. It appeared that he had had a purpose in riding this far, but what? What had been in the now empty cooler?

Further investigation established that Ote, a hunting outfitter, had been with two other outfitters in a camp several miles up in the mountains. Ote was here, but where were the other two? Had they shot Ote? It seemed the only answer was to ride to the camp, where they might be armed and waiting, or perhaps had skipped the country by now. Joe, Wacey and a deputy sheriff armed themselves and headed to the camp. When a man emerged from a tent, both Wacey and the deputy, feeling that he was raising his rifle, promptly shot him. The two outfitters they were seeking were shot dead and lying in another tent nearby. Apparently, the man who emerged had shot the outfitters. He was too badly wounded to find the reason; it was hard to understand why he was still there after the outfitters had been dead for some time.

About this time, Joe’s girls found that they had pets in the woodpile. The three sleek, brown creatures sped about and responded when the girls brought food from the house, which they now did regularly. The girls felt it was important to keep the pets secret so the adults didn’t interfere in some way.

As questions mount, the federal endangered species act is brought into play. There is reason to believe that Ote and his friends had found a colony of long-believed-extinct Miller’s Weasels. That can’t happen; a gas pipeline is slated to go through the area; that would stop it cold. As Joe begins to get the picture, events take place that put his whole family in jeopardy.

The job of following a legendary warden proves even harder than Joe had thought.

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