For many years before 2016, the Maine Warden Service conducted so-called “covert operations.”
Basically, warden investigators were authorized to go undercover, use a different name and a cover story, and infiltrate a nest of hardcore poachers and eventually bring them to justice. These covert investigations were employed sparingly, and targeted at truly bad hombres, habitual offenders whose poaching and drug-dealing activities were really raising havoc with Maine’s big game populations or fisheries resources.
Warden Bill Livezey was one such undercover game warden. According to the dust cover on his new book, “Let’s Go for a Ride,” Livezey worked undercover for 20 years of his 30-year career in conservation law enforcement.
I first met Warden Livezey before he went undercover. He was a district game warden whose “beat” included an area where I and my friends did a lot of ice fishing and snowsledding. One cold February day, Warden Livezey located and guided back to camp the wife of one of my group, who had become lost while snowmobiling alone in the Endless Lake area. An impressive, squared away rookie warden way back then, Livezey sort of disappeared off my radar.
Then 20 years later, in 2016, in a blaze of unwanted publicity and, in my opinion, grossly irresponsible journalism by the Portland Press Herald, Warden Livezey was suddenly on the radar, his identity and covert operation in Aroostook County exposed for all to see. A chapter in his book titled “Good Guys Versus Bad Guys” delves in detail into these difficult and dangerous times for Warden Livezey and his wife, Gail. It is, in fact, the first time that this maligned conservation officer, who risked his life to protect Maine’s wildlife resources, has had an opportunity to defend his reputation and rebuke the Press Herald’s 2016 “expose” with facts and his side of the story.
“Let’s Go for a Ride,” published by Downeast Books, chronicles Livezey’s incredible 20-year career in working undercover as Bill Freed. Take my word for it, this truly is one of those books that you can’t put down. Most of the 17 chapters take you with this undercover game warden as he skillfully works his way into the good graces of the most unbelievable nests of maladjusted career night hunters and hardcore poachers from all corners of Maine.
Like me, you may be astonished to learn about what goes on in the fall when the sun goes down in some pockets of rural Maine.
“You can’t so much as flinch. You have to be cool. Calm. Collected. Everything is fine. It’s a simple misunderstanding. But that’s a lie. They’re on to you. They know. The knife cuts the air again. More shouting. More belligerence. Steady now. Don’t waver. Count to ten. Put your hands up. Palms out. Non-threatening. You don’t know what they are talking about. It’s crazy. You are one of them. Another lie. You’re in too deep. Unarmed. Alone. Outnumbered six to one. Don’t lose your composure. Now it’s a game of poker. The ante is your life.”
Bill Livezey is retired. He and his wife, Gail, are working with wayward youngsters. The tapestry of the retired warden’s life, from a troubled, broken life as a youth to a career as a gutsy, selfless lawman, is an object lesson in redemption, the power of faith and the human capacity to rise above bad beginnings and find direction and purpose.
“Let’s Go for a Ride” is a special story, in more ways than one. It is available through Amazon Books.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected].