Duke feels he's got a pretty good case for getting in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Up until this June, he'd been living out of his trailer on a rented patch of private property west of Lincoln. He's a homeless vet, ex-Coast Guard, with a bum right shoulder and sleep apnea. Disability from the Veterans Administration typically covers his bills, but space in his fifth wheel was limited. So Duke hung his taxidermied black bear in a nearby cottonwood, in clear view from the county road. He thought it'd be cute.
Then someone called the state's TIP-MONT hotline in late April. A few days later, Duke awoke with three men from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks on his doorstep. They asked to see his hunting license.
The road they'd followed in had passed within six feet of the stuffed bear, its head raised and its front paw lifted at a right angle. Lincoln-area warden Ezra Schwalm informed Duke that they'd need to check on the bear.
Duke can come off as ornery, despite his essentially amiable nature. His real name is Robert Febach, but nobody calls him Robert or Mr. Febach.
According to the wardens' reports, Duke's language that morning was colorful. He informed them that the bear was stuffed, that he'd shot it years ago. One warden took photos. Sergeant Dan Curtin later wrote, "We then laughed with Mr. Febach as he used various adjectives and perhaps a noun or two to let us know what he thought of our investigation."
The wardens offered to bring coffee next time.
There won't be a next time. About a week later, Duke's landlord sent him an eviction notice. Although Duke "has been a courteous renter" and "always paid his electric and rent on time," the landlord cited the FWP incident and said he didn't need added stress.
Now Duke's on the move again. Life's been that way for years.
He isn't shy about his frustrationsfor example, "They can't tell a taxidermy job from six fucking feet away?" But after a few expletives, he's genial again.
"I should be in the Guinness Book," he says. "Only guy ever to catch three wardens with one stuffed bear."