Georgia Wildlife Resources Division
2070 U.S. Hwy. 278, SE, Social Circle, GA 30025
Jack A. Crockford (1923 - 2011)
Jack Crockford, director of the Georgia Game and Fish Commission during the 1970s and widely recognized as the father of Georgia's white-tailed deer restoration program during the 1950s and '60s, passed away on June 16, 2011 at the age of 88. Crockford was probably best known for having developed the world-famous "Cap-Chur gun" for tranquilizing white-tailed deer and other wild animals during the 1950s.
Born in southern Michigan in 1923, Crockford grew up during the depression. He attended Michigan State University in 1941 but left college in late 1942 to join the Army Air Corps. Crockford earned his wings a year later shipped off to Burma.
He served in the China-Burma-India theater for over a year, flying 423 combat missions, totaling 795 combat hours, many of which were over the famed "hump" (of the Himalayans) into China. He flew supplies into several key battle areas in the former Burma and flew wounded British soldiers back out, often operating in and out of virtually unimproved and short landing strips in very challenging weather conditions. Unarmed in his C-46 cargo plane, he dodged Japanese Zeroes on numerous occasions by hiding in cloud cover. He received several medals and citations for his war service, among them the Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster. He was a member of the Burma Star Association and the Hump Pilots Association.
After his separation from the service in February 1946, Crockford re-entered Michigan State. He graduated in late 1947 with a BS degree in wildlife biology, one of the first ever issued in the U.S. Within a week, he interviewed for a job with the Georgia Game and Fish Commission as a field biologist. He was hired on the spot by then Game and Fish Commission Director Charlie Elliott (who later became a nationally prominent writer for Outdoor Life Magazine).
Recognizing the potential to reestablish the badly depleted white-tailed deer herd across the state, Crockford pushed hard to establish a statewide deer restoration program. That program was initiated in 1950. Live-trapping operations began in the mountains and on several of Georgia's privately owned coastal islands where deer numbers were high. Flying a state-owned Cessna 180, Crockford frequently made runs from one island to another, often landing on the beach at low tide and sleeping in the woods.
In 1952 Crockford began work on an idea to develop a dart gun that could be used for capturing deer. After months of trial and error, and progressing from a blow gun to a home-built surgical tubing actuated air gun, he successfully modified a commercial air rifle and developed a primitive dart. After many more months of work, he developed a more sophisticated dart that became widely known as the "flying syringe." Associates at the University of Georgia were instrumental in developing a suitable drug that would tranquilize deer without killing them. Once perfected, Crockford's "Cap-Chur" gun quickly gained international attention. Wildlife agencies across the world requested rifles that would tranquilize elephants, wild cattle and other large animals. Crockford's world-famous Cap-Chur gun is still a primary means of taking wild animals alive. (Side note: There is a great article on the QDMA website by Duncan Dobie titled "The Man Who Shot 1,000 Deer With an Air Rifle" about the development of the Cap-Chur gun - worth a read if you have the time).
Crockford went on to become director of Game and Fish (now the Department of Natural Resources) under Governor Jimmy Carter in 1971. He retired as Director in 1978. While Jack accomplished many great things during his career, the two greatest accomplishments were the invention of the tranquilizer dart gun and the reestablishment of the white tail deer herd in Georgia. These two feats have resulted in many wildlife management and conservation awards, and praise from not only Georgians, but also from persons and organizations throughout the world. During his career, Jack served state, regional, national and international fish and wildlife interests, holding high office in all, and maintaining memberships in a wide range of outdoor associations and clubs. To show their appreciation to Jack for his tremendous contributions in Georgia, the Board of Natural Resources dedicated and named a large game refuge near LaFayette in his honor, the Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
Crockford was also well-known as a fine craftsman and engraver who built hundreds of knives and nearly 100 percussion and flintlock muzzle loading rifles during his lifetime (One of his flintlock rifles hung proudly in the oval office when President Jimmy Carter occupied the office).
In 1948, Crockford married his college sweetheart, the former Eleanor ("Fio") Marie Fiorillo. He is survived by his wife Fio, son Bill and his wife Amanda, daughter Gloria ("Babe") and friend Rick Walker, and "grandchildren" Allison Ratajczak, Meghann Riepenhoff, and William & Stephanie Hass. Services will be held at 4pm, Thursday, 21 July, at Ansley Golf Club, 196 Montgomery Ferry Dr, Atlanta, GA 30309.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Jack's name to any of the following three organizations:
Hospice Atlanta, 1244 Park Vista Dr, NE, Atlanta, GA 30319
US Air Force Academy, 3116 Academy Dr, Suite 200, USAF Academy, CO, 80840
Piedmont Hospital, 1968 Peachtree Rd, NW, Atlanta, GA 30309