In 1947, roughly 3,000 white-tailed deer roamed Georgia when Jack Crockford joined the state Game and Fish Commission as a wildlife biologist.
Most herds resided along the coastal area, if anywhere. The state was trucking in deer from Texas, Wisconsin, even traveling circuses, to beef up numbers when Mr. Crockford came aboard.
Today, more than 1 million deer populate the state yearly. Mr. Crockford, who eventually served as director of the wildlife agency, is considered a major player in the state's deer restoration efforts of the 1950s and 60s. Success was partly due to his invention of the "Cap-Chur gun."
The Michigan native created a dart gun and, with help from the University of Georgia, a tranquilizer that made it easier to capture and transplant deer as well as other animals. It's still utilized today.
"He pretty much built the gun and made the dart, which was a syringe," said David Waller, a retired state wildlife biologist from Covington. "That gun hasn't changed in 50 years. It's the same gun you see them shooting big-game with."
Jack Crockford died Saturday from a suspected aneurysm at Hospice Atlanta. He was 88. A funeral will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Ansley Golf Club. SouthCare Cremation Society and Memorial Centers of Alpharetta is in charge of arrangements.
Mr. Crockford grew up in Woodland, Michigan, a southern part of the state where he enjoyed the outdoors. He turned a love for hunting and fishing into a 30-year career in wildlife management.
In 1947, the late Charlie Elliott, then-director of the Georgia Game & Fish Commission hired Mr. Crockford. He had recently earned a degree in wildlife biology from Michigan State University, and had served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
"Charlie told me that was the best hire he ever made as commissioner," Mr. Waller said. "He was 24 years old, but he wasn't a college brat. He'd been in the military and had flown 423 combat missions."
From 1972 to 1978, Mr. Crockford served as director of the Georgia Game and Fish Commission, now called the Wildlife Resources Division of the Department of Natural Resources.
In 2001, he was presented a lifetime achievement award by the Georgia Chapter of the Safari Club International. The Crockford-Pigeon Wildlife Management Area, just west of Lafayette, was named in his honor.
As a craftsman, Mr. Crockford was an engraver who also made flintlock rifles and knives. He was about to start making flutes before his demise, said a son, Bill Crockford of College Station, Texas.
"He didn't quite get to it," he said. "He was always doing something."
When he was 71, Mr. Crockford underwent a six-way heart bypass operation.
"For follow-up rehabilitation therapy, we're going to make him go squirrel hunting," his doctor said at the time.
Additional survivors include his wife of 62 years, Eleanor Crockford of Chamblee; and a daughter, Gloria Crockford of Tennessee.
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