Log on. Zoom in. Bang.
It sounds like something from a science fiction movie.
Creepy as the concept might be, someone actually built an Internet-controlled network of Web cameras and shotguns aimed into a food plot on a Georgia Power Co. right-of-way last fall.
A utility contractor encountered the setup, snapped a few photos and reported the odd apparatus to the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, which in turn notified the U.S. Office of Homeland Security.
By the time officers arrived at the south Georgia site, however, the equipment had been removed.
According to a Nov. 19 bulletin from the Georgia Information Sharing & Analysis Center, "three shotguns were set up on a platform and linked to a Web-accessible camera system that allows the guns to be fired via an Internet connection."
A second, identical system was found on the other side of the right-of-way, for a total of six shotguns.
The expensive Benelli shotguns appear to be chambered for 3-inch shells and fitted with magazine extension tubes that increase their capacity from five to as many as eight rounds. Such a system, if fully operational, could direct substantial -- and deadly -- firepower.
The bulletin, circulated by the Office of Homeland Security, said the guns were trained toward a food plot, and that their likely intent was for hunting in an area known to be infested with feral hogs.
Melissa Cummings, a spokeswoman for the Wildlife Resources Division, said an investigation was opened after the photo was brought to the agency's attention.
"The guns and setup were not located during subsequent follow-up patrols in the area," she said in an e-mail responding to questions about the case. "Capt. Jeff Swift has since talked with the property owner, Jay Williams, who stated that the firearms setup was still in the developmental stage and had not been deployed at that point to shoot any animal."
Cummings said the landowner also told officers his intent was to develop the system as a remote-controlled hog-control device.
"Since then, Mr. Williams has sold the property," Cummings said. "The system has not been seen since."
No charges were filed in the case, but authorities say such technology is dangerous and could be used in other situations.
"At this time there is no evidence to suggest that such equipment was established for any purpose other than illegal hunting activity," the bulletin said. "However, the apparatus could be used for more nefarious activity that would be of direct concern to the law enforcement and public safety communities."
Several business ventures explored the idea of cyber hunting in recent years, but the practice has been banned in at least 25 states, the bulletin said, adding that officers should be aware of the existence of such devices.
"While law enforcement has been aware of such capabilities for some time, very few agencies have come across actual clandestine systems such as the one found in 2010."
CRANE REWARD: Need money for a new bass boat this spring?
A $12,500 reward was posted last week for information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of whoever shot and killed three endangered whooping cranes in south Georgia on Dec. 30.
The cranes, found dead by hunters, are part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership effort to reintroduce whooping cranes into the eastern United States.
Scientists at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Ore., concluded the birds had been shot to death.
The reward fund includes contributions from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Ornithological Society, the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration, the St. Marks Refuge Association, Georgia Conservancy and Humane Society of the U.S.
Each of the dead cranes had been banded and equipped with transmitters. They had last been tracked in Hamilton County, Tenn., where they roosted on Dec. 10 with three other cranes.
There are about 570 whooping cranes left in the world, of which only 400 are in the wild. About 100 cranes are in the eastern migratory population.
Anyone with information on the shootings can contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Terry Hasting at (404) 763-7959 or call (800) 241-4113.
GOT YOUR GLOCK?: Many states reported a spike in handgun sales the Monday after the tragic mass shooting in Arizona, but Georgia's sales actually fell, according to the FBI.
In Arizona, where the Safeway shooting spree left six people dead and a congresswoman and 11 others wounded, there were 263 such checks performed on Monday, showing a huge increase over the 164 checks a year earlier, on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010.
Gun sales also spiked that day in California, with 672 checks compared to last year's 580.
Significant increases were also noted in Indiana, New York, Ohio, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and many other states.
Some people believe the jump in sales could have been prompted by fears of new gun control laws in the wake of the tragedy.
But what about Georgia and South Carolina?
In both states, the number of handgun sales actually declined by a large percentage. Georgia's figure fell from 184 in 2010 to just 66 last Monday, while the South Carolina figures fell from 151 last year to just 24 on Monday.
Was it because we were in the throes of one of the worst winter storms in recent memory?
Or maybe everyone in this area already has enough guns and didn't need to buy more.