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The Hunter's Quarry

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

Hunting is the pursuit, capture, and killing of animals. It is a practice that predates the human species, embedded within evolution itself. This act is integral to the history and culture of society, shifting between a necessity for survival, a commodity for trade, and a sport in search of trophies. The tools and tactics have advanced with time, outpaced only by agricultural prowess. The need for hunting has faded, as has the reverence for those who were skilled enough to provide. Yet, even as society progresses, there remains a simple honesty to those who hunt for food, honoring the balance that nature provides. Hunting is not unique to man, as entire ecosystems function on a system of prey and predators. At the top reside the apex species, classified as animals throned on their respective food chains, like the bear, lion, and orca whale. These creatures eat what they want, and do not fear any predators. There only threat is man, who differs from all others in that we hunt for sport. The kill itself is the driver, and the predator and prey dynamic spread beyond the forest long ago. There is no honor left, only predators searching for prey, and today’s story explores how quickly you can go from hunter to quarry.


First, I would like to thank Linda, the wife of Ludger Belanger, for taking the time to speak with me about his case. Linda was honest and forthcoming, and provided intimate information indicative of someone who continues to hold hope she will one day have the answers to her husband’s disappearance.



Ludger Belanger was born November 5, 1950, and grew up in Mechanic Falls, Maine. There is little known information about his life before high school, when he and his wife first met. Towards the end of high school his family moved to the small town of Washington, Maine. Ludger and Linda were high school sweethearts, and despite the distance they stayed in touch and continued dating. They were married in 1971 and would have three daughters by 1975. They built their home next door to Ludger’s parents. Linda remembered her husband fondly, describing Ludger as a “happy go lucky man” that got along with everyone, a very kind person, and a great husband and father to their three little girls. She noted that his father taught him to hunt and fish growing up, and that fostered a love of the outdoors for Ludger.

On the morning of November 25, 1975, two days before Thanksgiving, Ludger, Linda and Ludger’s brother were set to go hunting together. The sun was just rising, and a fresh coat of snow had powdered the forest the night before. A couple hours passed with no catch in sight, Linda decided to return home to get ready for her shift at a restaurant in nearby Augusta. Linda confirmed she needed to be at work for noon and because of the snow she was nervous driving, so Ludger offered to bring her, which she happily agreed to. Not one to waste hunting time, Ludger decided to go back out for a bit while Linda was getting ready. She remembered him saying he would be back in about an hour and watched him walk away from the family home into the woods just beyond the hillside. Ludger should have been home around 11:00AM or at the latest 11:30AM for her to be on time for work. When that time came and passed with no sign of him, Linda went next door to her-in-law’s house to notify them of Ludger not returning. They immediately knew something was wrong and phoned the police. The assistance they expected did not come, as the Washington police stated the family must wait some time to make sure Ludger did not return.


Linda did not wait as instructed and notified the Game Warden and Maine state police that her husband was missing, and they flagged him as missing and started looking for Ludger immediately. Their investigation began with retracing Ludger’s path from his home up the nearby hill and across the county road. The Maine Warden quickly located evidence of a successful hunt, confirming the location where Luger likely shot a deer and cleaned it for easier handling and transportation, and the trail where he would have dragged to the side of the closest road. This was common practice among hunters, to seek assistance if they did not have a way back home with their kill. The road provided a clearer picture, showing fresh tire tracks on the side of the road and blood from the deer. The scenario was a common one, Ludger was picked up with his deer and a helpful driver brought him home. However, he was still missing, and it was not long before the warden and police discovered something at the scene that would put most of the pieces together, but some pieces would continue to be lost for decades to come.


A search of the area uncovered a receipt bearing the name of a local auto body shop, Sully’s garage, in Union, not far from the tracks. The paper receipt was dated that same day only earlier in the morning. The authorities followed the paper trail to the body shop and interviewed the employees, who relayed the information that there were two guys that had come in early that morning to pick up a 1965 Buick. Described as less than cordial, the driver of the vehicle was very rude, appeared intoxicated and demanded the workers fix his leaking radiator right now. When the body shop could not accommodate them, they rushed off, only to return later and be given a partial repair. The game warden identified the driver as David Svenningsen and traveled to his home for questioning. Reports regarding the case indicate that upon visiting the residence, the Warden found several suspicious pieces of evidence, including a shotgun that had been recently cleaned along with several packages of fresh deer meat in the home. There was also a small room in the basement that was barred with a heavy padlock. The Game Warden immediately attempted to secure a search warrant for Svenningsen’s residence, but when he returned, David was having a party and everything the Warden had questioned before disappeared, including the padlock on the basement door. The investigation would continue, and not long after the 1965 Buick identified by the auto body receipt was found abandoned. The truck was stripped, with the rear seat, floor mats, and the back window all missing. Upon opening the trunk, it was empty too, nothing remaining but the strong odor of cleaning chemicals.


Any hope of connecting these pieces of Ludger’s disappearance was short lived. At the end of July in 1976, only seven months after Ludger disappeared, David Svenningsen’s house blew up in flames while he was in it. The subsequent investigation uncovered a violent and malicious act, as David was the cause of the explosion, a plan executed to murder his wife. He had filled the family bathtub with gasoline and had lit a candle wick with a fuse. However, he miscalculated the blast radius, and the explosion catapulted David through the front door of his home. Fortunately, despite being upstairs at the time of the blast, his wife jumped from the second story window and survived the attempt on her life. David was not as lucky and sustained severe injuries. He would ultimately succumb to those injuries a few days later at a hospital in San Antonio Texas, taking with him any information regarding Ludger’s disappearance.



The second male mentioned by the auto shop employees was eventually identified as Danny Collins Jr. He was the registered owner of the vehicle that they suspect Ludger was given his last ride in, and the very same one that later turned up stripped and cleaned. Despite the connection, there are no reports available that link him as a person of interest or suspect in the case. Another damning piece of evidence is a reported witness account from 1977 involving a friend of Danny’s known only as “Chris” who told local police that Danny had confessed to him that he and David did in fact pick up Ludger that day with his deer as Ludger asked for a ride with it to his home. Once they started driving David “joked” with Ludger that they would be keeping the deer as pay for the ride home. Ludger obviously refused, as he needed the deer more to provide for his family. An argument would ensue, and the two men would end up killing Ludger. Despite the bombshell testimony, no further action occurred, because Chris would die shortly after his police confession. To this day, the only living witness (that is known) is Danny himself, who still resides in the local area, and refuses to speak about Ludger’s case and or his involvement. After 26 years missing, a court Ludger legally deceased. Despite this proclamation, his family deserves the truth and Ludger deserves the justice that has been prolonged for decades.


So, what became of Ludger Belanger that fateful November morning? The loving, wholesome and down to earth husband and father pursuing a hunt, set out to catch his prey and provide food for his family for the winter. He was on foot, employing the same skills passed on through hundreds of generations. The blood-spattered snow showed his success, and all that remained was to hitch a ride home with his precious cargo. Linda’s words paint a picture of a content man, a huge smile resting on his face as he cleaned the deer. He likely would’ve been filled with pride and accomplishment, that he would be able to provide food on the table. A young man just starting his life, braving the wilderness like all hunters before him. As we highlight his story and hope for answers one day, it serves as a grim reminder that even apex predators must fear the shadow of man.


Ludger Belanger was described in

1975 as

Race: White Male

Height: 5'8

Weight: 130-160lbs

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Brown

Wearing: Red and Black plaid hunting

jacket, jeans, green rubber hunting boots,

and an orange hat. Also carrying his .30-30 rifle.


NAMEUS: MP36428


Please like and follow Ludger's Facebook page that Linda and her daughters run. They are headstrong and determined to find out what happened and how to receive the answers in Ludger's case.





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Guest
Jun 17, 2023

Was the 30-30 ever recovered. I would think finding that would be a key piece of evidence

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The Voice
The Voice
Jun 22, 2023
Replying to

It was not. That would be a great piece to uncover.

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