(NBC News) Just before nightfall, 73-year-old rancher Jim Chilton hikes quickly up and down the hills on his rugged cattle-grazing land south of Tucson, escorting two U.S. Border Patrol agents.
He wants to show them the disturbing discovery he made earlier in the day: a drug-smugglers’ camp on his private property. Stacked together under a stand of trees are blankets, jackets, food, water, binoculars and bales of marijuana from Mexico wrapped in burlap. The smugglers, themselves, are nowhere in sight and are believed to have fled the area, which is about 10 miles north of the Mexican border.
“The druggers outrageously use my land at will,” said Chilton, who frequently finds evidence of smugglers on his land — well-worn trails, cut fences, discarded water bottles, clothing and shoes. His home has been burglarized twice and he is constantly on the lookout for armed smuggling groups while he and his employees round up cows on his remote land.