December 9, 2023

Let's Redefine Poaching

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Poaching by its simplest definition is the taking of fish and game illegally. It also means to trespass in order to take fish and game. So technically speaking, one may be properly licensed to fish or hunt but if they trespass in order to do that, they have become a poacher. Would someone who did this be charged with poaching? More than likely not but they may be charged with illegal trespass.

As you can well determine, the use of the word poach is broad and all-inclusive. It also gives hunting and hunters a bad name and in some cases justifiably so. The vast majority of hunters are good, decent, honest and ethical hunters. The remainder fall into one of several categories of poachers. It is left up to one’s own interpretation as to what a poacher is and if caught, whether the punishment fits the crime.

This is a debate that has raged on for decades and nothing I am going to say in this column is going to change anyone’s perception either. What I do want to do is take one classification of someone who shoots game illegally out from under the term poacher. That is the someone who shoots game solely for the purpose of killing it.

As I pointed out before, there are all kinds of poachers. There’s sneaking another fish into the creel, dipping a few more smelts and hiding them in hopes of not getting caught, shooting another deer for your buddy to tag after you got one and the list can go on and on. These are the so-called gray areas of poaching but illegal nonetheless.

Then there’s the blatant means of poaching. We know of those who shoot game out of season. There’s organized groups that kill game and sell to trophy collectors. There’s even the illegal killing of bears for their gall bladders used in Eastern civilizations for medicinal purposes.

I read just the other day several articles that dealt with poaching. In one story, a game official was quoted as saying there are basically three kinds of poachers. Poacher number one is the guy who takes fish and game illegally because they just want the food or need the food. Let’s face it. Many times we as hunters, will “look the other way” if we knew of someone destitute and hungry enough they were doing some poaching to feed their families. This of course falls into the gray area.

The second kind of poacher is the one who does it for the trophy. In most cases, a trophy poacher would take only the trophy part – head, antlers, etc. – of the animal and leave the rest to rot. If I had to rate poachers using a scale from one to ten, ten being the worst, this kind of poaching would easily reach ten. A person who would poach game and then claim it as his trophy, is a sick individual. They might even qualify as one of those that animal rights groups often blather on about, that has to hide behind the barrel of a gun in order to be perceived as a tough guy.

The third kind of poacher is the idiot that would go out and kill fish and wildlife for the jollies he or she would get from doing it. The jollies often would come from either the great risk of avoiding getting caught or the thrill achieved by killing. Either way this is sick behavior. It is also refered to as poaching.

Authorities have come to the conclusion that they are dealing with this kind of killer when they come upon animals that have been shot and killed and just left untouched.

Under the broad definition of poaching, anyone would be correct in making the conclusion that this latter means of slaughter is poaching. What I want to see are law enforcement and media people putting an end to the use of the term poacher to describe this action.

I have no statistics to back up this claim but I am willing to wager that nearly everybody who hunts, would never do this. Therefore, it should be just as easy to remove this action from the definition of poaching.

This isn’t just because they give hunters a bad name. All poaching gives hunters a bad name. This I believe has more to do with how law enforcement would go about catching sick, demented individuals who kill this way.

When some hardened criminal murders someone with a firearm, do law enforcement go after hunters because they know hunters have guns? Not generally, so why would law enforcement go looking at hunters because some deranged person killed some animals for the thrill of it?

I realize this wish of mine isn’t going to happen but I do hope that law enforcement takes a better look at how they go about investigating crimes of animal killing for the sake of killing.

Tom Remington