Every year I hear the same old story about this guy or that guy getting arrested for illegally harvesting deer, more commonly known as poaching. In several instances, it is not the violator’s first offense and most likely it will not be their last. I am not talking about someone out trying to feed his family. In these trying times, I would find it hard to fault someone taking a deer if it was the only means of feeding their children.
Every year I hear the same old story about this guy or that guy getting arrested for illegally harvesting deer, more commonly known as poaching. In several instances, it is not the violator’s first offense, and most likely it will not be their last. I am not talking about someone out trying to feed his family. In these trying times, I would find it hard to fault someone taking a deer if it was the only means of feeding their children.
The law-breakers I am talking about here are the whack ‘em and stack ‘em, make a big pile of dead animals just because I can, do it on a bet kind of poaching trash.
I am sure we all know someone who takes a deer and has someone else tag it, and that in itself is not a good thing; however, those folks are typically going to put the animal to use and feed themselves with it.
I just think that there should be some stiffer types of penalties for those people who are caught with multiple animals on multiple occasions. After all, they are taking away from our (law abiding sportsmen) hunting enjoyment. Not only do these people take animals away from us, they also ruin the chances of honest hunters gaining access to private land. You can’t blame a landowner for refusing hunters access to their land after they have been the victims of violators.
How many people would poach animals if the punishment was loss of firearm ownership and hunting license for life? I don’t think that’s too extraordinary a punishment. The animals are dead forever, why should the punishment not last forever?
Forfeiture of any vehicle used in the commission of poaching or transporting illegally obtained animals sounds fair to me. How about several hundred hours of community service spent improving wildlife habitat or cleaning out the ditch lines? I think all of these are fair and just punishments.
Sportsmen need to stand up and make themselves heard in this matter. Poachers steal from all of us and they give hunters a bad name. Many non-hunters equate poachers with hunters in general. This does no good when issues of hunting are put to the vote. If you know a poacher or suspect that poaching is occurring in your area, contact the authorities. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. I have heard that it is estimated that for every poacher that is caught and prosecuted, there are five who go unscathed. That number sickens me.
I have friends who have started deer management areas and they are very successful in their efforts to allow young bucks to mature. They have committees who rotate the duty of driving the roads around their management areas to dissuade would-be violators. They do this year-round and it works. I cruise the areas around my home for the same reason and I do not even hunt there!
Perhaps we should all help out and create a sort of “Neighborhood Watch” system in our rural areas. I always feel that it is better to be proactive rather than reactive in this type of matter. I also believe that part of being a good steward to our hunting right means taking a stand to protect the animals. They are after all, the real future of hunting.
I will stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone who needs help stopping the poaching violations and violators in their area. I will pledge my commitment to stomp out poachers wherever I find them and I hope you do the same. Send a message to your congressman that you support stiffer penalties for poaching crimes and organize your hunting club to lobby make it happen.
Remember, poaching affects all of us, hunters and non-hunters alike. The illegal taking of wildlife creates a void which is difficult to rebuild. Protect the resource you enjoy and stand against law breakers. Enjoy the hunting seasons as your forefathers did and remember, it’s a great outdoors.
Jim Kilchermann, a Journal-Standard contributor, is a hunter and an avid outdoorsman. He wants to extinguish poaching and wildlife violators in his lifetime. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; drop him a line and share an outdoor story.