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Poaching not victimless crime

October 16, 2007 at 04:12 PM

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was published Oct. 13, 2007 in the Springfield State Journal-Register.

Poaching once was a “victimless crime.” Nobody got hurt when hungry people did a little out-of-season hunting during hard times, and they needed to put food on the table. Poachers who went before a judge were told to stop, and that was about the size of it. By then, most of them had eaten the evidence.

Harvesting game illegally is poaching. Whether it’s hunting out of season, at night, without a license or by any illegal means has become a big business. Many so-called hunters are willing and able to pay handsomely for a shot at a world-class deer, elk or bighorn sheep, and they don’t care whether or not their trophy opportunity is legal. These people are fully aware that they are signing on with guides or outfitters who operate outside the legal limits of their state’s fish and game laws. In some cases, these illegal hunters have submitted their ill-gotten trophies to Boone and Crockett for certification.

Organized poachers are willing to assume the risk, and reap the financial rewards. They know how to play the game and are good at it. Poaching takes place in remote areas. It’s hard to catch a poacher red-handed. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, trophy whitetail deer are just as likely to be killed by poaching as they are a legal hunter. Montana Fish and Wildlife aerial surveys indicate that poachers have taken virtually all the big antlered animals in some hunting areas. This is pretty harsh news for law-abiding citizens who have spent several years accumulating preference points to legally hunt those areas.

Poachers who get caught pay hefty fines. Some get prison sentences and almost all of them get their legal hunting privileges suspended, sometimes for life. Taking away the legal hunting privileges of poachers is less than a slap on the wrist. I’d fine them more or put them in jail longer, or both. Several states share in a working agreement to trade information about fish and game violators. Having a hunting license revoked in one of those states means the violator is banned from getting a license in all 24 of them. Right now, Illinois is not one of those 24 states.

Poaching is no longer a victimless crime. The victims are the hunters like us who pay their fees, hunt in season, obey the rules and take our chances by respecting the principles of fair chase. People that don’t care what they have to do, or spend, to bring home a trophy are whittling away our chances of harvesting a trophy-class buck.

Most poaching investigations start with hunters calling a poaching tip hot line. In Illinois, the Target Poachers Hotline is (877) 236-7529. If you think something fishy is going on where you hunt, or if you hear people bragging about ill-gotten game, call that number and report it to the Illinois Conservation Police.


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my teacher is making me write a report about poaching.  can you help me by sending me as much information as possible.

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