We often hear from hunters who tell us that legal hunting is not what we
should be addressing when there are poachers who are disrespecting
conservation laws and making all hunters look bad in the process. It is
these unethical clods, they say, who are doing damage to the "wildlife
resource" and should be punished. C.A.S.H. agrees that poaching is unethical
and that poachers should be locked up, but we also believe that the
difference between legal and illegal hunting is negligible.
Typically, hunters define poachers as those who: trespasses on private
property; kill in excess of legal bag limits; kill out of season; have no
passion for the outdoors and no respect for the law. Poachers, they say,
disrespect wildlife as they brag about their kills.
A hunter will tell you that "legitimate" hunters pursue game in ways that
comply with the law, respect the boundaries of property owners, conserve
natural resources, and help keep wildlife populations in balance. They will
not use the word "hunter" when talking about poachers as they try to
distance themselves from poachers as much as they can.
Why do some people hunt illegally? Perhaps itís the thrill of the kill
(the same thrill that law abiding hunters get when they kill legally).
Perhaps it is wanting a trophy they couldnít get during the regular season.
Maybe itís that they had a craving for rabbit meat and didnít want to wait
until spring to eat one? Maybe because they know that the penalty for
poaching is light and that the chance of being caught is next to nil?
Perhaps itís all of the above.
Those who respect wildlife however, donít see much of a difference
between hunting and poaching and we will give several reasons why.
Unlimited killing is legal in some states.
For example, in certain counties in Texas there is no closed season on
hunting coyotes, squirrels, rabbits & hares. There are also no bag limits on
some of these animals. Additionally, there are no state bag or possession
limits or closed seasons on exotic animals or fowl on private property. What
is considered poaching in New Jersey, is just plain vanilla hunting in
Texas, and considered as legal and ethical there. This makes hunting and
poaching appear as identical twins.
Iím sorry officer Ė my watch is slowÖ
Hunting wildlife during a closed season or after legal hours will have
you branded a poacher by the hunting community. But take this into
consideration: if deer season runs until sundown on Oct. 29, and sundown is
5:37 PM, a hunter whose watch is 5 minutes slow can shoot a deer "out of
season" while thinking that heís totally legal. When the difference between
a poacher and a hunter comes down to a malfunctioning watch battery, itís
clear that the activities are the same.
My dogs like to hunt also
Hunting with dogs is a violent, sick and barbaric activity. Dogs are
released to track the scent of an animal, who is then torn to pieces by the
dogs if she is unable to climb a tree or otherwise flee to an area that a
hound cannot reach. There is no safety for wildlife pursued in this way,
because the unskilled and violent hunter will shoot her as she hides from
the dogs. In some states if you do this to a mountain lion youíre a hunter,
but if you do it to a bear youíre a poacher (despite bears being game
animals that you can kill in other ways). If the law changes and treeing
bears becomes legal, the same violent killing that was "poaching" one day
becomes "ethical hunting" the next, because the Game and Fish council said
so. Hunting or poaching? Ė Once again, the lines are blurry.
I donít need no permit to be huntiní on my own property, boyÖ
As astounding as it is, many states have laws which exempt property
owners from needing to purchase a hunting permit. You have real life
situations where someone can hunt legally from the edge of their property
without a permit, but if they step one inch over their property line onto a
state park they become a poacher. Yet their bullets can travel well beyond
their property line. When the difference between a hunter and a poacher can
be less than the length of your thumb, I say hunting and poaching are one
and the same.
Killing wildlife illegally is more widespread than hunters would have us
believe. In an article from the Sacramento Bee, California game wardens
estimate that only about five percent of illegal hunting activity is
discovered. Flip this around and you can see that a hunter has a ninety-five
percent chance of getting away with his crime if he hunts illegally in
California. With odds like that, would most hunters pass up one last shot?
The line between legal hunting and illegal hunting is so slim that in
many cases there is virtually no difference at all between hunting and
poaching. It is important that we, as the defenders of wildlife, always
point out that poachers are hunters. You canít be a poacher if youíre not
out hunting. So when a hunter tells you that heís disgusted with poachers
and thinks they should be locked up, ask him to check his watch.
Letís not leave the victims of "poaching" or "hunting" out of the
equation. What would they say?
A recent call to the NY DEC law enforcement division regarding poaching
brought the following response: "It has been a bad economy and itís causing
more poaching. We canít be everywhere." The problem is that enforcement is
nowhere. Would this response be tolerated by banks that call the police to a
stop robbery? .