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bitmasher's picture
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Your Definition of a Poacher

There has been quite a few threads lately or discussion about poaching on this board. I would like to know how you hunters define poaching.

There is the legal definition (taking game for whatever purpose out of season) or one from a dictionary. But in practice what do you consider poaching? Do you hold to a straight and narrow definition or is poaching one of those topics that really depends on the circumstances?

For example, this is a clear case of poaching, in my opinion. Wasting game, illegal take, out of season, numerous animals, I doubt many would not call this poaching. I say throw the book at him.

As a counter point, I know a guy who once told me that in the late 50's or early 60's his Dad shot a moose in Wisconsin which at the time was illegal (no tag, no season, I believe moose were protected in WI at this time). He did it because it was the middle of the winter, meat was running short, and he needed to feed his family (which had 6-7 kids at the time). I realize that sounds kind of sappy, but it is simply the truth.

The female came on his land, he shot it with one shot, and every ounce of it was consumed. The father had never broken the law before or since. So is he a poacher?

Or how about this guy? If we assume the facts of the case are as presented, is he a poacher? He was charged as one.

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Your Definition of a Poacher

That is an interesting point. For me, poaching is the deliberate and intentional taking of game out-of-season, or without a licence; or more game than allowed by law. As a further qualification, it would be motivated by selfishness or greed.

There is a long list of other offences which I have a problem with. Some are illegal, some aren't but as far as defining "poaching" that would be my definition.

In another forum a person mentioned taking a hasty shot at a running deer, which turned out to be not legal and so he left it to rot. I think this is absolutely wrong, unethical and potentially dangerous for a number of reasons, but is more a case of terrible decision making than poaching.

Location: Utah
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Your Definition of a Poacher

That is a good question bitmasher and one I've never really put any thought into. But now that I think about I'd have to pretty much agree with Saskie's definition. I think it has be an intentional act to take an animal that your tag doesn't legally cover but wreclessness isn't true poaching. I think intentional means you know with a fair amount of certainty that you cannot legally harvest the animal you are shooting at. Wreckless means you don't know what you're shooting at but you do it anyway.

I remember the thread about the hasty running shot and in one of my posts I used the word poacher. That probably wasn't the right word to use. Thats very wreckless and deserves the wrath of the law, probably should be the same penalty as poaching, but thats not really poaching in the spirit of the law. It may be poaching in the letter of it though, I don't know.

However I truely belive God put these magnificent creatures here for us and to help sustain us. Game laws are here to protect them and use the resource on a controlled level. I believe if a man is truely starving, and I mean tried everything else within the law to feed his family, then its no longer poaching if he harvests an animal to feed his family and stay alive.

I've heard countless Game Wardens say if they ever encountered this situation they would never cite anyone for poaching. A few even said they'd even help someone clean it. But they also said even though they've heard that excuse many times they've never encountered a true case of it.

[ This Message was edited by: rather_be_huntin on 2003-10-08 10:48 ]

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Your Definition of a Poacher

Well, I guess my definition would be a bit broader than some of the others. I think of a "poacher" as anyone who knowingly violates the game laws. So, get a license, do it in season, but use bait where it's not legal and I'd call you a poacher. Shoot an animal from the roadside (where that's not legal) and I'd call you a poacher then, too.

And, yes, I think the man who shot the moose was a poacher. A poacher with a very good reason for doing it, but a poacher nonetheless.

"Knowingly violates," though. That means the accidental shooter is not a poacher. Neither is the one who took a foolish, reckless shot.

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Your Definition of a Poacher

I see a poacher as anyone who would wantonly take game with no real intention of using it weather in or out of season. The killing of large game just to take the horns and leave the rest to rot sickens me as dose the taking of full bag limits just because the laws says you can

I will state this as to the gentleman that wrote the message you link to.
This man is not a poacher. Why you ask? No poacher would ever call in something like this. They just move on like nothing happened. I see what he did as being responsible for what happened and stepping up to the plate that makes him 100% OK in my book.
poachers could care less about the law and do what they do for enjoyment or money
A hungry person knows that he is breaking the law but see’s no other choice at that time.
Always makes me laugh when part of the fine for poaching is the lose of the license. Like they really cared about having one in the first place.

[ This Message was edited by: captchee on 2003-10-08 15:37 ]

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Your Definition of a Poacher

Thank to all for the good responses. From the variety of comments it is clear that there is not an absolute definition of poaching.

What most seem to be saying is that in any context it is wrong to waste game. Wasting game is wrong at an ethical level, regardless of what the law (man's law) says. Call it whatever you want to (poaching, wanton destruction, joy killing) it is just wrong.

The problem (in my mind) is that wrapped over this "ethical law" is the construct of poaching. Poaching laws seem to be in place not just to punish those that waste game, but also:

- to stop take of game out of season (unfair to the rest of us that wait and pay for tags)
- to protect the game populations (if nobody followed limits the game would be quickly depleted)

Most will agree it is easy to prosecute somebody that has broken ethical law (wasting game), but is not so easy when they have poached but not broken ethical law (consumed the game like the WI moose hunter mentioned above or the accidental shooter).

I think intent has a big role in poaching, but yet most laws are like Don's definition (I'm not picking at you Don, just using your definition to highlight). One size fits all punishment for poaching, regardless of what the persons intent was in killing the game (if they had any at all). IMO this type of definition of poaching is simply too strict and causes people who accidently shoot game to ditch it out of fear of being caught. Like Captchee said any wanton killer or game waster isn't even going to think of turning themselves in as an accident, so why in the world should these people be punished like a poacher who had not turned themselves in.

The laws should be more open ended or have the ability to define "levels of poaching". We do it with person-on-person killing. There are all different shades of murder crimes: Murder 1 (capital offense), wreckless manslaughter, manslaughter, etc. The distinction between these crimes rests almost entirely on the killers intent. For instance, premeditating a plan to kill someone then committing the act will almost certainly get you murder 1 and if you live in certain states a ticket to the hot-seat. While accidently shooting another hunter (heaven forbid) while in the field will be manslaughter, because you did not intend to kill them but yet you still did.

At any rate, the point of this rambling is, IMO the one size fits laws for poaching need to be adjusted. Meaning harsher punishment (because the harshest punishment level doesn't seem to be stopping serious offenders) for those that intend to poach while lesser sentencing for those that commit an accident or harvest game for purely necessity reasons. The punishment needs to fit the crime.

[ This Message was edited by: bitmasher on 2003-10-10 23:43 ]