Poaching Hurts Hunters
Hunters hunt for a variety of reasons, including being able to observe wildlife without being observed, to enjoy the woods with family and friends, or to even enjoy them alone, and to experience the physical challenge of being in the wilderness. Regardless of the reasons, hunters enjoy every moment and cherish the experience.
Hunting is not easy, it takes a lot of hard work; whether you are hiking deep into the mountains for an elk, or hauling a heavy load of decoys in sub-freezing temperatures at 4:00 AM for a mile through the woods to reach a cove that few duck hunters know about. But when it all comes together and you have a successful hunt, there is nothing more satisfying. Even a hunt with no harvest is rewarding in its own way, as was my elk hunt in September, which you can read about by clicking here. Every experience I have had throughout my life hunting various species holds a special memory to me. I’m sure most other hunters feel the same way, and you only have a limited number of those experiences in your life.
It’s bad enough that we constantly have animal rights groups to deal with, as well as people who don’t understand why hunting is a valuable tool in wildlife management. But there is an equally dangerous group of people who threaten our sports, as well as our wildlife, and some of them even pretend to be hunters. I am talking about poachers; people who take wildlife illegally and unethically.
It is estimated by wildlife officials that poaching accounts for an additional one third of wildlife than the amount taken by legal means. For example, if the reported harvest of elk in Colorado is 45,000, there are an additional 15,000 taken illegally. But poaching isn’t just people killing wildlife by illegal manners, such as spotlighting at night or hunting out of season; it also involves non-resident hunters obtaining resident licenses, thereby cheating state wildlife organizations from the additional revenue generation that is used to maintain the wildlife in the first place.
Poachers also take animals that they are not authorized to harvest, like shooting a bull elk when the hunter has a cow tag. This type of behavior disturbs the delicate management of our wildlife that our wildlife biologists work so hard to maintain.
There is a whole different type of poaching that takes place around the world, and that is poaching driven by the demand (whether legal or not) for animal parts. This type of poaching is most notably associated with rhinoceros and elephants, but it also applies to North American animals with antlers as well as with bears. While this type of poaching is equally deplorable, what I find most disgusting is the poacher who illegally kills an animal simply for the size of its rack, those people are some of the lowest life-forms on our planet in my opinion. To kill an animal for the sole reason of being able to brag about it is repulsive behavior, and not what any ethical hunter is all about.
Poaching is a real problem in North America, and around the world. Here in Colorado I have seen several reports this fall about poaching of elk, deer, pronghorn, and bears. And keep in mind that poaching goes beyond big game, with equally devastating effects. For example, in Minnesota this year a man caught and kept a huge pre-spawn walleye out of season, resulting in potentially 2,000 less walleye in that reservoir next spring.
As sportsmen and women it is our duty to report any poaching or suspicious activity to the local game management authorities, or the police if you don’t know who to contact. If you witness illegal activity, try to get as many details as you can; like descriptions of people and vehicles, a license plate number, the time and place of the incident, and whatever else you can observe of the situation. Don’t attempt to perform a law enforcement officer’s job yourself, that could be dangerous.
While we may have the greatest opportunities to pursue wildlife that this nation has seen in over a hundred years, there are always those that are trying to take that away from us, and poachers are only helping that cause. As outdoors people we have to be united in what we believe and how we act, and know that poaching has no place in our realm.