It was something of an insult. I’m sure the reader didn’t mean it the way it sounded, but it came across as a personal insult.
A reader told me that I have an archaic sense of protecting our fish and game and other natural resources from poachers. He chided me for being so concerned about the welfare of our poached birds, fish, fur and game.
He said I should let the DNR worry about it. They are trained to do the job, and if they can’t catch the poachers, too bad. I wondered whether he had ever picked up the phone and dialed the RAP Hotline phone number (800-292-7800) to report a poaching incident in progress.
I’m sorry but I don’t feel the same way he does. Poachers are basically opportunistic people, and break the law whenever they think they can get away with it. That line of thinking is dead wrong.
POACHER HABITS HURT
Years ago I did a newspaper story about a joker who was proud of being arrested more times than anyone else in the state for fish and game law violations. He boasted that he’d been arrested on one or more charges more than 50 times. When I had those numbers checked, it was well over 60 violation. He’d forgotten some of them.
The guy is a bit younger than me, and I once figured up that he’d spent several years in the hoosegow. Man, everyone wants to be popular and known for something in their life, but being the state’s most famous poacher?
Is poaching something to be proud of? I think not. One might think he has fish eggs for brains after having speared as many steelhead as he did during a long and largely unproductive poaching career.
A few weeks ago I wrote about anglers and hunters who really don’t care about the fish and game. It’s becoming even more prevalent by the day. Apathy is alive and well in the sense that poachers are seldom apprehended even though their family and neighbors know they are potting deer out of season. No one wants to speak up.
Does this make a poacher feel proud? It apparently must, because for them, outwitting the conservation officer is a big game they love to play. If they get caught, they pay their fine, and go right back to breaking fish and game laws again.
Apathy is running rampant as people shake their head and mutter: “Old Uncle Pete got himself another deer last night about midnight. Oh well, Pete’s a bit of an odd one!“
It makes one wonder why they don’t turn Uncle Pete in. Ten or more days in the pokey might wake him up, but even that is doubtful. For most poachers, it is a game of beating the local game warden at their own game. Trespass is a major problem throughout the state, and most poachers trespass on a regular basis to do their dirty deeds.
Some poachers are ingenious in their willingness to test the game warden’s skills. They go out of their way to concoct ways to mislead the officer so they can operate in impunity elsewhere.
Sooner or later, their worst nightmare comes true. The conservation officer steps out from behind a tree, and catches them red-handed with a freshly killed deer that was taken out of season or after dark.
Those who catch and keep more than their limit of fish are just as guilty as deer poachers. So too for those who put out 10 tip-ups during the winter, and when caught, shrug their shoulders, pay their fine and do something else that breaks our fish and game laws.
People dither, complain a bit, and soon everything blows over and they go back to the meat market in the woods. Family members, who could call and ask to remain anonymous, sit on their hands and wonder why nothing ever gets done. The answer is they are afraid to take that first step by making a phone call to the authorities.
Sad but true, there seems to be little improvement in the number of people arrested for breaking our wildlife laws. Conservation officers are spread too thin, and in some counties, there is only one fish cop to cover too much ground. If he is patrolling the north end of the county, and things are happening at the south end, the chance of the violators being caught are very small.
Our sense of protecting our fish and game tells me that this is a matter of education. We must start with the school children, and teach them that what Uncle Pete does to make his weekly beer money is a crime against everyone else in the state.
Children must learn that shooting game out of season, setting a web (small gill net) across a spawning stream, jacklighting a deer at night, and all the other things that poachers do, is wrong.
In days of old, when knights were bold, poaching of the King’s fish and deer in England, was a risky proposition that some poachers gladly accepted.
In some parts of Africa today, poachers are summarily dealt with. The law officers who try to protect the elephants and rhinos are both judge and jury, and the sentence is delivered immediately. A hail of bullets and a sudden death is what happens to many African poachers. Most don’t have the guts to do that again.
A snide and very impersonal remark? I don’t think so. Poaching is big business, and educating long-time fish and game thieves is a battle we seldom win. Caught, they are fined and may possibly serve a short prison sentence, and then return to poaching again.
Where is the justice in that? There isn’t any.
Of course, in this country, using some of Africa’s short and swift punishment would be considered cruel and unusual punishment. Poachers think little of our rights, but we must consider theirs when they are caught. A flaw exists in this argument.
Shooting poachers may be too harsh, but locking them up for a longer period of time and handing out much stiffer fines and restitution fees might make a difference.
It’s my thought that we must deal with this problem in a different way, and teaching our children that poaching is wrong, is just the first step. If the kids start ragging on the old man whenever he takes game out of season, perhaps knowing that the kids are watching would do the trick.
It’s certainly a good place to start.
Anyone who wants to help stop poaching can follow these tips:
- Don’t try to be a hero. Never try to stop a poacher.
- Instead, note the make, model and color to the car or truck being used. A license plate letters and numbers are very important.
- Note the number of people in the the vehicle and the direction it is traveling. Give them the time of the poaching incident.
- If possible, write down physical descriptions of all poachers, including height and weight, color of hair, approximate age, any distinguishing marks such as scars or tattoos, how the person is dressed, and who, if possible did the shooting.
- Making positive identification at night is very difficult, but if the individual is identifiable, give this information to a DNR officer. Get involved, and a tip can lead to an arrest. Most such anti-poaching lines allow callers to remain anonymous.
- Call the Michigan DNR Report All Poaching hotline phone number at (800) 292-7800 and offer them this information.