Thursday, July 10, 2008

Poaching Means Stealing From All Of Us


A guy e-mailed me the other day, looking for a scarce book. He wanted to buy a copy, and I didn’t have one to sell. We traded e-mail three times, just chit-chatting, and he proceeded to tell me about a big buck he shot last year.

This guy has bought a couple of books from me, is as honest as the day is long in his business job, and wouldn’t think of cheating a friend. If he came to my house, and a $20 bill was laying on the floor, he would pick it up and hand it to me.

He could not say anything, put the twenty in his pocket, and no one would have been the wiser. But he’s not that kind of guy.

Except, he apparently cheats when he hunts. If he has a good buck pinned down, and the animal walks past him 10 minutes after shooting time ends, he will take the shot.

That’s what happened last year. He heard a buck grunting nearby, and he kept waiting for the animal to show up. The buck finally made his move, he said, 20 minutes after shooting time had ended.

“The buck was following a doe,” he said. “She led him all over the place, and soon the doe came past my stand and I knew the buck was nearby because I could hear its tending grunt.”

The doe moved on, and he said the buck stopped in the same spot. It stood there, and all he could see was its white antlers. He came to full draw, aimed at where he thought the chest was, and let fly with an arrow.

The buck ran off, and he quickly lowered his bow to the ground, and climbed down. He left his bow at the tree, and took up the blood trail. The buck covered 200 yards before it died. It was a gorgeous 10-point, and he asked if I had killed a 10-point that year.

“No,” I said, the anger audible in my voice, “no, I didn’t shoot a 10-pointer last year. I did shoot a very nice 9-point and a beautiful 8-point, but then, I don’t break the law and shoot my bucks after legal shooting time had ended.

“You are an honest man in many other ways but you’ll cheat by shooting deer after dark. If someone called you a thief, you’d get madder than hell. But a game thief is what you are. I’m very disappointed in you, and wish you wouldn’t have told me that story.”

He didn’t realize that shooting game after dark is stealing ... from every citizen in this state, and from the state of Michigan. Will you or I or the state miss that 10-pointer? Probably not.

But if we compound that 10-point by all the other opportunistic honest hunters who cheat by breaking our fish or game laws, how many good breeding bucks have we lost? And how many, pray tell, small bucks will do the breeding. Small bucks and small does beget small fawns.

He was angry and hurt, and mentioned he would never buy another book from me, and I told him that was good because I didn’t plan to sell him any and didn’t need his money. The truth of the matter is that I’m sure that others who have bought a fishing or hunting book from me over the years may have been guilty or a similar game-law violation.

The difference is they didn’t say anything about it to me. My stance for many years has been the same when it comes to fish or game-law violations. I call the conservation officer or some other law enforcement officer, and do what I can to stop it. This guy is from out of state, and except for his story, I couldn’t prove a thing.

Do I enjoy registering complaints? Absolutely not, but some time ago I wrote about fishing and hunting apathy. That apathy runs rampant with opportunistic poachers. No one wants to rat out Uncle Harry for the late-summer doe hanging in the barn, and buddies, friends, neighbors and relatives refuse to turn in old Bob who picks up some extra beer money by shooting and selling deer to downstate hunters.

No one wants to gripe too much about Kenny, one of the best walleye fishermen on the St. Clair River, who catches a ton or more of big spawning walleyes in April or May and sells them to restaurants for big money. He’s a bit hard up, you know, and needs the extra cash.

Well, Kenny can do the same thing as the rest of us do. He can get himself a job, save some money, and be a legitimate, upstanding citizen rather than a thief who steals from all of us.

E-mail me, and ask to buy a book. Just don’t tell me about how you broke the law last year. I don’t want to hear that sad story one more time. I am less than sympathetic for those who get caught.

In fact, I always root for the conservation officer. Will that cost me a book sale now or in the future? Don’t know and don’t care.

Posted by Dave Richey on 07/10 at 05:23 PM
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