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4 Elk Poached in Montana

Seriously Montana? Four bull elk poached and left to rot in the last week, all in one area? Well, I can’t get too upset with you because down here in Wyoming, not far from my home, we just had a bull poached, his head taken and body left to bloat in the 90 degree heat, over the holiday weekend. 

One of 4 elk killed over the weekend.

But still, the four bulls poached in Musselshell County is not only disheartening, it’s maddening. I don’t know what the motive is but I have to wonder if Montana’s booming population in areas like Bozeman, Kalispell and others has led to an increase in demand for cheap elk mounts to hang over a ranchette fireplace. Obviously, this is pure speculation but still….

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is undoubtedly doing their best to get to the bottom of this poaching spree but the County is vast and sparsely populated so catching these degenerates in the act or stopping them before they can poach again will be a tall order. 

My question is this… are we asking too much from our game and fish agencies when we expect what is often one warden to patrol areas the size of Rhode Island? I say we are and I also say that until we step up funding for additional personnel, poaching will continue to be a major problem. 

What say you? How can we increase funding for game and fish law enforcement divisions to mitigate them being spread too thin to be effective at their jobs?

About Todd Helms

Todd Helms

32 comments

  1. People already complain that Hunting and Fishing Licenses cost too much. So an increase would send them into a tizzy. Of course the same people have no problem dropping a $50.00 on the latest Avengers Movie. Go figure.

  2. Punishment has to be severe enough to get others not to poach. Just taking away a license is not good enough. $50k fine and 6 months in jail would do it.

  3. I’d try to leave the fines manageable at 14 to 20,000, & a minimum of 1 year in jail with manditory confiscation of vehicles, guns & bows & other equipment used, & then a manditory loss of all hunting/fishing privileges for life upon the first conviction. Then for a second conviction 5 years flat in prison + the fine & loss of property, any further convictions 20 years.

    • I think you are right. Start confiscating 50k trucks and equipment and people will think twice. Dave Hapka.

      • And if any part of the animal is found at a house, the house should be seized.
        The problem is with the state legislatures that don’t think this is important. And a big problem is with prosecutors that don’t want to be bothered with wildlife cases and so they plea bargain them down to misdemeanors.
        The way to fix it starts with the state governments making stiffer laws and so far we aren’t yelling loud enough to be heard.

  4. I agree that it is too difficult to catch people and so the fines have to be very heavy. For instance, maybe I would rob a bank if I didn’t think I would go to jail for a long time, I mean the incentive is pretty great but the disincentive is even greater.
    I have also wondered if the public and fish and game might work together …the public might be an extra set of eyes out in the field. During shed hunting season people really go crazy and break all kind of laws just to get the advantage of finding those shed first !
    The ELA Would have a much broader eye on the country if they worked with shed hunters who don’t break the laws and want a fair shot at finding sheds…what kind of evidence can we collect and who might we call to report the lawbreakers? It is disheartening to see greed and I personally consider it a sin to take the life of an animal and not eat it’s meat. Poaching for horns alone is disgusting.

  5. A combination of heavier penalties, fines, and public shame by widely advertising the violators along with adding incentives to the law abiding public for turning them in could be a big help. How about earning a preference point for turning in a poacher?

    • Washington State already does that.

      • Yes they do here in WA. HOWEVER! There is a certain group of blatant violators that get caught red f’n handed and the do not write them up tickets or arrest them “because they will not show up in court”! My brother in law had plate numbers of multiple vehicles and the game wardens caught and released them with no tickets issued. 4 illegal bucks and two does, none tagged. Such a double standard!

  6. The fine has to be large and penalties so significant that poachers would seriously have to think twice before poaching. Until our courts get serious about dropping the hammer on poachers don’t expect anything to change. Our courts, especially in California, don’t consider crimes of poaching anything more than a blue collar crime.
    A slap on the wrist is not a deterrent.

    Larry Mazzuca
    Commissioner
    Nevada County Fish and Wildlife
    Nevada County, CA

  7. I don’t know how it works there but in Washington state fish& game funds are used elsewhere and some money for fish and game comes from car licensing. Follow the money. I’m sure hunting mostly is being underfunded every where now for political reasons and wanting to end citizens having firearms and hunting being a big reason we have them. Us outdoorsman and women are a fastly dieing breed. It’s to much toxic masculinity for the new fad.

  8. Do you think these bulls where shot and left on purpose? Or do you think all this long range shooting, poor shot placement or just to damn lazy to try to retrieve the animal and give it the respect it’s due !!

  9. Father and Son from Canada Larry and Shane Adams, only got fined $565.90 per Montana Big game animal, complete slap on the wrist. I hunt completely legal and pay far more than that each year for just a chance to get a shot, yet these Individuals kill 50 big game animals and are probably laughing at the fine. Until the deterrent is there, this will keep happening. Sad

    Dave Stewart
    Boise Id

    • And a non resident tag is more then the fine! How many years could they get away with it before they pay the fine which is less then the tag. I suspect as we price a lot of people out of being able to hunt where they always have we will see more poaching not less.

  10. I agree with most of the posts if the fines were higher and sentence were longer we wouldn’t have repeat offenders.

  11. Most DOW’ s are geared to catch the common licence mistake(to many fish, lack of tagging properly, loaded gun in vehicle, etc.). Catching these low life experts requires the public’s input and awareness within said public. I hope this is all over the press in MT and WY and that some information comes forward to catch these SOB’s.

  12. It’s easy to say fine, or imprisonment. With people willing to plead out, we need mandatory sentencing, revocation of hunting and fishing privileges, after all this is not a right but a privilege. We need strict enforcement of the laws in place. No second chance at the fruit of ill gotten gains. With current fad of selling antlers and people willing to disturb animals during the off season just to collect sheds its surprising not see more poaching. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that these animals were not taken for some medical purpose similar to rhino horns or some such nonsense

  13. I agree, but at least here in NM they need to get things in the right perspective. I just spent $1500 fighting being imprisoned for 12 months for my 12 year old son forgetting his tag back at room (after he had shot the elk he remembered). NM game and fish took the elk and gave me a ticket for no license and tag and told me it would be a $400 fine. I’d have paid that in a heart beat if I could have over the phone or mail. But nope a court date and trial by jury because it was $1000 and up to a year in jail so of course then I had to fight it Meanwhile on their own site you can see guys with no license caught with a deer and a turkey only get a fine of a couple $100 bucks

  14. Make the fines high enough that they would be an incentive when split 50% with tipsters, along with confiscation of everything used, and prosecution of everyone involved, not just the shooter. The idiot poachers eventually will brag about their feats at the local bar.

  15. Maybe with a budget increase the use of drones to scan the country could help. If there are areas that are more prone to poaching then use drones to police the area. Just a thought. I’m sure drones, depending on size, can be expensive but it might help the manpower shortage. I’d also be open to donating for this and any other efforts that would help in catching the poachers. As others have said I think increasing the fines and confiscating trucks, guns, etc. might help. Confiscate the trucks and sell them to fund anti-poaching.

  16. Why is there so few wardens in MT? There is a least one warden in all of PA’s 67 counties and more in some. Plus we have WCOs for hunting and WCOs for fish. I have to expect MT takes in way more money in non resident sales than PA does. Hire more people to protect the resource. Plus all the businesses and outfitters that make money from hunting should maybe fund some of the expense to protect their future.

  17. The way to get them is to pay informants a sizeable amount of the fine if their tip leads to a conviction. Poachers always brag about their “Feats”. Enough of a monetary reward will even get folks to turn in family members, JMO.

  18. Why would they leave the entire animal as pictured above the cause was cheap mounts?

  19. All states should outlaw and eliminate suppressors and night vision equipment. It just makes it to easy for shitbags to poach our animals. As a hunter for over 30 years Ive never needed night vision or a suppressor they just encourage illegal activity and make it easier to get away with the crime. If hunters don’t start policing each other and the hunting industry there will not be any trophy animals on public lands in 15 years due to all the advances in hunting technology and the advantages that hunters have today over animals.

  20. A couple things, it is in the news, so far a $3000 reward is offered that can go up. I Iive in one of the areas Todd mentioned for buying mounts. Our local ads have many mounts that have been for sell for months. Don’t think that is the issue especially when they leave the heads in this case.

    It’s my understanding that outdoorsman turn in most poachers. We are the ones in the field the most. Our local FWP tries to respond and follow up when notified. I’ve learned to take pictures of license plates and any evidence I can. They need our help and always appreciate any help.

    The prosecutor and judges are a big part of the problem. Our local prosecutor will plea everything they can down or pass on a case that requires very much money spent on prosecution. Heavy fines and forfeitures are a good step in the right direction. You can remember when you vote as to how your local prosecutor and judges handle cases.

  21. I think circumstances have to come in to play when you’re talking about the “proper” way to kill something. I haven’t seen an elk’s signature on anything yet. Did the guy shoot a trophy class bull with his brand new custom rifle, or did he feed his kids by dropping a rag horn with the ol’ 30-30 and eat every bit of it gratefully. In my opinion, one should have his #@*$ cut off, and the other might deserve a hand shake. Just saying it’s not a black and white subject.

  22. Consider the price for a premium trophy landowner tag low end 10K avg 15/20K! These clowns are money ahead with any fine lower than that. The reality is that we as ethical hunters are far more likely to see or catch the jack offs not Wildlife Officers. Back in the day people got swacked for stealing a horse ! Chances are these clowns will brag about it and get caught, they will slip up at some point and Wildlife Officers have some much improved crime solving resources. We could have hunters become required to submit DNA to purchase hunt tags, that narrows the field of suspects ! That’s solution out of the box thinking.

  23. I’ll bring up another issue nobody is talking about, and it’s gonna ruffle some feathers, but it’s a motive for this insane crime that robs everyone and robs nature. We have made rockstars out of people who kill big animals. Especially those who do it on camera, a lot(it seems they never miss), and those people have NBA, NFL, and MLB status among hunters. They have sponsors and this amazing life of hunting, all the time(so it would seem). That elevates the value of the animals in good ways, and in bad ways. Most law abiding people would realize that those lifestyles are just that, a lucky guy or gal who hunts alot, and puts in tons of time and $ to do what they do. But then there are those who don’t want to put in the time, but want to experience the outcome. When the opportunity comes up to kill a big animal, they don’t ponder the season dates, or dream about having that same opportunity when they have the tag in their hand and they are hunting in season, they just start shooting. Buck fever aint got nothing on this fever. But it’s not the hunting show movie stars or the big names of hunting’s fault, its our society and culture. You can raise the fines, which is a good thing, but it won’t stop it. As the public land diminishes and the time to hunt gets harder to come by, and the difficulty of getting tags increases, and those big trophies get less available, the value goes up. It’s supply and demand. We’ve commercialized our ‘love’ and wonder why people will capitalize on it in unfair, and highly risky ways. I like Eastman’s because they include the stories of real, regular people. It’s the story that makes the headlines, not the video edits. When my wife killed her bull last year, I think it was Todd who contacted her within 2days of posting the pic on FB. She’s no rockstar and doesn’t want the fan following. When she wrote her story, she just wanted to express to other moms out there, that they can find time to hunt, they can have an opportunity at a trophy, and it’s not just about a men’s ‘thing to do’. High penalties will deter some, but until we celebrate just being able to hunt and have places to hunt, more than the trophy(which is still awesome, but not the main reason we hunt) then the culture will see these acts as worth the ‘risk-reward’ and we will always be fighting this. We have to think about how we talk and what we say to our children, and what we deem a ‘trophy’ and how much value we put on the ‘big one’ over the ‘average one’, and be careful how that sounds to others. Note: This is just one of the motives out there, but I think its something we need to be talking about, and aware of, as it’s real, and in the heat of the moment, people don’t think about the fines or penalties.

  24. Take the money from building the wall and hire more F&G officers.

  25. richard d switzer aka Rickster

    These people are not Hunters.. They are exploiting hunting any animals. They kill Trophy Animal before Hunters have the opportunity. I’m sure someone knows whom they are. Chase them out of the State. Have their Head mounted for other Hunters to see!. i know a little graphic

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