We have all been privy to a poacher or otherwise unethical individual that continues to push moral boundaries and cross legal lines just enough to make you cringe or sometimes flat out turn them in for their dastardly deeds. Oftentimes it is someone that grew up shooting deer whenever and wherever to feed their families to satisfy a legitimate need but this once seemingly noble concept has morphed into something ugly. Ultimately, these people have no regard for law and worse yet, their fellow Americans. After all, the animals they are profiting on belong to all of us.
Not only do we see celebrity hunters selling out just to keep a show going and their social media page popping, but we also see individuals develop a serial poaching habit…in the end, most are getting off with a slap on the wrist and a short ban from hunting at best. So to answer the title to this article, for many the answer could be, “yes” it’s worth the risk because the penalties are traditionally not enough to cause a reason to stop. I think we can all safely say that poaching convictions haven’t had enough bite and game agencies don’t have enough time to gather strong cases and slap these people hard enough. Perhaps there is hope!
Recently, IDFG hit one of these cowards a bit harder than “normal” and although it might not seem like enough, it is definitely a step in the right direction.
On December 14th, 2021 Paul D. Coward (such a fitting name) was convicted of outfitting/guiding without a license, unlawful possession of firearms, illegal hunting practices and poaching a mountain goat in Washington State. This shortlist was what IDFG was able to make stick. We all know this list is much longer if the full story was told. Sadly, the prosecution took place WAY too late, there have been over 23 YEARS of complaints against Coward and a three-year-long investigation before justice was served!
WHAT!!? 23 years of complaints, dang! However, on the upside, Coward’s hunting privileges were revoked for 10 years in 48 states, and he was handed 90 days of jail time to be served in three separate sentences during the month of September of 2022, 2023, and 2024! This is to keep him out of the woods during his peak poaching season. All that and $16k in fines! Not bad, I particularly like the September sentences.
In the end, we have all broken a law or crossed a line either on purpose or by accident. It happens, it’s hard to stay on top of all the rules and I am personally not one to ask for more laws or regulations. However, when it comes to something near and dear to my heart like the preservation of hunting and fishing. I appreciate a stiff upholding of the law.
Will results like this create hesitation for other poachers? Share your thoughts and experiences! -JB