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Poached! Wildlife Bandits!


“Poaching is a crime committed by thieves – not hunters” and I completely agree, 100%. And based on what I have seen on the Internet, in the papers and first hand, poaching is as bad or worse than ever. These very strong words come from a joint research task force formed by a partnership between the world-class conservation organization the Boone and Crockett club and world-renowned optics manufacturer, Leupold & Stevens. The partnership called “Poach and Pay” was developed to study the possibility of higher fines in an effort to further deter poaching throughout North America.

The findings from this effort will not be fully known until its conclusion sometime during the summer of 2017. Based on preliminary research however, nearly 93% of respondents support higher fines for poaching, while 88% of those support even higher fines for the poaching of trophy class animals. To define a trophy class animal some states have already adopted the B&C scoring system to make a determination of such. Currently only the western states of Idaho, Montana and South Dakota use such a system to asses higher fines for larger animals. This needs to change.

Poaching is an egregious crime against all of us. This crime attacks our sport, our livelihoods, our credibility and reputations as hunters as well as undermines conservation efforts and are a theft on our public property. And to treat them, in some cases, like a simple speeding ticket or misdemeanor infraction should be an embarrassment to our judicial system. I have talked to many wildlife investigators, game wardens and biologists and nearly all can agree when it comes to prosecution of these crimes, we just are not doing enough. By the time many of these crimes are brought to court, they are usually pled down to fines that won’t even cover the raw costs of the investigation that built the case.

Take the recent case in Wyoming of a 230-inch monster buck that was poached out of season. Even though this was a very high profile case and many in the media, us included, were watching the case very closely. The poacher got a pretty soft plea deal at the last minute bringing his total punishment down to: suspension of his hunting and fishing privileges for seven years which isn’t too lenient, ten years would have been better though, a jail sentence of 365 days, which is pretty harsh and warranted in my opinion. However, all but ten days were suspended and five of those ten days would be also suspended if he completed 50 hours of community service. Huh? Did I read that correctly, he got a sentence of 365 days in jail but nearly 99% of that sentence was pitched out? Now, that is a crime in itself. And now on to the money… the fella was given a $10,000 fine, which in itself probably would not have even covered the cost of the investigation, but then half of that fine, was suspended in exchange for probation and an additional $4,000 given to the State of Wyoming in restitution. Of course how could we forget the massive $40 court fee. So, all in all, for poaching probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest mule deer in Wyoming this guy will get a grand total of five days in jail, his hunting and fishing taken away for seven years, a total of $9,040 worth of fines, some community service and a year of probation.

Unfortunately, I’m just not sure this is quite enough of a risk for some people to deter this type of poaching violation. More needs to be done. Our judges and prosecuting attorneys need to be held more accountable to the citizens they represent in these types of cases.

These are certainly some things to think about in the off season during an election year, as we hunters continue to read about such cases all over the internet and see them first hand right in our back yards, which was the case for me just the other day in Montana. Check out the blog at eastmans.com for details.

I will be very curious to hear the results of the “Poach and Pay” findings next summer. We hope you all had a very successful and enjoyable fall and I want to thank you all for doing it the right way and keeping our hunting heritage alive and well.

Best of luck and Merry Christmas.


P.S. Don’t miss out on the Eastmans’ 13th Issue, there is lots of great original content you won’t want to miss!

About Guy Eastman, Editor-In-Chief

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Following in the footsteps of his father, Guy has taken up the reins and is now at the helm of the Eastmans’ Hunting Journal and the Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal. A fine hunter in his own right, Guy has taken several trophy animals and has become an expert in trophy hunting as well.

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  1. I agree that’s not enough of a deterrent. I think they should’ve taken his gun and the truck he shot the deer from, if he was road hunting. I personally don’t think it should matter the size of the game though. It should be a serious crime no matter the size of the antlers. A zero tolerance of poaching game animals of any species would help to change the culture. Most people are against poaching or trespassing until they see a trophy across the fence or out of season, that’s when you see someone’s true character. I have had to do it before. Coyote hunting and have a monster deer I’ve hunted all season step out, 2 days after season. It’s hard, but worth it.

  2. Joe in Elk Grove, CA

    Answer: The Wyoming state legislature, and other State wildlife agencies, needs to pass stricter laws with increased “minimum and mandatory” penalties. I have read several books written by a retired California game warden. He writes that slap on the wrist fines have been handed down by judges since there have been game laws. When a thorough investigation by Fish & Wildlife officials shows criminal intent, absolute disregard for our game laws, lying and a lack of cooperation with the violation investigation, and a total lack of remorse for breaking those game laws; the penalties should be substantial. Repeat offenses by the same criminals should include prison time and seizure of weapons, vehicles, optics and night vision equipment, ammunition, knives, saws, mobile phones, video/camera equipment, and any other equipment involved in the poaching.

    • John in Carmichael, Ca. Joe you are absolutely right. Our judiciary and legislature haven’t the fortitude to pass and enforce sufficient strict laws to handle these issues. California has the most under appreciated and under paid law enforcement (Wardens). These are guys who work alone most of the time, at night, against persons who are most likely armed. They risk their lives to protect the sport we enjoy. They need our backing and support to do their job. They need out support to get the legislature to properly fund the enforcement division. California is rampant with poaching with no one to do anything about it. Some Wardens have hundreds of square miles to oversee. I agree take all the poachers equipment that can be possibly related to poaching. JB

  3. And to think he took the mount to an Expo show to show and brag the world.

    If this idiot was able to kill a 230″ imagine what a smart poacher could do….Food for though.

    This article hits me to my core because poaching in PA is a serious problem. In Pennsylvania the Game commission is stretched so thin its not even funny. Poaching is rampant around my place in Northwestern PA . Hunters need to start policing their areas to catch these guys.

    They should have cut his trigger finger off…

  4. Keep dreaming, ain’t nobody going to do nothing about it.

  5. In addition to the need for stricter laws and penalties, we as hunters are all in part responsible for this phenomenon of trophy poaching and removal of the fittest specimens. With the recent emphasis put on locating and hunting trophy bucks and bulls by publications like Eastman’s and Hunting Fool its no wonder some individuals are motivated by ego and profit to stretch or skirt what is ethical and legal. (How about more articles on ethical hunting and behavior and policing ourselves- we are our worst enemy.) I know some who hunt and their sole motivation is inches of horn. They seem to have the lost the essence of the other 95% of what hunting is about.

    In addition, with all the emphasis in ads and marketing about long range ammo, scopes and rifles we are also killing the Golden Goose (The genetic pool of big buck and bulls) to satisfy our egos. Again, the emphasis is on big and trophy you don’t see ads for Nikon scopes and 612 yards with a rag-horn in the crosshairs its a 375″ bull. The message is; Long-range= Trophy.

    Shooting at 400, 500, 600 yards is not hunting its shooting, your not matching wits with the animal, its not Fair Chase. I would also argue that the average hunter is not proficient at making one shot kills over 350 yards, regardless of equipment.
    As a result, there is an increased crippling loss of trophy animals. In addition, trophy animals that in the past were able to elude most hunters and pass on their genes are now being removed from the population by hunters that are proficient at 500-800 yards using new technology. Its my prediction that in 10 years 190″ bucks and 380 bulls will be very hard to come by because we didn’t police ourselves and killed the Golden Goose with modern technology and our egos.

  6. This game thief, Matt Strong got away pretty easily IMO. He, and others like him should lose all equipment used in the poaching. This should include the vehicle used to transport the stolen animal and weapons and anything else used in the Crime.
    He should also have served the entire jail sentence the judge handed down. This outcome was probably influenced by Strong’s attorney and the prosecutor agreeing on a “Plea Bargain”.
    The entire system that deals with wildlife crimes needs a complete overhaul. Unfortunately, this kind of problem will only get worse now that we have all these people out there who hunt with a tape measure. They will do anything it takes to get a “Book head” and the reap the fame and notoriety that comes with it….the end justifies the means in their way of thinking.

  7. I feel this is a double edged sword. Higher fines and increased penalties only affect those who actually care. The majority (notice not all) of poachers don’t have the money to pay the fines, yet still take the chance. If you take their license, they’ll just poach another one during that time frame. Chances seem pretty good they were a criminal to some extent before getting caught and they are likely to repeat the offense. I’m not sure if there is a good answer as imposing fines and penalties on those who don’t care about them seems an ineffective deterrent at best. I think the penalties have to be something that inconveniences them. If they are caught, minimum 3 month work detail for the state. Call it community service, but make it 5 days a week for 3 months. If they default, then mandatory 3 month jail sentence. The money will really never matter to them until you take things or freedom from them.

    • Paul- Your points are very valid. I bet if you confiscated all their guns that would get their attention. in addition confiscate all other equipment and vehicles involved in the crime.

  8. Marshall Johnson

    Following up on Paul’s post, I also agree that fines and loss of licenses really is not a deterent (they hunted without a license and did not care). I purpose you have to make it hurt, ie; labor on our public lands. Picking up garbage and any habitat work all while wearing a vest or convict pants suit that reads “Poacher”

  9. Hobie from Colo . Poaching is a big problem we have a few here that are heavy poachers , one a young kid who now is 18 shot a 33″ 210 buck and got a slap on the wrist at age 16 mommy and daddy paid little over 3.000$ lost his lic for a couple yrs which didn’t stop him as he posted photos on FB showing a bull elk he shot that yr . age 17 drove into a persons driveway shot a 190 class buck in the headlights took off the rancher watched the whole thing again slap on the wrist.I totally agree they need tp prosecute hard and heavy , start by taking vehicles away guns and their freedom. Take their huntin rights and fines that takes yrs to pay so when others start seeing that the DOW and the courts are taking this crime serious maybe they’ll think twice before pulling the trigger . In many cases the fines don’t even come close to the cost of the investigation court costs.then again this one of many .U got people shootin the big bucks then go back in the spring and claim it was a lion kill but yet every buck they find is 30″ plus . Again the list goes on and on one guy said it won’t stop him if he got busted he’d still poach . In 1980 I was in the Air Force in Alaska we had a 2civil workers that poached 3 bear 1 ram and a bull moose. The took their trucks guns everything that was associated wt the poaching put them in prison and sent their families to the lower 48 . That made national headlines but that got people’s attention . But this is wat needs to be done to get poachers attention .

    • We as hunters need to be more vocal about wanting stiffer penalties for illegal harvest of wildlife and wildlife crimes.
      Any of you guys politically savvy and know we could get such penalties legislation in place?

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