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Stop The Poaching Insanity!

Photos courtesy of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

There must have been something in the water this hunting season in Montana! Wait a minute, it isn’t just Montana, it has happened everywhere across the West. Montana has just been unlucky enough to have two major poaching incidents this season that really show the ugly side of some unethical people.

Most of us have been there, “If it’s brown it’s down,” as the old adage goes. However, with the rise of the “trophy hunter” and all the field judging and showmanship that comes with taking a great animal, there is more temptation for some to leave an animal they aren’t proud of.

Therein lies the problem, if you can’t keep your finger off the trigger when a small bull or a cow is in the sights, don’t rob someone else of the chance to hunt those animals. Every one of us is responsible for the life we end when we pull the trigger and that means pulling the tag out immediately at the kill site and notching it then and there without delay. Every animal that you harvest is your trophy to claim.

Some of these incidents have happened when elk were bunched up and preparing to leave the country. Others have happened when a hunter killed a once in a lifetime buck and never recovered the animal. One more notable case was a hunter who was approached by a Game Warden in Montana who had a camera crew following him. Sure enough, he hadn’t notched his tag per the requirements of the law and it suddenly turned into a high-profile case. The District Attorney has since dropped the case but it is still a reminder that we must be aware of the laws and do our best to follow them.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding each of these individual situations, we all have to do our best to follow the rules of the states that we hunt. Every fall we come under the scrutiny of the public eye and as a result we have an obligation to do the things that will uphold our current good standing with the public.

Don’t shoot into large groups of elk, no matter how big the bull is! Invest the money in a good GPS and mapping system that will help you stay inside area boundaries and off of land you don’t have permission to hunt. Read the regulations for the states you intend to hunt and study them diligently! Above all else, remember that every decision you make when pulling the trigger reflects the ethical standards of all of us to the non-hunting public. Let’s not tarnish the activity that we all enjoy and love!





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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. Kevin Schwinkendorf

    Guy, I agree 100%. Back in 1975 when CBS first aired their so-called “documentary” on hunting in our country (“The Guns of Autumn”), I was a junior in high school and had already taken my first buck, a really nice Columbia blacktail spike (103 lbs dressed, and I was very happy with it). I was furious with the hatchet job Dan Rather did on deer hunting, but it did reflect the attitudes and impressions many people in this country have about deer hunters. Please people, let’s not give the “antis” any more reasons to criticize us!

  2. Guy agree 100% as well.
    I had the pleasure of meeting two wildlife agents (one State, one Fed.) this last fall here in Oregon while I was out hunting. I was able to have some time chatting with them as they were investigating a possible poaching incident during bow season. Someone had called in a rifle shot they heard in my area earlier that day. I heard the shot too.
    Anyway, I asked them about poaching, deer and elk numbers, and a number of other things.
    Bottom line is that Poaching is MAJOR problem in just about all areas and more so in the rural areas. This is especially true in times of economic difficulty.
    Most states are not able to handle the territory they have and poachers run rampant. Night day, whenever.
    The next week I saw them again and they had a nice 160+ muley decoy in the back of a rig and were going to set up another sting operation. This was the last weekend of bow season 1 week before rifle season here in central Oregon.

  3. Thanks for bringing this issue up.

    The two elk herd hazing/shooting incidents occurred very near where my family hunts. Absolutely disgusting. What is also troubling is that the perpetrators essentially got away with it. Very few citations were issued, and those that were issued were only for not obtaining landowner permission. There is a mentality in that part of the state that the law is powerless – or gutless. Montana FWP really dropped that ball – twice.

    The “hunters” who do that crap make us all look bad. Common sense and basic ethics went bye-bye. So more and more private land in that area is being closed off to hunting. Can we blame the landowners?

    • I heard that outfitters in that area were herding elk off public land onto private land?

      I know that goes on here in New Mexico all the time. Hunters can’t be out there 24-7 like the land owners. Some outfitters and landowners in the Gila use ATV’s, horses and helicopters to push big game to a place where they then pimp it out for profit.

      • Lawrence F. Wilson

        Yeah, & then we have scum (so called celebrities) like Ted Nugent busted for poaching several times in different states, & yet we continue to support them & praise them for all else they do.

  4. Well put Guy! One of the best videos that I have seen from this season was of a young lady who had just arrowed her first deer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBvWLVBXQ7g

    If you think that hunting big horns outweighs the excitement and accomplishments of others you are grossly mistaken! It is our jobs to preserve our hunting heritage and pass it onto future generations in better shape than when we took ownership of it.

    I beg you all to please keep your trophy desires in check. We all know that the public outcry over these instances causes major pressure form the antis. This causes pro hunting organizations to have to spend money in defense of these situations…money that could be used to purchase land or used towards the betterment of habitat.

  5. The measure of a man’s character is what he does when nobody is looking. It also is how he hunt’s! The anti Hunting and gun lobby are trying their best to take away all our privileges why give them more ammo to do so? But the truth is the folks we are talking about don’t read this anyway and know nothing of Fair Chase. Report, Report, Report. Teddy would be hiding his boot where these guy’s sit.

    • Teddy didn’t give two hoots about game laws. The man would laugh at all the bullshit laws on the books now days. He used dog on game hell He was a bear hunter. The reason most game laws are broken is because they are a joke. Set a limit of animals to be taken and let us take that many animals!! More species should be hunted like cougar are in colorado. More power to the hunters less power to the antis and fatcats who have never held a gun. No one owns game animals and private land owners should be obligated to let anyone with a tag hunt. No one should leave a animal dead in the field with nothing but antlers taken but if you have a tag and your going to eat it, go ahead and shoot it.

  6. Maybe we could be a bounty on the poachers. Alive of course but hog tied along with the evidence. I go to our Calif. Mountains around Yosemite once in a while and I keep my eyes and ears open. Poachers are nothing more than low life criminals and the penalties need to be stiff. I remember when I was hunting in Colorado and the Fish and Game confiscated a new truck, 5th wheel and all the poachers possessions and of course fined them heavily. Awesome.

  7. Illegal hunting practices, such as the herding of game animals mentioned here, is never a good thing. However, the story of the two brothers in Montana receiving a ticket for not properly tagging game is one reason I don’t intend to ever hunt Montana. Montana wardens have a reputation for finding any small infraction they can in order to issue a citation. I personally know of a Houston police officer being issued a citation for game not properly tagged. The elk was shot in warm weather and had to be put on ice. The tag was properly filled out and punched and laying inside the ice chest on top of the meat. Because the tag was not attached (affixed) to the meat securely, a citation was issued and gun confiscated. The warden said he would not take his truck. The HPD officer had to fly back to Montana to appear in court to get his gun back. Thankfully my Dad, who was a game warden for 20+ years, never enforced the law over zealously like this. If necessary, he would have told the man to get a piece of wire or string and attach the tag to the meat.

    • I live next to state land in Montana that on a daily basis has illegal hunters. AS many as 8-10 vehicles to hunt a 400 ac piece. With the mass majority hunting illegal. A legal hunter is rare. I have had pictures of the illegal hunters sometimes with animals and their car license plates. Some of these so called hunters do this every year. This year is the first that the FWP has had an officer that was willing to do anything about it. The hunters have no worry about getting tickets. Its no wonder that poaching is such a problem when those in charge of enforcing the laws won’t. I don’t understand why we have a poaching hotline.

  8. Yes poaching is hurting the sport, on public land where I live it is ridiculous , I live in the Chesapeake region and it’s worse on the water, the fisherman complain all the time about limits and rules , but they are the same who get caught with illegal nets and catches .

  9. when people erect high fences, like next to my ranch and fence in the deer on that property and don’t have to compensate people around them for fencing in these deer, and then they turn around and charge people to hunt them, it turns off people to following the laws.. how can these people do this and the state not see this? and then they want you to report poaching.. these high fences are rich people poaching off of people that can’t afford to do that , but they get away scott free…

  10. Guy, unfortunately your remarks won’t be read by those who intentionally poach our game animals. I am a Life Member of the Oregon Hunters Association and served on a local chapter and the State Board of OHA. I am a retired LE Officer and I took it as a personal challenge to work with District Attorneys and Game Officers and testify in front of the Judges on behalf of the OHA during poachers sentencing. There have been some major cases in Oregon and they continue at this time.
    I have moved to Colorado in the last 6 months and intend to get involved here also.
    I would urge and insist that all ethical and concerned hunters get involved with your states Game Officers and join Hunting and Conservation groups….Get Involved!!

  11. Guy – excellent article. I strongly agree with MikeW above that your article is not likely to be read by trigger-happy individuals such as those recently apprehended for wantonly slaughtering big game here in eastern Idaho. I have been a hunter safety education instructor for over 20 years and know that educating our youth (and their parents) in the ethics of hunting and fishing is one of the first lines of defense against poaching and party hunting. There is a nation-wide shortage of qualified hunter education instructors and I would strongly encourage concerned sportspeople to get involved at that level. Bob from Teton Valley, Idaho. 12/17/14.

  12. Guy, I appreciate your observations on the effects of unethical hunters on both wildlife populations and public impressions of hunting as well as hunters. When I was growing up there were no deer to watch or hunt. I helped start a restoration program in my state and now we have a healthy population statewide. As an area manager working with a Conservation officer 40 years ago, we apprehended three young men at 1 AM spotlighting deer. One of these men shot me we with a 12 Ga mag. 00 buckshot at 7 ft. The officer shot the poacher and he got 28 yr. in jail. I spent 9 weeks in hospital but recovered thanks tothe Lord. My fear is 5 dollar beef and more very poor people who try to live off the land, will lead to a significant decline in our wildlife populations again. We need to stay vigilant.

  13. Agree 100%. So so sad that someone would shoot a beautiful wild animal and not have enough respect for it to harvest the meat it gave its life to provide for us. I think the trophy taking has gotten overboard. Be proud of the animal you harvest and the time you spent with family and friends or even alone in the process. Hunting is so much more than just a mount on the wall.

  14. I’m not sure what we can do beyond turning in poachers and putting pressure on the courts for stiffer fines and even jail time. When possible some of us old retired guys attend hearings. One poacher received a $10,000 fine and jail time for poaching abalone near where I live. His response to the sentence? “For abalone?” (He was used to getting small fines and the loss of privileges meant nothing as he never bought a license anyway)
    Up until this case poaching abalone (which were sold on the black market) was so profitable that fines were looked at like a minor business expense. It was a joke as evidenced by the number of repeat offenders.
    Poachers don’t care about you, me or our children’s future when it comes to managing big game. They are greedy self centered parasites!
    While on a fishing trip with my brother and a guy I grew up with and the subject of poaching came up. This guy admitted that he had poached deer in the past, been cited and would do it again. He was rather arrogant about it. Before we got back my brother and I told him this would be our last trip of any kind to the outdoors. To us he was a thief. A heated argument ensued, and we never went with him again.
    Oh by the way, while abalone isn’t “big game” it’s the mindset of the poacher I was trying to address here. Thank you for the opportunity to do so! 🙂

  15. Richard Gottschaldt

    Poaching goes on back east too.
    hunters that are self justified meat hogs killing to stuff every family members freezer to over flowing. That’s just part of the huge slaughter. Others that market half deer carcass s to city types for cash. And the night hunters with spotlight s that are looking for a trophy to brag to the local guys about. This selfish behaviour is on the rise. Along with tag Dodgers who refuse to pay the increased license fees. It’s all selfish behaviour without concern for others who may be first time hunters . Each of us needs to be honest and lead by example. Glad you are making that step with every issue.

  16. Guy, It seems that this year has been extraordinary here in Oklahoma. As a game warden in Oklahoma for 8 hunting seasons I can say that this has been the craziest one yet. There’s definitely something in the water here too. It is only with the help/reporting from legal ethical hunters that we can effectively do our jobs. So my thanks to all of you reading this! Good luck to those hunting the late seasons. And merry Christmas!

  17. As a former Game Warden, I can say that the responsibility for ethical hunting rests in the hands of each and every hunter regardless of age, experience or ability. Game Wardens are spread so thin that poachers have the odds stacked very high in their favor. Add to that legal hunters who just gripe about poaching but will not get involved and poachers who get caught are very few. If you want to impact hunting ethics, you need to not only report but be willing to stand up in court and testify to what you observe. Anonymous can be synonymous with worthless at times. And then the most difficult ethical challenge of all: confronting friends about unethical and illegal behavior. If you really agree 100% with Guy, then own it – don’t just give lip service. Burke’s famous quote: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

  18. I agree completely with Guy.
    I believe that there are those that are anti-hunting and another group that views anti-hunting as a means to control firearms. Poaching gives both plenty of ammunition.
    In Idaho, 20 years ago it was common to see F&G officers in the field. These days it is rare to see them out in the field. Idaho has acknowledged the poaching problem but doesn’t seem to take action . . . or maybe they have.

  19. Hi Guy we met quite a few years back at an expo in sacramento california and talked about your grandpas videos and morty the huge non typical buck,anyways where i live in northern california poaching is so bad you hardly see any blacktails on public lands anymore and we had a group of illegals poach 3 tule elk and 1 blacktail doe on private land a friend of mines property.they were caught arrested but here is the kicker when they went to court they got off scott free because the property was not posted in spanish so they could read and understand it. the judge totally throws out the fact that they poached animals without a hunting liscence and that they tresspassed through a gate which by the way would tell anyone hey someone owns this land reguardless of what language they speak.Its coming down to private land owners now in california will have to post there property with so many different languages its not funny.Our wardens do a great job but if they can’t get the judges to stand up against these so called loop holes its going to continue.Also i have been telling alot of my friends on the blacktail sites that they need to quit posting there pics on web sites without the tag being attached to the antlers because it shows that you did not tag your buck elk etc right away after killing it, like when you post a pic of your animal at camp or in the back of your truck and no tag on it and in california your tag needs to stay on your antlers for at least 1 year..I have bucks on my wall that still have tags from 1976 and a box full of antlers that all still have there tags on them!!!!

  20. Well put Guy. As someone who follows the rules when hunting, it aggravates me to no end finding carcasses out of season nearly every year. I understand the draw to fill the freezer, and am personally appalled at how poorly planned, confusing, and unnecessarily restrictive Washington State is when it comes to managing their deer herd. I think another way we can look at combating poaching is to effectively manage our herds better, based off of sound ecological research, rather than the “Bambi is cuddly” method currently employed by WA. There are places where the doe population is out of control, but they restrict the unit to 4×3 or better, and does are almost completely off the table for all but youth and raffle. Making the right tags available to hunters, and maybe giving us more than a 13 day general rifle season, may make poaching a lot less appealing to those who truly use it to fill the freezer.

  21. RE: Poaching in regards to trophy hunting. It can start by quit putting a number on a buck. I recall a time when outdoor magazines/articles never referred to an animal as a number. Yes, there is some inherent or genetic aberration in men that when any two are each same object they will spend all sorts of time comparing to determine whose is bigger or better. That seems to be all I hear while watching tv shows or read in articles. It was bad enough when it was deer and elk. But when the obsession spread to measuring turkey beards and spurs, I at least found it ridiculous. One range rat my father and I would encounter at a archery course in Southern California would pontificate seemingly forever on how he as a resident wouldn’t hunt California deer as “they wouldn’t make book”. I asked him once on how many of his bucks he had shot made “book”. None of his had, and the photos he showed me of his harvests, while commendable, were shown somewhat apologetically. They were no better than what he could have taken much closer to home had he stayed in state. But he was driven, if not consumed, by a notion that only book quality animals were really worth it. On one hand I find this fine as one hunts for ones on reasons, but when it leads to poaching it is something else entirely.

  22. And here is one more just released. Almost makes me embarrassed to be a Montanan http://www1.kpax.com/news/info-sought-on-elk-poaching-near-holland-lake/

    • This is what we have done in California through legislation + the Department of Fish and wildlife publishes the outcomes of poachers (with their names) brought before the court and still poaching runs rampant!
      Here is Assembly Bill 1162 signed into law last year;
      AB 1162 established a criminal penalty for any person who knowingly and illegally takes a trophy deer outside the legal hunting season. The penalty for such offense shall be not less than $5,000 nor more than $40,000 or up to one year in county jail, or both the fine and imprisonment. The bill was sponsored by an organization of hunters to deter poachers from illegally targeting very large game animals.

  23. I think EBJ and EHJ should devote a page in each issue to a “Poacher Profie” where they print public info about the poacher, his/her crime, the animal poached and the penalty received. Let’s read not only about the successful hunters, but the no good bums who steal from all of us. It would serve as a good reminder to old hunters, but especially new hunters that fair chase, ethical hunting is the way to go.

    • Andy has a great point. the NRA has a similar page in the American Hunter magazine “The Armed Citizen”. Perhaps even include name and state of the convicted poachers!

  24. I sure agree with your article on poaching. Here in Oregon this year My partners and I took the opportunity to hunt the second season in Heppner. It is a spike only hunt and we worked very hard trying to find these elusive spike elk. We did see several branch antlered bulls but never even raised a gun as we always make sure what our quarry is. I learned after the hunt ended that 8 branch antlered bulls were illegally taken in our area. What is wrong with these hunters!!! They have cheated the rest of us from an opportunity to try and fill a branch antlered tag should we be lucky enough to draw one. I know accidents sometimes happen but 8 is no accident, it is stupidity and selfish and should be punished by taking away the opportunity of these hunters for many years.

  25. As a hinter…if your not willing to feed your family with your harvest you simply should not be killing the animal unless it poses a threat…at which point you should try to harvest your kill.

  26. Its the same story with any kind of prohibition. The more restrictive, the more tempting. Look at the white rhino. Make tags available once in a lifetime, or even once every 5 years and people with nothing to lose are going to break the law. On top of that, add in all of the hunting leases that prohibit the poor from participating. it’s much like the days of Robin Hood when the commoners weren’t allowed to shoot the king’s deer. if you have 20 grand you can get a landowner tag anywhere you want, or if you are lucky enough to provide free advertising for the outfitter. The 20 year old kids with 2 babies making 10 bucks an hour don’t stand a chance. Leaving an animal behind is unethical as you can get, unless you are afraid of losing your hunting priveleges for 10 years and going to court if you fess up. You know damn well that even if it was an accident and you were exonerated that the community would keep you guilty for life. I think most game wardens do a very good job of ferreting out the true criminals from the ‘oh shit’ moments, but there are so many rules that it is impossible to know them all, especially if you are from out of state. There is always something they can arrest you for, ‘suspicion’ comes to mind. I hunt ethically, I haven’t harvested anything in four years because I won’t make another bad shot on an animal. I would never leave an animal, and it is stupid to not identify what you are shooting. But I can completely understand where a person is coming from when a once in a decade tag is at stake.

  27. I just read the Montana Story about the elk hunter who got a citation and lost his elk meat because he didn’t “immediately” tag his elk. It was tagged and legal by the time the camera crew from the series “Wardens” got to him but the game warden said it was not tagged “immediately” since 20 minutes had expired. The district attorney took a look at the citation and dropped it as there was absolutely no “intent” to break the law. The question out there was did the fact that the warden had a camera crew along affect what the normal decision making process would be. I think yes it did but that’s just my view. The hunter actually got his antlers back at the direction of the courts but not the meat. A few years ago I was duck/goose hunting in Oregon and I got approached by two State and Federal game officers. They did the usual check of number of birds shot, plug in gun, steel shot, etc and all was well. When I showed the federal officer (a lady) my license she said “oops you forgot to sign your duck stamp” she then pulled a pen out of her pocket and said here, you had better sign it and don’t forget again. Wow. Let common sense prevail. Was I illegal. Technically yes. Did I intend to be illegal. Absolutely not. She now came away from the situation looking like a hero instead of an, well, you know. The Montana game warden had the same situation, although admittedly an bit larger in scale. Did the hunter break the law? probably although what is the definition of “immediate”. Did the hunter intend to break the law? No. In fact, as I understand it the elk was already tagged by the time the game warden arrived at the scene. So now, instead of giving the hunter a warning and teaching him (and the viewing audience) a lesson, he gave the hunter a citation which the District Attorney dropped and now the hunter and most of the viewing public is pissed off and down on game wardens and the State Fish and Wildlife Dept. Wow guys. What ever happened to common sense and criminal intent. Too bad the bright lights of being a star got in the way.

    • John, Your point is well taken and I agree with what you had to say. In our state game laws can be difficult to understand. So difficult in fact that twice now I have had Game Wardens tell me they would have to get back to me on a question that I had asked. (They like me didn’t know either) It is worth noting that these were not some technical fine point. One involved the question of was an area open for the taking of game and the other had to do with ferrel pigs.
      I did have an occasion where a Game Warden filled in a part of my tag that I had missed. She then put the cite / Fish and Wildlife case section in so that I could look it up later. I have never forgot that and can say that one act of understanding went a long way in making me a fan of Game Wardens.

  28. Lawrence F. Wilson

    It isn’t just the West anymore. I’ve lived in Washington, Idaho, & Montana where I watched the poaching grow in popularity every year. Now I live in Alabama, & poaching seems to be becoming a way of life. People I meet regularly seem to have lost all respect for legitimate hunting. It seems they feel it is their right to do as they will. I just returned from a hunt where people were commonly using 4 wheelers on trails clearly marked not open to any motorized vehicle. people hunting on private property without consent. Almost no one reporting the deer they’d taken or filling out the required harvest record. I’ve given up hunting down here as I don’t want to be associated with these kind of people. But where to go, it was getting almost as bad when I last hunted in Washington.

  29. Matt Lindsey Salem Or.

    Well said Guy. If you are hunting a once in a lifetime tag you the hunter are a roll model for all to seIm not sure how anyone could brag about an animal they didnt harvest the right way. Any animal that we harvest is a trophy it gave us its life nothing bigger than that. Well said good sir and you run a stand up company.

  30. Well put. My Dad was adamant about following the Law. A poor MS sharecropper raised in a rural subsistence lifestyle, conservative stewardship was as much a part of his DNA as was the flesh wrapped around his bones.
    Daddy’s saying was if you shot it you ate it, and don’t shoot a Redbird they don’t taste good. Although I enjoy big buck chasing I thank the good Lord for all of his provisions:)

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