Poachers are more than a nuisance for rural landowners. The subject of poachers has been on mind for several weeks, but literally hit home last weekend, when a first-time guest from North Carolina hunted whitetail deer on our family-owned Alabama land. As our guest was watching the foodplots where he was posted, four armed men appeared from the woods a mere 35 yards away. He began frantically texting me about the intruders. I was mortified; this could have gone south in a hurry. I climbed down from my stand several hundred yards away and raced the four wheeler to his position. The poachers made a quick get-away onto an adjoining owner as they heard me approach. He was okay, and the men hadn’t seen him. I was grateful he was okay, and that no confrontation had occurred.
Later that evening as our group of hunters gathered for supper, I heard numerous stories from other landowners that had encountered trespassers and poachers on their lands. In most states there is a legal distinction between trespassers and poachers. A trespasser is one who “oversteps his bounds” onto the lands of another, while a poacher is one who trespasses with the intent of taking an animal. I learned that in Alabama the legal assumption is that if a person trespasses on your land with a firearm they are poaching.
Poaching is a nationwide epidemic. Missouri reported 2000 arrests for deer poaching in 2009 alone! The fact that so many property owners have had to deal with this issue prompted me to contact a local conservation officer and sheriff’s deputy for advice about preventing poachers on their lands. Here are a few of the key points that these officers shared with me.
1. Poachers generally look for easy targets. Land held by owners who are out of the area and that doesn’t see much use is going to be a prime area for poachers to visit. By looking for tire tracks on the driveway or woods roads it is easy to tell if a property is being used. More....