By Brett Roper
Poaching is broadly defined as the pursuit of fish or wildlife in violation of state or federal laws. Minimizing this activity has long been part of the conservation movement. In the late 1800s there were few laws regulating when or what animals could be harvested. When the first game laws were passed, people violating game rules did so primarily to procure food.
This is not to say there weren’t some early hunters looking for large antlers. According to Utah’s Biggest Bucks book, the fifth largest non-typical buck killed 80 years ago may have been shot slightly before the season was open. Back then this behavior was the exception. Today poaching mature, trophy animals is the rule.
A quick scan of the “officer on patrol” section of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources website gives an idea of the number of deer, elk, and moose harvested illegally. In some cases the only thing removed from the sites are the animal’s antlers. Closer to home this fall we saw the harvest of two mature mule deer bucks in North Logan by archers. This case is disturbing in that these individuals were willing to harvest animals roaming neighborhoods while possibly trespassing simply because these deer had large antlers.
Some might argue that such a hunt would have been reasonable if the hunters had simply ensured they were just outside city limits where archery hunting was legal. But when a hunter needs a better understanding of the rules governing hunting than the behavior of the targeted animal, they are better off being a lawyer rather than a hunter. Furthermore walking the thin line between legal and illegal activity gives hunters a bad name and can lead to greater restrictions in the future.
What drives this behavior is the opinion that a great hunter is someone who consistently harvests large antlered big game. This is true only if the animal was harvested following a basic tenet of American conservation, that hunting is a democratic activity. More....