By Bill Parker
The word is getting out, albeit a bit slowly, that it is now very costly to poach a white-tailed buck in Michigan.
State lawmakers passed legislation last year that increased the penalty and fines for anyone caught poaching a buck. It was the first change to Michigan’s poaching law since 1990.
The new fines are based on the number of legal antler points and increase for larger racks. The restitution for illegally killing a deer remains $1,000, and jumps to $2,000 for antlered deer. In addition, poachers are now fined $500 per legal point for bucks that are between eight and 10 points, and $750 per legal point for bucks that have 11 points or more. An antler point must be at least one inch long to be considered legal.
Lowell resident Jacob Powers learned about the new fines the hard way. He pleaded guilty last fall to killing two bucks during the closed season. The DNR received a tip on its Report All Poaching hotline that an adult had allegedly killed two trophy bucks – a 9-point and an 8-point – in Montcalm County while mentoring an 8-year-old hunter during the youth hunt.
After pleading guilty to the charges, Powers was fined $335, assessed $12,000 in restitution, and given five days mandatory minimum jail time to be served as community service. He also lost his hunting privileges for five years in Michigan and 41 other member states in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.
According to a recent report in the Port Huron Times Herald, earlier this month, St. Clair County hunter Scott Malinowski pleaded guilty to the charge of taking an overlimit of bucks during the 2014 season. After filling both of his buck tags, Malinowski decided to shoot a trophy 18-point buck that stepped out in front of him while he was attempting to fill an antlerless tag.
The DNR said it received information Nov. 15 that a man had killed three bucks and had brought the third buck, an 18-pointer, to a Richmond buck pole.
Conservation officers investigated, recovered the deer that day and Malinowski admitted to the charges.
Malinowski was ordered to pay $15,510 in restitution on top of court costs and fees. He was sentence of 90 days in jail, which was suspended upon successful payment of the fines and costs. He also faces a possible license revocation.
Poaching has been a problem in Michigan and across the country for as long as game laws have existed. The state’s decision last year to get tough on poachers is sending a loud and clear message to those who decide that the laws of the land do not apply to them.
The word is getting out and I’m sure hunters who in the past weren’t able to control their actions when a trophy buck appeared in front of them after they were tagged out are now considering the ramifications. I hope hunters who choose to use the youth hunt or other special seasons to get an early crack at that monster buck roaming the neighborhood are now weighing the possibility of thousands of dollars in fines and loss of hunting privileges.
Is it worth a possible fine of $10,000 or more to shoot a deer? I think not, and I hope the new poaching fines persuade all those nimrods who hunt outside the law to reign in their wayward actions and follow the laws like everyone else.