Turn In A Poacher: Broken Hands and Big Rewards

poacher
Photo: IDNR

What does Dale Earnhardt, myself and the Law Enforcement Division of the Indiana DNR have in common? None of us like a poacher and all of us have done something about it.

A poacher is a thief. Gone are the days when a hard-bitten unfortunate has to head for the woods to shoot a deer (or squirrel or other game), sneak it home and stave off starvation for his family. Even in the troubled economic times of the past decade, the unemployment, a bubble economy and high gasoline prices, no one in America starved and few even came close. Those who did suffer, wouldn’t have alleviated much of what they were dealing with by hunting or fishing out of seasons or over limits.

Poaching occurs purely for more spurious reasons. Poachers do it for financial gain, at times. They sell illegally caught fish, illegally killed game or fur, feathers, antlers or other parts of animals they gathered outside the legal laws.

Poachers may do it for the thrill. I don’t understand it, but just as rioters break windows or burn cars, some people enjoy and advantage themselves of opportunities to engage in unlawful acts, seemingly just for fun.I’m sure there are other reasons people knowingly ignore or thwart fish and wildlife regulations, including greed, lust, envy and others of the Seven Deadly Sins. Regardless of why, they do it because they think they can get away with it.

No one robs a bank thinking they are going to get away with it. No one poaches a deer as a way to meet Dale Earnhardt. A recent Sports Illustrated article about the senior member of the Earnhardt racing family shared an anecdote revealing his bitter distaste for poachers.
Dale Earnhardt, was and still is one the best known names in NASCAR racing. He worked hard to make his name on the race track and won as often as he lost using steely nerves and intimidating moves. Off the track Dale Senior was an avid hunter and loved deer hunting almost as much as driving race cars.

One December afternoon while hunting near his North Carolina home, Earnhardt heard the sound of gun fire coming from a location no one should have been hunting or shooting. The driver left his hunting spot and stalked the unseen shooter.

He didn’t find the shooter but he did find a trophy buck, freshly killed and stashed out of sight of anyone not specifically looking for a poached, dead deer – Earnhardt’s deer, as he saw it. Dale hid nearby and waited quietly, assuming the poacher would return later to pick up the illegal kill.

Just as Earnhardt hoped, the poacher did return and that’s when the unsuspecting deer thief came nose to nose with the celebrity racer. The confrontation didn’t end particularly well for either man. Yes, Earnhardt got the satisfaction of seeing the poacher arrested and fined for his misdeed, but not until the poacher managed to bang his face into Dale’s right hand hard enough to break a bone in Earnhardt’s hand.

There’s a much easier and less dangerous way for Indiana citizens to cope with game violators. A more civil way and possibly more lucrative, as well.

As much as the above violator never expected to run into Dale Earnhardt, he also didn’t worry much about running into a Conservation Officer. In North Carolina, as in Indiana and other states, Conservation Officers are spread very thin. The chances of a CO observing a poacher engaging in his illegal act is slim. The chances of a poacher being observed by a private citizen is much greater.

The DNR doesn’t recommend private citizens doing an “Earnhardt,” attempting to handle the situation personally. Better is to place a toll-free call as soon as possible to 800-TIP-IDNR
(800-847-4367), the hotline for the Indiana Turn in a Poacher (TIP) program.

Anyone seeing or suspecting some sort of nefarious activity involving hunting or fishing, should take note of as many details as possible about the vehicle and people involved including descriptions or license numbers, exact location, specific time and other details – then call. The call can be anonymous and rewards of up to $200 can be claimed when a TIP call results in an arrest.

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Mike Schoonveld
Mike Schoonveld grew up hunting and fishing in rural Northwest Indiana. In 1986 he piggy-backed a career as an outdoor writer onto his already long tenure as a wildlife biologist with the Indiana DNR. Now retired from his DNR position, Schoonveld is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed boat captain, operates Brother Nature Charters on Lake Michigan and spends much of his time trailering his boat to fishing hotspots around Indiana and the Midwest. Mike can be reached through his website www.brother-nature.com or visit Mike's Outdoor World Blog at www.bronature.com

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