No one likes a poacher. Gone are the days when poaching was something akin to jaywalking or driving a few miles per hour over the speed limit. Poaching is not something most people do like crossing an empty street other than at a posted crosswalk or nudging the gas pedal just to keep up with the flow of traffic.
Gone are the days when a hardscrabble, outdoorsy sort of guy can choose to shoot a deer or illegally catch a mess of fish to feed his family instead of reaching out to any number of government or non-profit resources for assistance. These days, a guy trying to live a subsistence lifestyle probably has to work longer and harder at it than if he had a real job.
Gone are the days when the public in general and hunters and fishermen in particular are unaware of the what’s legal and what’s outside the legal boundaries when it comes to hunting and fishing regulations. Gone are the days when people in general or outdoorsmen in particular are willing to look the other way when they see or suspect poachers are at work in their area.
Luckily, thanks to the Indiana Turn in a Poacher program (TIP), alerting Indiana’s team of Conservation Officers of poaching incidents has never been easier. See a suspicious vehicle traveling the back roads at night, shining bright spotlights to illuminate night-feeding deer? Notice a guy at a fish cleaning station cutting up undersized bass or walleyes? Hear a shot in the woods or on a wetland well after shooting time has ended? Call 800-TIP-IDNR and be connected with the Indiana TIP call center who will take down the details of why you are calling and possibly even dispatch an officer to the scene immediately.
I don’t want to cast a wide net over the IQs of all poachers. I’m sure there are plenty of them who have the brain of a rocket scientist and are as cunning as a fox. Most aren’t so smart and a few are certifiably stupid.
Take the recent case of the Illinois man who showed up with a buck he’d shot at a facility that butchers and packages deer. It happens every day during the hunting season when deer processors keep very busy. The processor wrote down the man’s name, address and asked to see his deer hunting license.
The hunter said he didn’t have it with him, but he’d run home and be back. By now a large crowd had gathered around his truck looking at the deer. The buck had huge antlers and the proud deer-slayer even posed for photos with the deer before heading home to get his forgotten license.
When he returned, he brought a bow hunting license he’d “borrowed” from a friend. The deer had obviously been shot with a gun and not a shotgun – maybe a muzzleloader. Tests showed subsequently, the deer had been shot with a high-powered rifle, illegal in Illinois. The processor turned the man away a second time and this time called the Illinois version of TIP.
It wasn’t a hard case to make since the poacher’s name, address and photo evidence was available. By the time the officers showed up at his house, the hunter/poacher had sawed the antlers off the deer and posted a picture on his Facebook page of himself holding them. The poacher was cited by the conservation officers for unlawful taking of a whitetail deer, unlawful possession of a whitetail deer, no valid deer permit, failure to tag deer immediately upon kill, failure to check in deer by 10pm the same day as the kill, and wanton waste of deer meat. It’s not often so easy.
The fact is each ICO has a vast territory to patrol and isn’t on duty 24/7. Even the least intelligent poacher knows this and is aware his greatest fear is the eyes of the public, not the presence of an ICO. Remember the easy phone number – 800-TIP-IDNR. Calls can be made anonymously if you wish and tips that lead to arrests can lead to a cash reward for the tipster.