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The Harshest Poaching Laws, and What We Can Learn from Them

Poaching laws help keep the unethical out of hunting.

Ethical hunters can't stand poachers. It goes against everything we stand for and leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those who love and respect the creatures we hunt.

Although it may seem ironic, most ethical hunters are conservationists by nature. True hunters know that there is a need to protect and oversee the population of the game we chase.

However, poachers live by a different set of rules. They likely care little about the future of any species, the ecosystems they live in or the skill it takes to harvest a whitetail or turkey.

For that and other similar reasons, poaching laws are becoming harsher by the day. Take a look at the following list of some of the harshest poaching laws and penalties to get a glimpse of how society truly feels about poachers.


Baiting is illegal in several states, but is regulated and allowed in others. It's an intricate and emotional subject for many hunters, but not as big of a deal for others.

Many believe it's an easy, lazy way to attract game and bring them directly into your line of sight. Others have known no other method, and feel it's a perfectly acceptable way of hunting.

One thing is for sure, if there's a law against it, baiting should simply not happen. Wildlife departments have instilled laws for specific reasons, and those laws should be followed regardless of personal beliefs. Penalties can be harsh too, as if the law itself wasn't enough deterrent. In 2005 a ranch owner in Texas was penalized $120,000 and received a three-year ban on hunting for baiting migratory waterfowl over a period of five years.

Commercial Poaching

Commercial poaching carries a strict set of penalties as well. In one of the biggest poaching busts in Montana history, game wardens charged 21 defendants with illegally killing over 90 animals (mule deer, whitetail deer, antelope, and black bear). Fines and restitution exceeded over $149,000 with a total of 40 years of revoked hunting privileges.

Unlawful Sale & Transportation of Wildlife

One of the biggest fines in history was levied against an outfitting company in North Dakota for the unlawful transportation and sale of wildlife across state lines. The Sheyenne Valley Lodge in Goodrich, N.D., along with 94 hunters and 7 guides were fined $90,000. They were all given two years probation, forfeiture of weapons, loss of hunting privileges, and a lifetime ban on guiding or outfitting.

Protected or Endangered Species

Killing a protected species such as a bald eagle or hawk draws a stiff penalty for poachers. In 2004, a North Dakota poacher killed five hawks and at the same time, went over his limit on pheasants. Because of his infractions, the poacher was given a $60,000 fine, two years of federal probation with home detention, forfeiture of five weapons, and a nationwide revocation of hunting privileges.

RELATED: Ex Colorado Cop Awaits Jury Decision in Elk Poaching Case [UPDATE]

Poaching Excessive Numbers of Animals

While poaching even one animal illegally is a terrible offense, killing animals by the dozens is incorrigible. In December, 2007, a poacher in Montana illegally killed 86 deer, antelope, elk, moose, black bear, and mountain goats. His penalties were $52,744 in fines and restitution, 20 years probation, and a lifetime suspension of hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges.

Ethical Hunter Responsibilities

While not every hunter agrees with the federal and state regulations associated with their hunting areas and game of choice, every ethical hunter can agree that there is a need for rules. Without strict hunting laws and fierce punishments for those who ignore them, hunting as we know it would be over.

Game wardens and hunters alike are responsible for maintaining healthy game populations. It is a responsibility we all must share in order to continue enjoying the hunting privileges we adore. Poachers like the ones listed above teach us the consequences of leaving ethics and common sense behind. The fines and loss of hunting privileges alone should be enough to make potential poachers run screaming into the night.

However, as every hunter knows, poachers will never completely go away. They fail to see the beauty and honor in hunting game the right way. Instead, they act as any criminal would and seek the easy road. It is up to ethical, caring hunters to prevent these killers from getting away with treating the sport we love with such disrespect.

Learning from Poacher Mistakes

After reading about the penalties and mistakes made by poachers, it becomes relatively easy to know what not to do when faced with the choice to poach. Every hunter has been put in a situation where they are faced with a decision regarding poaching. It may be something as simple as taking a shot at a turkey on the roost or shooting at waterfowl just as the sun starts going down.

Often, the situation occurs in a remote location and there is no one around but the hunter and his or her game. This is when ethics and a strong sense of right and wrong come into play. To take the shot or not is a lifelong question hunters will face. The choice made at that moment is what separates true hunters from poachers.

RELATED: Ex Colorado Cop Awaits Jury Decision in Elk Poaching Case [UPDATE]

Always make the ethical choice. Leave the killing for killing's sake to unethical poachers. They will never carry the title of hunter. That title is reserved for those of us who respect the sport we love and for those of us who understand conservation is a necessary component of any game management plan.

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The Harshest Poaching Laws, and What We Can Learn from Them