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Behind the Badge - Catch any Poachers Lately?

Catch any Poachers Lately?

District Game Warden Zachary Schuchard

Catch any Poachers Lately? A lot of information can be exchanged in response to those four words.

And the answer to that question can vary greatly for a few different reasons, such as: how long “lately” is? What does “catch” mean? What do you mean by “poacher?”

Depending on who I am talking to, and how frequently I see them, “lately” could mean in the past couple days or it could mean in the last 6-12 months.

I usually side with the assumption that the person asking doesn’t care as much about how recent the violation was, but the severity of the violation.

I’ll tell them general information about what I have been seeing over the previous month or so and spice it up with some of the more attention-grabbing cases.

The kinds of cases people would reference seeing on the game warden television shows.

What does it mean to “catch” a poacher? Is it a decoy operation where I work in conjunction with other wardens to find someone shining wildlife?

Or perhaps it a long, drawn-out investigation that started out with sliver of information to work with and I was able to pull in the other pieces to put together an idea of what happened?

Or maybe it’s just as simple as did I find violations during license checks?

Any which way I tend to stick to the same general information as before where I provide a broad stroke of information including a mix of things found during field checks and through investigations.

Finally, and probably where most of the discussion lies, what exactly is a poacher? Could it be someone who shot an extra bird, wrong sex/species of bird, or caught an extra fish or two? Could to some people.

What about people who hunt/trap/fish without a license? Absolutely that would qualify for some.

What about taking a deer in the wrong unit? I could see that one being more of a grey area for some people.

How about the species involved?

Someone illegally taking an extra deer would definitely show up on most people’s “what is a poacher” bingo card, but would shooting two pintails instead of the one allowed be on there as well? I’d guess that’s a 50/50 shot.

I believe the real definitive measure is the actor’s intent.

Did the individual go out that day to actively shoot an extra deer or did they get caught up in the moment and forget to scan behind their target for collateral targets?

Did the group of people come back from a day of fishing a hot bite and miscounted leading them to be two fish over the limit, or do they had a five-gallon bucket overflowing with perch?

A lot can be deciphered after determining the intent of the individuals involved.

So, when reverting to the original question of “catch any poachers lately” I like to specify what I have generally found but emphasize the individuals who displayed a blatant disregard for the wildlife and other outdoor enthusiasts.

The kinds of cases people would reference seeing on the game warden TV shows.

After all of that, I have one question for you readers…what constitutes a poacher to you?

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