Opinion: Poaching is Stealing

K.J. Houtman

Outdoor Hub News


Almost any malfeasance might stretch into the category of stealing–even poaching. I hate a thief as much as the next. What motivates outdoorsmen to steal game rather than follow the rules? Greed, methinks, pure and simple greed. Sometimes it is greed for money when selling ill-gotten meat for cash. Sometimes it is greed for ego or limelight. If a television show must sacrifice good sportsmanship to air, than doggone it, I will shut the blasted shows off.

Unfortunately, several press releases darkened my email’s inbox in the last few weeks that highlighted DNR stings of multiple game violations (both hunting and fishing) in several states. Makes. Me. Sick. I’m not trying to be goodie-two-shoes, either. To be perfectly clear, we’re not talking about a “woops, I forgot my license at home” violation. We’re not talking about a knowledge gap, either.

For example, regulations on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin do not allow for taking a sauger—a legal game fish in many other parts of the country. A small percentage of walleye anglers might not be able to identify a sauger correctly 100 percent of the time. The DNR does not send out press releases about that kind of violation. I feel bad for someone who makes a mistake and subsequently ticketed. However, I would not call them a liar and thief.

Newsworthy press releases show us multiple years, multiple infractions, and multiple parties involved—or egregious one-time acts that stand out.

I just don’t want anything to do with game violators. Don’t want them for friends. Don’t want them in the family. Don’t want to do business with them, buy their products, or watch their TV shows.

Last year I was at Costco and bought some groceries and adult beverages for the Fourth of July group coming over. I didn’t realize until I was unloading the cart that the clerk had missed ringing up a bottle of wine mixed in with the food. All the beverages were in a case or whatever—except this one, by accident. So I put everything in the truck and walked the wine back to the cashier. “We missed one,” I told him as I opened up my wallet.

“Wow, I can’t believe you came back in to pay for it,” the clerk replied with arched brow.

“I could never drink that wine knowing I hadn’t paid for it,” I replied. “It is a nice wine but surely I would choke on it.”

That is what perplexes me about game violators. Were they able to consume those extra walleyes themselves or for their family members without choking? Could they even deposit the money in the bank from an illegal transaction without heaving bile at the bank? How could they even watch their television show let alone accept a pat on the back from a friend with a hearty “good show?”

Some of these investigations cross many county lines and areas of jurisdiction, many over several years. Think about all the manpower wasted (that our tax dollars fund!) that can’t be put to a better use because of this theft.

When I ran professional fishing tournaments, there was always a lot of “he said, she said” going on. Then I saw a press release from a state DNR office that included an angler that was in our circuit. Ugh. Multiple poaching violations? I spoke with the officer named in the press release and he informed me that the angler in question had turned informant after they approached him with several months’ worth of undercover work–work that found him guilty and facing severe charges. He agreed to wear a wire and get additional information in the months ahead for a reduced sentence.

When I told the angler that he had violated our sportsmanship clause in the tournament rules (just based on the officially disclosed “reduced” charges that were public knowledge) you should have heard the whining. “It’s not fair, it was a small, minor infraction. Total misunderstanding: wrong place, wrong time. It could happen to anybody just once.”


Below are links to three press releases in just the last six weeks that show what I am talking about: multiple years, multiple infractions, several offenders.

Sticks in yer craw. They steal resources and it is far more than a fish fillet or two. I am so thankful for the Turn In Poachers (T.I.P.) program in Wisconsin. Thank the Lord that someone, maybe some family member close to the situation had the courage to phone in the tip.

Thank you, if you were the tipster on any of these cases. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

The third link below is looking for a tip on a decapitated bear in Wisconsin. Not a sting operation but the facts point to blatant unsportsmanlike conduct. Sure, innocent until proven guilty. Of course. But if there is an explanation, please, defend yourself. 

Sale of illegally taken game fish

Television show violations

Officials looking for tip on finding a decapitated bear in Wisconsin
In Kansas, Operation Game Thief (OGT) is the program to call. The number is 1-877-426-3843. The line is answered 24/7, seven days a week. Just provide the most basic of information. Let the professionals handle it from there.