I bet Robin Hood was a bowhunter, and I bet he was the kind of hunter who would have given hunters a good name.
I came across a bowhunter who wanted to be a “Robin Hood,” but not in a good way. I received a tip that a particular hunter was shooting deer, lots of deer, exceeding the bag limit, and keeping only the racks.
In his defense, he would later declare, "I have been giving the meat to needy people."
He went on to say that he believed he was helping the game department too because we had too many deer. My tipster was a friend of the poacher … a very good friend. They went to church together, double-dated with their wives, and occasionally hunted together. But the tipster had been grappling with his emotions about this issue for several years on the right way to handle it.
This informant had pleaded with his poaching friend to stop for several years, but it was to no avail. Ironically, 14 of the 16 deer the poacher was caught with that season were bucks – so much for management and helping the game department. The final straw came for the tipster when the poacher asked him to help retrieve a huge trophy deer out from behind a tight, private fence. It had obviously been shot from the road with a rifle.
The poacher had taken untold numbers of deer, going undetected for years by using multiple check stations and multiple recipients, and a cooperating meat processor.
When the poacher finally realized an investigation was underway, he arrived at the home of the tipster friend with 20-plus deer racks, shoulder mounts, turkey fans and beards.
"He just showed up (at my house) with all of these items telling me I had to help hide them for him because he knew you were coming for him. I did not know what to do."
After an arrest warrant was eventually served at his job – for the first of several counties waiting in line for a piece of him – the poacher rambled about "the good he was doing." Then suddenly, during his long, slow ride to the jailhouse, squirming as he sat on tight handcuffs, the poacher screamed at the recording device planted in front of him on the dash of my truck, "I'm not a poacher!"
It's been said many times that "you don't know what you have until it's gone."
Successful game management practices coupled with dedicated protectors have produced strong numbers of game species across the country and the harvest data proves it. Another big contributor to this success story is the many good sportsmen who present a good image for our sport. They follow the regulations with an understanding that it's a team effort to regulate harvest, implement and follow management plans for healthier herds, and help keep a population balance with available habitat.
Wildlife agencies realize the restoration part of our hunting equation has been accomplished, so focus has now largely been shifted to hunter recruitment as the next piece of the puzzle. Every informed sportsman should know that modern conservation is financed by our users, the sportsman. The licenses, and (primarily) firearms and archery excise taxes are the main funding sources for management expenses that benefit all wildlife, hunted and non-hunted alike. But, someone has to buy these valuable items to ensure our hunting heritage has a future. Like a juggler, however, we cannot lose focus on the “first spinning plate” while starting the second into motion.
From a sportsman's perspective, we live in a bountiful time where game abounds and intelligent hunting is enjoyed. And all we have to do is guard it. Don't take our sport for granted. Love it and protect it, even from your friends, if necessary.