How Landowners can Help Stop Poaching
Poaching, or illegal hunting, is a crime that will make the ethical hunter’s stomach turn. It’s more than stealing from our natural resources; poaching is a safety concern. When an armed person trespasses on private land with the intent to illegally harvest wildlife, they are willingly breaking the law. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to end all poaching, but landowners can help out the game wardens and officers who are likely stretched thin.
Mark Your Property
Mark your land with highly visible and good quality signs. The signs should be posted at every entrance to your property, trailheads, and parking areas. Make sure they are placed at a height where they are visible but also high enough where someone can’t tear them down. Think about the wording of your signs. For example, a sign that reads “No Hunting” is less effective than a sign that reads “ No Hunting, Posted and Patrolled.” Each state has its own rules and laws regarding signs marking private property. Check your state's rules to make sure your signs are correct.
In addition to signs, consider adding locked gates to your property. This will eliminate the excuse that they didn’t know they were on private property. Signs and gates won’t stop everyone, but it may make some think twice before entering your property.
Get to Know the Game Warden and Neighbors
Most of the time there’s only one game warden patrolling an area that could span for hundreds of miles. Poachers are well aware of this and will take advantage of the fact that they will most likely not run into a warden. Take this time to build a relationship with your game warden. Call and introduce yourself, or invite them to your land. While they can’t watch the land for you all the time, a relationship helps when it comes time to ask for their help.
If you have neighbors that are around full time, introduce yourself to them. See if they don’t mind keeping an eye on your land while you aren’t there. If poachers see frequent activity, it’s possible they will pass over your land for fear of getting caught.
Build a Case
If you know for a fact there are poachers on your land taking your deer or turkeys, it’s time to build a case. A simple photo from a trail camera could be enough for an arrest and a conviction. But poachers are well aware of this fact and often will destroy any camera they see. One way to combat this is to place a dummy camera is plain sight followed by the real camera camouflaged and pointed at the fake camera. Not only will you have them entering your land illegally but now you can also press vandalism charges. Look for tire tracks and try to angle the camera so it will catch the license plate number of the poacher. Turn any evidence you capture over to law enforcement.
Let Law Enforcement Handle It
If you come across the poachers face to face, keep your cool and let law enforcement handle it. We know that you’re angry and you most likely want to let the poacher know what scum they are, but we can’t stress enough how dangerous that can be. Arguments can become heated in an instant and things can turn dangerous, if not deadly. Calmly ask what they are doing on your property, and try to get as much information from them as possible. Whether you get their information or not, contact law enforcement. If they become angry or hostile in response to you calling, wait until after they leave. Never point your gun or weapon at them. This can lead to them pressing harassment or assault charges against you.
Never hesitate to prosecute the poachers once you have caught them. Sure, they will give you a long list of excuses like “I’m out of work” or “I didn’t know I wasn’t on public land.” There may be some truth to their statements, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are on your private land and hunting illegally. If word gets out that you let one go, then you’re more likely to have problems in the future with other poachers. So when law enforcement arrives and they ask you to sign an affidavit, don’t hesitate.
Poachers violate the rights of landowners and can pose a threat to their safety. Minimizing poaching will come down to sending a clear message to lawbreakers: Wildlife is important to us, and if you steal it, you will be caught and punished.