Poaching: What would you do?

NevadaZielmeister

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Reno, NV
Roksliders. I have learned so much from all of you. But I was not sure if I did the right thing when my wife, kids and I watched what we believe to be a poaching in California last year. Here is the story:

We were camping in a remote off roading campsite near a lake. The campers to our left were all setup when we got there and it was a Saturday. We were camped near the lakes edge and noticed some mule deer does and a buck nearby. We got back to our camp and did not notice how quiet the campsite next to us had become. The two male campers were gone. About 30 minutes later, right after sunset, we heard a very loud shot ring out. My significant experience in rifles told me they were about 200 yards from the campsite (this in itself was illegal).

They returned and broke camp in a very hurried matter. By the time they were finished, it was very dark. They drove away and that was when I realized that they might have conducted a poaching. So I spoke with the wife, told her to hang tight at the camp while I grabbed a sidearm and followed them on foot without a light. I was concerned since we only had one firearm and it was with me. (Since then, we always carry two). I heard them wrestling with the deer and by the time I reached them, I found they were already loading the deer. I stalked up to within 50 yards and saw that the vehicle had a dealer plate, so I was unable to ID them or their vehicle.

I was faced with a choice: Do I approach them and chat? Do I let it be? Do I try to get more information (maybe a VIN plate?)

In the end, I considered the safety of my family and decided to let it go. I am not law enforcement and really could not tell whether it was an actual poaching or not. I certainly did not see any tag on the deer when it was being loaded.

What would you guys/girls have done?
 

Gr8bawana

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Was it during deer season? Is deer hunting there legal at any time? Hunting 30 minutes after sunset is illegal in most places.
You say you heard them wrestling with the deer but did you see a dead deer or find a gut pile?
I'm guessing you didn't have cell phone reception? Maybe some pics of them and the vehicle with the deer to show to the authorities or warden.
 

IdahoElk

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Hailey,ID
I have the local F&G officer on speed dial for such things,I don't approach other people in the woods with loaded weapons to confront them about breaking laws,it's not my job.If I'm out of cell range I write their license plate #'s down,take pictures and will be available as a witness if need be when citations are given,I'm sick of poachers in my neck of the woods.
 

flatlanderhuffandpuff

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PA
If it were me I would get a license plate number and a description of the guys but thats it. Nothing good can come from you confronting these guys over a dead deer.

Where we have a cabin we occasionally find people trespassing and or poaching. We haven't yet pressed charges since it would be really easy to find the cabin mysteriously burned to the ground by a local.
 

Bubblehide

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From the limited information you provided, all of their actions could have been legal, including shooting within your estimated distance from camp. If you know the dealer name, type and color of vehicle, law enforcement could have investigated, and discovered who was using/purchased the vehicle at that time, as the dealer would have records.

I agree with most others here though. It's not your job to confront them. However, gathering any information/evidence in a non-confrontational manner would help law enforcement investigate the matter, if investigation was warranted.
 

desertcj

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I believe the legal distance for shooting in CA is only 150ft from a building, road or campsight? I don't like it, but its just a deer. Not worth your life...
 
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I'm with Bubblehide, what you described does not sound like a violation to me. I'd have walked over to the cooler and grabbed another stout, thrown another log on the camp fire and sat down to enjoy the evening with my family.
 

WV Mountaineer

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I don't know the dates this happened, the laws in California, etc.... What I do know, if they were legal in what they had done, I hope you get treated like a criminal one day when you are innocent of any wrong doing. If it were deer season, if they had tags, what did they do wrong? Of course, the opposite can be said. But, only you know if that applies.


I'm just confused. How do you camp besides someone and not know if they are hunting or not? How do you justify stalking them in the night with your sidearm? Leaving your family alone, unarmed is not providing safety. Following what is no doubt armed men in the night to spy on them is not wise either? Assuming they were within the law, how are they supposed to take it had they realized you were doing this?



I'm not trying to be mean. But, I can't help but wander how po'ed I would be had a guy camped next to me, was too stuck up to talk to me, then got all detective when I was doing something I well within the law to do. Maybe I'm looking at it wrong.


Anyways, what does it matter at this point? You had your chance to finish what you started. You didn't. I understand why. But, why does it matter now? Had they been poachers, thee is nothing that can be done about it now. Besides, asking us what we think without some major details, how are we supposed to answer the question you ask?
 

BuckSnort

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CA Legal shooting times..

§352. Shooting Hours on Big Game.

Hunting and shooting hours for big game, including but not limited to deer, antelope, elk, bear, and wild pig shall be from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
 

BuckSnort

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I would also like to add from the details given, be careful stalking/sneaking on someone like that.. I personally wouldn't take kindly to that and might think you had ill concieved thoughts or actions on your mind and there may have been a confrontation...
 

dotman

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Was it during deer season? This will give a pretty good answer to if legal or not as everything else isn't too concerning to me.
 

Bar

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Well, you said you couldn't tell if it was poaching or not. If it wasn't deer season you would have known it was poaching, so i'll assume it was deer season. What was it that made you think it was poaching?
 

Desk Jockey

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Observe and report.

Any wildlife officer or LEO is probably going to tell you to hang back.

Slipping up on someone who is armed in the dark while armed yourself is a good way to make a bad situation potentially much much worse.
 

JWP58

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Probably just report the incident the next day. Be a good witness, LE gets paid to contact/investigate. A deer isn't worth an armed confrontation.
 

Boreal

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Challenging people when they or you have a loaded firearm is never a good idea. That's how simple disagreements end up as fatalities. Backing off was the right decision. Give all the information you have to the authorities the next day, and let LE do their thing.


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530Chukar

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Not smart to stalk anyone with your pistol. Poachers or not. In any confrontation you will be seen as the aggressor as you left your campsite to follow someone with a loaded weapon.


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hodgeman

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Delta Junction, AK
I sure wouldn't confront a poacher in the field...that's the job of LEOs...and they're the right folks to handle it.

I also have zero compunction about dropping the dime on a poacher. As an outdoorsman, they are stealing from ME and ruining MY reputation simultaneously. The hunting community's worst enemies aren't PETA...it's people that purport to be US. Bill Busbice just gave us a bigger black eye in the public's perception than PETA ever could.

Most states have an anti-poaching hotline- you just make the call and let them handle it.
 
OP
NevadaZielmeister

NevadaZielmeister

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Was it during deer season? Is deer hunting there legal at any time? Hunting 30 minutes after sunset is illegal in most places.You say you heard them wrestling with the deer but did you see a dead deer or find a gut pile?
I'm guessing you didn't have cell phone reception?

It probably was during dear season, as it was late fall. I am not familiar with California seasons so cannot be sure. I heard and saw them wrestling the deer. It was still intact. They seemed to be in quite a hurry. And yeh, I was out of cell phone reception by many miles.

I have the local F&G officer on speed dial for such things,I don't approach other people in the woods with loaded weapons to confront them about breaking laws,it's not my job.If I'm out of cell range I write their license plate #'s down,take pictures and will be available as a witness if need be when citations are given,I'm sick of poachers in my neck of the woods.

Yeh, I would never walk into a situation without a firearm. I have a CCW in Nevada so could not carry concealed in that situation. Sounds like I did the right thing and hung back. There was no way, without lights, they would have seen me.

If it were me I would get a license plate number and a description of the guys but thats it. Nothing good can come from you confronting these guys over a dead deer.

Where we have a cabin we occasionally find people trespassing and or poaching. We haven't yet pressed charges since it would be really easy to find the cabin mysteriously burned to the ground by a local.

I really wish I could have obtained a license plate number and reported it. Being that it was a new vehicle with a dealer paper plate, I would have to been right on them to get a proper ID of the vehicle.

I don't know the dates this happened, the laws in California, etc.... What I do know, if they were legal in what they had done, I hope you get treated like a criminal one day when you are innocent of any wrong doing. If it were deer season, if they had tags, what did they do wrong? Of course, the opposite can be said. But, only you know if that applies.


I'm just confused. How do you camp besides someone and not know if they are hunting or not? How do you justify stalking them in the night with your sidearm? Leaving your family alone, unarmed is not providing safety. Following what is no doubt armed men in the night to spy on them is not wise either? Assuming they were within the law, how are they supposed to take it had they realized you were doing this?

They did not look like hunters at all. No camouflage, playing loud music at the camp site, had been hanging around that same campsite all day (i.e. not hunting), just to name a few.

I guess with all of your comments, it is easy to Monday Quarterback and judge. I was just asking if I did the right thing and from the comments, I did: Best not to confront them. My only goal was to try and ID the vehicle for Fish and Game to follow up if they wanted to. Having prior Search and Rescue experience, being curious was part of the traits needed. But to ignore a strange situation is like when someone ignores their neighbor when you can tell they are beating their children. Poaching appears to be difficult to deter and prosecute, so I figure it takes the hunting community to protect our most value resource. Without game, we are simply sitting around with our dicks in our hands, aren't we?

I sure wouldn't confront a poacher in the field...that's the job of LEOs...and they're the right folks to handle it.

I also have zero compunction about dropping the dime on a poacher. As an outdoorsman, they are stealing from ME and ruining MY reputation simultaneously. The hunting community's worst enemies aren't PETA...it's people that purport to be US. Bill Busbice just gave us a bigger black eye in the public's perception than PETA ever could.

Most states have an anti-poaching hotline- you just make the call and let them handle it.

Thank you for those words. Poaching really bothers me and if I could have ID'd their vehicle easier and sooner, I would have. Sneaking up on them was easy, but I am glad I did not confront them. Glad to know I made the right decision.

Thank you all for your comments.
 

WV Mountaineer

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It was easy for me to say what I said. You don't know if it was hunting season, assume that it was, yet assume they were poaching? Hunters like music too. I also believe you did the right thing in not confronting them. Had they been conducting legal business, they probably wouldn't be sure how to comprehend an armed man, that was camping beside them, stalking them in the dark. Had they poached the deer, who knows what they would have done after finding you armed.



I told you I meant no harm with that post. However, It is impossible to say what I did and have it sound any way but mean. I didn't mean it that way. I want you to think about what you are doing and how you can turn something innocent into a very pressing situation by not thinking about it completely. Basically, if you are going to take it upon yourself to investigate such things, there is a level of risk for the reward received if they are doing something illegal. We aren't talking about saving something. Was it worth putting yourself in harm's way since you didn't find out the details of whether this was or wasn't poaching? In other words, If you are going to put yourself in harms way, be prepared to finish what you started. Whatever that might be.


It's best to do as everyone has stated and, stay out of any situation that may lead to confrontation. Stay in camp when you hear shots and it's hunting season. And, don't stalk armed men unless you know they need to be for your own protection. I can only imagine how that could have went had they realized you were doing this regardless if they were within the law. Put yourself in the stalked role for clarification and, simply think about it a bit.
 

mtwarden

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with 25 years as a game warden I can say with certainty that we don't want anyone going into harms way- going in the dark with a known armed person(s) is putting yourself in harms way

yes- definitely report the incident with as much detail as you can, let the warden do his job make the determination if there was a violation; I've made some really good cases over the years with reports from folks who were reluctant to call as they didn't know if it was a violation or not- if it's not reported, we'll never know
 
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