Thursday, September 21, 2017

Doing your Part to Control Illegal Hunting and Fishing

imageIn a recent conservation with a local Game Warden I was somewhat surprised by some of his comments when we were discussing game violations. This particular Game Warden transferred to my home state of South Carolina from a western state.  According to his experience in the western state the 'mindset' is so different when it comes to game violators. "In the west, everyone sees it as their responsibility to protect the game and if they see someone violating the laws, they will turn them in in a heartbeat." Using several examples, this warden commented that he has seen family members turn in one another when they discovered out of season hunting, hunting with the improper license or weapon, etc.

This same warden had this to say when discussing the attitude here in South Carolina. "The mindset is totally different. It is almost impossible to get a tip, or someone to turn in another person." He then shared with me a story of a night shooting of deer that was occurring. When the investigation unfolded, the officers began asking neighbors if they had heard anything out of the ordinary. one neighbor replied, "they've been shinning that field for years. all hours of the night and killing everything they see." When asked why the neighbor never reported it to the officers, the response was typical of what they hear. "That ain't my land, it's none of my business what they do over there."

In most states across the country, game animals belong to 'the people'. With the exception of enclosures, all free ranging game belong to all of the people regardless of whose land the animals occupy. A violation of these game laws effects all of us in a negative manner. Let's look at some of the consequences of ignoring violations of the game laws.

First, it paints all sportsmen in a negative light. When yahoo's are out there shooting deer at night, or trespassing, killing animals out of season. Catching over the limit of fish, etc. it makes all of us look bad in the public eye.
Secondly, every illegal animal taken is one that cannot be hunted legally. When someone illegally kills an animal, it prevents the ethical hunter the opportunity to hunt that animal. It hurts everyone in the process.
Lastly, When we ignore a violation, we are by default giving permission to the violators to do what they want when they want. If they are confident no one will turn them in, they will go about their unethical killing without remorse or recourse.

Many states have an anonymous tip line where the public can call and report game violations. Many of these offer monetary rewards to tips leading to an arrest. By calling Operation Game Thief here in my state, (1-800-922-5431) you can report a tip anonymously. There really is no reason NOT to call in or report a violation.

For many it is really an ethical situation. I remember in while attending seminary, we took a class on Christian Ethics. In this class we discussed in detail how to determine your position when something is challenging you standards or ethics. The formula was simple, 1. What does Scripture say about it? 2. What does the law of the land say about it,? 3. What does your experience teach you? 4. What is reasonable?
Granted game laws are not on the same level of Christian Ethics, however I believe this model can be followed regardless of your religious affiliation. From a secular manner in regard to game violations, perhaps you could use the following to determine your next course of action.
1. What does the law of the land say about it? 2. What does my experience teach me about such behavior? 3. What is the 'right' thing to do? 4. How will ignoring the situation make it better?

By looking at the situation through these lenses, perhaps we can see that our responsibility as sportsmen and women is to honor and guard our heritage and sport with integrity. To be vigilant in protecting the very resource we treasure. And to be willing to stand up and testify to the events as observed.

A few years ago while running my trap line, I ran across someone else's traps that had obviously not been checked in some time. The beaver set had a rotting beaver in the trap. Our law requires a check every 48 hours, this beaver had obviously been there for weeks. A little further investigating and I discovered several other illegal traps. I immediately called the local warden and showed him the situation and left it in his hands. To this day I do not know what became of that case, but one thing is for certain. I have never seen any more traps in that area, and I can rest at night knowing I did my part in turning in someone that was painting a bad picture of trappers everywhere.

This same warden also commented that the number one complaint they receive is trespassing complaints. But less than ten percent ever are charged because the land owner who reported it is not willing to press charges for the trespass offence. "it is such a waste of our time to pursue a trespass complaint if the land owner is not going to press charges."

Doing your part as a sportsman also means being willing to protect your passion from those who abuse the privilege of participating. It is as easy as a quick phone call and we can all reduce the number of cases where people are abusing the privilege we value.

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