DWR Officers Brandon Baron, Castey Mickelson, and Ben Riley with confiscated antlers from elk that were poached.
Hunters who watch sportsmen TV or read hunting magazines quickly realize the enormous value placed on horn and antler size. The hunter who takes multiple high-scoring animals puts him in the limelight as an expert and big name personality.
The lust for glory and recognition becomes too great a temptation for some hunters, and the consequence to a big game herd can be catastrophic. On July 13, 2011, Rory and Shane Donoho pled guilty to more than 130 poaching-related charges in Oregon. Shane admitted to killing more than 300 deer over a five year period. Most cases are less sensational, but spread among many hunters, poaching can have a devastating impact.
This month, conservation officers in southeastern Utah are investigating two cases of the illegal harvest of trophy big game. In one case, a headless deer was found. In the other case, a 7-point bull elk was found shot and abandoned. For those who play by the rules, the loss of a trophy animal is significant.
The DWR encourages sportsmen to report suspicious or illegal activity by calling the public safety dispatcher or the Turn in a Poacher hotline at: 1-800-662-DEER. Your report should include the description of suspects and vehicles. If possible, get the license plate number and provide any other information you think may be pertinent. Mark the location of an abandoned animal, so it can be found by a conservation officer. Avoid disturbing evidence such as boot or tire tracks.
There are rewards for turning in a poacher. If your report results in the successful prosecution of a poacher responsible for the wanton destruction of a male big game animal within a limited entry area or of a once-in-a-life species, you may be eligible for a permit for the same species and on the same area where the incident occurred. You may also be eligible for any reward that may be posted.
Those convicted of poaching a trophy big game species face fines and restitution, amounting to thousands of dollars. The penalty usually includes confiscation of the weapon, and may even include forfeiture of the vehicle used. The defendant may be sentenced to jail time and will typically face revocation of hunting privileges.
Hunters who are bent on the collection of trophy antlers at any cost had better beware. There are a lot of eyes out there.