On the Ridge: A word of warning

Published: 1/13/2021 9:33:51 PM
Modified: 1/13/2021 9:33:47 PM

Can’t let 2020 escape us without sharing one final thought about this past deer hunting season, even though, considering the topic, I’d rather not. But here we go anyway.

This past year has seen a rash of instances that brought hunting into full public view, and I just don’t feel like I can, or should, look past it. I’m referring to a series of unlawful incidents that happened during the 2020 deer hunting season involving poaching, trespassing and thievery that left me, and others, scratching our heads and wondering why?

Let me be clear that I’m fully aware that most hunters comply with all regulations year in and year out, but there are individuals that think they have the right to break the law whenever and wherever they please. They’re called poachers, baiters, trespassers and thieves, and they should never be referred to as hunters. They push beyond the limits of our game laws and are never satisfied. They go places where they’re not supposed to and continually break rules. They bait deer, sometimes taking only the horns and leaving the rest – something that was witnessed multiple times just this past year in Shelburne. They steal or damage equipment if they find someone’s tree stand, trail cam or blind set-up. That was also experienced this past year in both Shelburne and Colrain. Plainly put, they’re game law violators — not hunters — and they steal from every hunter and angler who plays by the rules.

Most law-abiding hunters and property-owners can’t imagine why these unethical individuals would break the law and take the chance of tarnishing their reputation, losing their hunting privileges, face hefty fines or more importantly, get caught stealing from others. If you don’t have permission or a written permit slip from the landowner allowing you to hunt, then you shouldn’t be on that land hunting. If you see someone’s trail cam, tree stand or blind set-up, then just leave it alone and get out of there. And if you can’t harvest a deer while playing by the rules, then maybe you should learn a little more about deer hunting, hunt a little smarter, work at it a little harder or maybe just take up something else like stamp collecting or making snow globes.

Game wardens will tell you that baiting, poaching, trespassing, transporting a loaded firearm in your vehicle and discharging a firearm to close to a dwelling are the most common deer hunting violations in the state. When you add thievery into that mix, then you have a problem that’s bound to escalate.

But mistakes can, and do, happen. As a hunter I’ve made mistakes and maybe you have, too. You can’t hunt for as long as many of us have without making a mistake or two. But true hunters don’t bait deer, poach or trespass, and they don’t steal other people’s property when they happen upon it in the woods. Why in the name of all that’s sacred would anyone need to do this? Every time something like this happens, misperceptions about hunting and hunters start ramping up. But perception isn’t always reality. Yet, if one person is caught breaking the laws, the rest of us are lumped into that same group, and then perception worsens from both the non-hunting public and those who try to support it, potentially resulting in more posted land or lost access to long standing hunting ground. So, what’s the solution?

State game wardens do their best, however they are severely undermanned to combat the problem. They may not always be able to respond to every call. But if they receive several calls about suspicious activity in the same area, they will investigate. One of the best ways to combat game violators is through landowner and hunter vigilance. Be aware of what’s going on when you’re in the woods. If someone is acting suspicious then there’s probably a reason for it. Report it to your local game warden and do your part to bring an end to it because, just in case you haven’t heard, trying to protect hunting rights is a never-ending battle. For every non-hunter who supports the right to hunt, three others are lost because someone illegally trespassed on someone’s land. For every non-hunter who supports our right to hunt, because our license fees support conservation and wildlife management, we lose five others because someone poached a deer. And for every non-hunter who supports our right to hunt, because of the work we do to protect and improve wildlife habitat, we lose 10 because someone discharged a firearm to close to someone’s dwelling. So stop it already!

When game violators commit these crimes it’s not because of accident or ignorance. These violators make conscious decisions to break the law and have no respect for hunters, landowners and the wildlife.

And if you’re a “game violator,” then know this: You can never expect to be called a hunter.

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and sportsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, and a 2019 inductee into the N.E. Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame. Joe is also on the Quaker Boy Game Calls and Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Pro-Staff.

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