Poaching? Hunting? Is There Any Difference?

We often hear from hunters who tell us that legal hunting is not what we should be addressing when there are poachers who are disrespecting conservation laws and making all hunters look bad in the process. It is these unethical clods, they say, who are doing damage to the “wildlife resource” and should be punished. C.A.S.H. agrees that poaching is unethical and that poachers should be locked up, but we also believe that the difference between legal and illegal hunting is negligible.

Typically, hunters define poachers as those who: trespasses on private property; kill in excess of legal bag limits; kill out of season; have no passion for the outdoors and no respect for the law. Poachers, they say, disrespect wildlife as they brag about their kills.

A hunter will tell you that “legitimate” hunters pursue game in ways that comply with the law, respect the boundaries of property owners, conserve natural resources, and help keep wildlife populations in balance. They will not use the word “hunter” when talking about poachers as they try to distance themselves from poachers as much as they can.

Why do some people hunt illegally? Perhaps it’s the thrill of the kill (the same thrill that law abiding hunters get when they kill legally). Perhaps it is wanting a trophy they couldn’t get during the regular season. Maybe it’s that they had a craving for rabbit meat and didn’t want to wait until spring to eat one? Maybe because they know that the penalty for poaching is light and that the chance of being caught is next to nil? Perhaps it’s all of the above.

Those who respect wildlife however, don’t see much of a difference between hunting and poaching and we will give several reasons why.


Unlimited killing is legal in some states.

For example, in certain counties in Texas there is no closed season on hunting coyotes, squirrels, rabbits & hares. There are also no bag limits on some of these animals. Additionally, there are no state bag or possession limits or closed seasons on exotic animals or fowl on private property. What is considered poaching in New Jersey, is just plain vanilla hunting in Texas, and considered as legal and ethical there. This makes hunting and poaching appear as identical twins.


I’m sorry officer – my watch is slow…

Hunting wildlife during a closed season or after legal hours will have you branded a poacher by the hunting community. But take this into consideration: if deer season runs until sundown on Oct. 29, and sundown is 5:37 PM, a hunter whose watch is 5 minutes slow can shoot a deer “out of season” while thinking that he’s totally legal. When the difference between a poacher and a hunter comes down to a malfunctioning watch battery, it’s clear that the activities are the same.


My dogs like to hunt also

Hunting with dogs is a violent, sick and barbaric activity. Dogs are released to track the scent of an animal, who is then torn to pieces by the dogs if she is unable to climb a tree or otherwise flee to an area that a hound cannot reach. There is no safety for wildlife pursued in this way, because the unskilled and violent hunter will shoot her as she hides from the dogs. In some states if you do this to a mountain lion you’re a hunter, but if you do it to a bear you’re a poacher (despite bears being game animals that you can kill in other ways). If the law changes and treeing bears becomes legal, the same violent killing that was “poaching” one day becomes “ethical hunting” the next, because the Game and Fish council said so. Hunting or poaching? – Once again, the lines are blurry.


I don’t need no permit to be huntin’ on my own property, boy…

As astounding as it is, many states have laws which exempt property owners from needing to purchase a hunting permit. You have real life situations where someone can hunt legally from the edge of their property without a permit, but if they step one inch over their property line onto a state park they become a poacher. Yet their bullets can travel well beyond their property line. When the difference between a hunter and a poacher can be less than the length of your thumb, I say hunting and poaching are one and the same.

Killing wildlife illegally is more widespread than hunters would have us believe. In an article from the Sacramento Bee, California game wardens estimate that only about five percent of illegal hunting activity is discovered. Flip this around and you can see that a hunter has a ninety-five percent chance of getting away with his crime if he hunts illegally in California. With odds like that, would most hunters pass up one last shot?

The line between legal hunting and illegal hunting is so slim that in many cases there is virtually no difference at all between hunting and poaching. It is important that we, as the defenders of wildlife, always point out that poachers are hunters. You can’t be a poacher if you’re not out hunting. So when a hunter tells you that he’s disgusted with poachers and thinks they should be locked up, ask him to check his watch.

Let’s not leave the victims of “poaching” or “hunting” out of the equation. What would they say?


A recent call to the NY DEC law enforcement division regarding poaching brought the following response: “It has been a bad economy and it’s causing more poaching. We can’t be everywhere.” The problem is that enforcement is nowhere. Would this response be tolerated by banks that call the police to a stop robbery? .


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561