By BRANDON BUTLER, guest columnist
Poaching is a crime against all Hoosiers.
Our wildlife is held in public trust, meaning it belongs to us all. When one person breaks the law and poaches, it is a crime against the state.
Ethical hunters must work together to deter poaching.
Turn in a Poacher Inc. (TIP) is a nonprofit conservation organization that exists to combat poaching. TIP helps protect fish and wildlife from violators.
Hunters must do everything we can to publicly attack the practice of poaching, and spreading the word about TIP is one way you can help. It’s our responsibility to report violators, which can be done anonymously through TIP.
Hunters are the most vocal advocates for punishing poachers. When someone kills wildlife outside the bounds of law, it is a horrible reflection on hunters, because the general population often has trouble separating poachers from hunters. And too often, the mainstream media hurts hunters by blaming them for the actions of poachers.
You’ve likely read a headline that says something like, “Hunter shoots deer in park.” Well, no, a poacher shot a deer in the park. The two words are not interchangeable.
Think of it like this: If you walk into your bank and withdraw money, you are a customer; if you walk into a bank with a gun and demand money, you are a robber.
There is a big difference between taking legally and taking illegally. Hunters take legally. Poachers take illegally.
“TIP provides an opportunity for Indiana citizens to have an active part in the protection of our natural resources and be the eyes and the ears for our Indiana Conservation Officers, so that our future generations may have the opportunity to enjoy our natural resources as well,” said Joe Cales, TIP board president, on the organization’s website.
There are a lot of fish and game laws to follow. Sometimes people make honest mistakes and break one of those laws. It’s understandable.
But other times a person is poaching on purpose. They know what they are doing is wrong.
Hopefully, they are caught, taught a lesson and never do it again. Yet, there are the hardened poachers who time and time again reap the resources for personal gain with no concern for the species or the sportsmen who pursue them.
We can only hope these criminals are caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and your report can make that happen.
Reporting a violation is simple. Just call 1-800-847-4367. There are dispatchers available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And you may be rewarded for your anonymous “TIP.” If it leads to an arrest, you may receive as much as $200.
TIP offers memberships for $25 per year or life memberships for $250. TIP offers merchandise for sale that helps fund the program. It is available on the website tip.wildindiana.com.
You can also make financial contributions to help fund TIP. Send your donations to: Turn in a Poacher Inc., 402 W. Washington St., Room W255D, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
Hunters hold the experience of fair chase in their hearts. Hunters conduct themselves ethically by following game laws, practicing conservation and by embracing the privilege we have to pursue game and fish in this state.
Anyone breaking these game laws is a not hunter; they are a poacher and we hunters need to take a stand and fight to end the rampant practice of poaching.
If you see poaching taking place, please report the violation through TIP.
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler is an outdoors columnist for AIM Media Indiana papers, of which the Brown County Democrat is a member.