Today is Sunday, August 20, 2017

Poaching: does it pay or cost?

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Wildlife Chief Chuck Yoest checks a hunter for a valid license. TWRA officers put in long hours during all times of the year.

Two news stories -- both involve poaching and illegal practices. One is in Rutherford County and the other is in Alaska.

The reasons for both are varied. The outcome different.

In one state, wildlife laws are taken seriously and punishment is accordingly. In the other, not as much.

According to news reports last week two men in (or from) Rutherford County were convicted of poaching over 40 whitetail deer.

In addition, other related charges, such as trespassing, were filed.

The men are not hunters. Let me make that clear. They were slobs, poachers, criminals with no respect for the law or the outdoors.

That applies to both incidents -- here and in Alaska.

One, unfortunately, passes on wrong information to other, especially young hunters. You see, one, involves a television show.

The Rutherford County men, according to news reports, received fines and restitution costs totaling about $6,000 dollars each.

They also received 18 months, probation and 100 hours of community service, I think, with the TWRA.

They also lost their hunting privileges in Tennessee and approximately 44 other states for life. That was reported to be the big punishment.

Now let me explain why that is just a slap on the wrist.

People who will illegally kill that many deer don't care if they have hunting licenses or not.

It's like telling a dope dealer, it is illegal to sell drugs. The rest of their punishment was minor compared with some other states.

Let's compare that with the other case, one involving a Nashville hunter.

In November, 2015, the host of the cable television outdoor show, The Syndicate and four other individuals pleaded guilty to a multi-year, poaching operation in the Noatak National Preserve in Alaska.

This is according to a report from The United States Attorney's Office - District of Alaska and an announcement by U.S. Attorney, Karen Loeffler.

On November 23, 2015, Syndicate TV show host, Clark W. Dixon, 41, of Hazlehurst, MS, pleaded guilty before the Hon. Ralph R. Beistline, Chief United States District Court Judge, to two felony violations of the Lacey Act for his role in the illegal killing of a brown bear.

The killing involved a number of violations of hunting laws including same day airborne, hunting without proper non-resident tags and permits, and the illegal transporting and outfitting of non-resident hunters. The charges involved actions from 2008 through 2014 in the Noatak National Preserve.

I realize some of the violations were federal and that can really get expensive. But I would like to see Tennessee, get some laws with teeth like this.

Dixon will get 18 months in prison, a fine of $75,000 and forfeiture of 17-trophies including grizzly bear, Dall sheep and caribou.

He will also lose some bows and several rifles. He will also lose a STOL Quest SQ aircraft used by his father, Charles W. Dixon in transporting and outfitting, non-resident hunters in the illegal killing of game. That is slightly more than the $6,000 levied in the case, here.

Charles W. Dixon, 70, also pleaded guilty to two violations of the Lacey act for illegally flying non-resident hunter, Clarence Michael Osborne, into their camp on the Noatak National Preserve to hunt grizzly bear, caribou and moose. During the hunt, Osborne killed a grizzly bear without a guide, (illegal in AK), and without the appropriate non-resident permits. After the hunt, Charles Dixon claimed to have killed Osborne's bear as his own on state hunt records.

As part of his plea and sentence imposed by the court, Charles Dixon was sentenced to pay a fine of $15,000 and to pay $10,000 in restitution to the Noatak Preserve with those funds directed toward the removal of their illegal camp materials from the Preserve. In addition, Charles Dixon has forfeited his STOL Quest SQ-4, (previously mentioned,) to the government as the aircraft was used to transport hunters, and illegally taken game in and out of the Preserve.

Nashville hunter involved
And that is not the end of it. Remember, this is a TV show where you see the real hunters showing you how it should be done.

It seems Fulton Wold, 41, of Nashville, also got caught up in the excitement.

He made a plea deal on Nov. 13, 2015. As part of the deal, Wold, pleaded guilty to the illegal killing of a caribou on a hunt orchestrated by Clark Dixon in September of 2009 in which Wold did not have the proper permits or non-resident tags. As part of his sentence, Wold received two years' probation, a fine of $7,500 and was ordered to pay restitution of $1,000 to the Noatak preserve. He was also required to forfeit a bull moose and a caribou mounts as both were taken illegally. Footage of the hunt was shown on Clark Dixon's cable television show, "The Syndicate".

You see, it can get serious when you mess with the Alaska G&F folks and with the Feds.

Now, a disclaimer. I do not know nor have I ever heard of any of the folks involved in either case nor have I ever seen the television show.

I have no axe to grind. This is the second Tennessee TV hunter involved in violations in recent time.

This backs up what I and many other hunters have been saying for quite some time.

When there is a chance for big money and sometimes even when not, as in the Rutherford County case, as far as know, the rules sometimes get thrown out by the greedy and unscrupulous.

They may also send the wrong message to young, entry level hunters. That being, what constitutes a trophy? Must it have a certain number of inches of antler or number of antler points to be a trophy?

And worse, does the young hunter fail if they miss or do not kill a "trophy" on the first try? That is not the way it is often done on TV. This is not the message we want to be sending. This is not being a hunter. This is being a killer or worse, a poacher.

For several years, I was involved in the filming of outdoor videos for Stoney Wolf Productions.

I am proud of the products we turned out. I stand behind them today as educational and with no emphasis on trophies.

We showed things just as they happened, the misses and the bad moves and did it with a minimum of product hype and 100% total compliance with all game laws.

Today, that is something you seldom see. The quest for trophies on tape can lead to cheating.

And . . . if you get caught, it can be expensive. In Tennessee, I wish it were more expensive.

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John Sloan - Outdoors
John L. Sloan, Outdoors, TWRA
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