Poachers ruined our campsite! ~ A little long

My DS had a very interesting adventurous weekend. We were on a backpacking volunteer trip at a local wildlife preserve. Our goal was to remove invasive plant species in some rugged canyon areas of the preserve. Our trip happened to coincide with opening day for deer season on nearby National Forest land. Well, the manager drove us up to the “trail head” and notice a truck that looked suspiciously like a hunters truck so he decided to come down with us a little ways to check for hunters and let them know they were on preserve land. Well, the manager and one of the founders of our volunteer group got hot on their trail and found part of their group - 3 men and 2 teens.

It was pretty early in the morning when we started and their trail seemed to meander aimlessly - not like real skilled hunters, plus when we found them they were being so loud we thought there is no way they were serious hunters - and we heard no gunshots in the hours it took to find them. The manager figured (or maybe he just hoped) that they probably weren’t that skilled and might have given up by the time we found them. They were asked to leave and seemed pretty cooperative so we went along our way while the manager tried to track them back up canyon.

A while later we found 2 hidden deer heads, 2 separate gut piles and 4 hidden backpacks full of venison and ice packs, so we radioed up to the manager who apprehended the group we found and quickly learned there were 2 other men who heard us coming and hightailed it out. Being as the poachers knew we were unarmed volunteers we were told to photograph the evidence and get out of the area as quickly as possible. Most likely nothing would have happened but no one knew who we were dealing with and we were in rugged terrain. Problem was, they hid the stuff in our planned campsite. So we had to bushwack down canyon as fast as we could and had no idea when a better site for 11 people would appear . We were tired, with achy feet and just wanted to eat dinner!!!

Well - we found a good site and monitored the radio. They got all the poachers and cited them for trespassing, no tags, no hunters license, falsification of identification and a few other things. We helped the manager and the rangers bring the evidence, including the meat out and the good news is that if the game warden approves we get to have a barbeque next week! Well, I’m vegetarian so I won’t be partaking, but the rest of the party will. The going opinion is that they don’t want the deer to have lost their life and just have their body wasted. The game warden so far says they do not need the meat for evidence - just the heads and the ammo, spent shells we found, the packs and the pictures.

For a short while though we were kind of worried about those 2 guys with rifles that were obviously planning to come back for their prizes. I seriously doubt they would have attacked us, but you never know - people do strange things some times.

here in upstate NY, the confiscated deer/bear/whatever gets sent to the Zoo in Utica…

I’m just glad that you and your group weren’t approached by those people. Three adults teaching two teens how to bypass the law - great.:nails:

I concur.

That is terrible. It seems there are so many hunters out there that just encroach upon whatever land they want.

I have several friends here in TX that have lots of land, that they live on, and I can’t tell you how many times they have found deer feeders and evidence of hunters on THEIR property. It just amazes me and that this is sooooo dangerous. These poor ppl feel like they have to go out in bright oranges on their own property so as not to be shot at.

Infuriating those damn hunters- is deer so important and a kill that they will hunt wherever?

I agree! We were discussing that at least these kids saw that their parents/relatives/adult friends didn’t get away with it. They were young teens so its an important lesson to learn before they become the hardened “I know better than everyone” older teens. From what we were told later the teens were wide eyed and looked scared when they and their group were caught. Plus they spent hours with the manager, rangers and sheriff waiting for the 1 game warden we have for a huge are (and with the opening of the season he was busy). I’m sure they were cold, hungry and exhausted and just wanted to go home. That’ll help them remember :wink:

That’s a good idea too.

Sorry to hear that. There are restrictions and laws on hunting for a reason and it is bad when people break those laws for everybody concerned, especially when it potentially puts people like you in danger. I am glad you were all safe in the end and that they were caught.

Why was the deer meat sent to the zoo? I can’t stand the idea of deer not having a place to go without getting gunned down. My husband used to hunt and he really likes it, but I just don’t see how a deer is prettier on the wall, dead, than one that is alive and running free. Of course, they don’t take over where I live.

Deer doesn’t BBQ very well. It’s too dry. It takes a skillful grill master to do it. If nobody has any experience BBQing game I suggest another method.

I’m confused. It sounds like there were hunters allowed since they were going off to let them know you were there.
So was the problem just that they didn’t have tags?

Also why would they send you out there when there would be firearm hunting going on? That sounds like an accident waiting to happen.

No - they weren’t allowed. Its a private wildlife preserve with signs everywhere tat say “no trespassing” and “no hunting”. The manager tracked them to tell them they were on preserve land and had to leave. Apparently, hearing us coming, they hid their meat, etc and split up. Knowing that at least someone would be found a group of them sat down for lunch and pretended to not know any better while 2 of them went down an adjoining canyon - presumably to come back for the meat, heads, ammo, etc after the coast was clear. Being as the ones in the initial group that was found were not the ones that shot the deer, they had the least to worry about. They would have gotten trespassing and the two teens didn’t have a license - and trespassing is something the sheriff doesn’t often enforce since these guys were playing dumb at first - oh gee we didn’t see that humongous sign on that gate we must have walked around judging by our tracks - duh!!!

The manager of the preserve is a hunter as well so maybe he does know how to barbeque venison :shrug: I don’t know anything about that at all, but I will pass on your advice :slight_smile:

BTW - any animal on the preserve is protected; however, the real draw for poachers is that it is primarily a Tule elk preserve (with pronghorn about to be reintroduced soon). Out here in California our Tule elk population was decimated. We have one or two preserves further north and then the preserve we were on this weekend. From 60 elk being introduced they have grown to a herd of between 180 to 220. That’s not bad growth but its not a big herd for the size of the preserve (85,000 acres). Certainly not enough to cull.

To put the size of the herd into perspective, the herd on one of the preserves north of us (Point Reyes) grew from 10 animals to over 400 in an area that is only about 2,600 acres.

Because of this the rangers and manager of the preserve take poaching of any kind extremely seriously. They could have easily target an elk had they come across the herd (and I’m sure they would have loved to). Being as they are in rut now it could have been devastating to the herd had they killed off even a couple of males.

The fact that they were hunting on a preserve just disgusts me, and since ppl were hunting nearby for deer, it almost makes me think they were on that preserve hoping for the elk you spoke of.

I see.
The name preserve doesn’t make sense to me. That’s what the place next to a friend’s farm is called. It means he stocks pheasants for people to come out and hunt. In order to get the “preserve” name he had to be allowed to include my friend’s farm even though he isn’t allowed to let anyone on it or have any say over it. My friend even leases part of his farm out for deer hunting and being a farmer has never been worried about preserving the deer herd.

Also state wildlife “refuges” don’t always mean no hunting.
The only name I know of around here the definitely means no hunting is the duck “rest area”.

hmmm - well, out here wildlife preserves are places where wildlife are protected. I know some preserves, etc allow a certain amount of maintenance culling when their respective herds outgrow the area and the herd and/or environment’s health are at danger as a result, but I don’t know any around here. I may be wrong though.

In full disclosure, I am a vegetarian and a conservationist. Although I do not hunt myself I am not anti hunting. I am not so naive to think that there are no good reason to hunt. As one example, sometimes herds outgrow their land and as a result become unhealthy and hurt the land. I don’t see anyone giving up their houses to allow the herds to grow nor do I expect or want them to, so those herds need to be culled from time to time. I also know a lot of respectful sustenance hunters and many people who follow rules and don’t take more than they need. They always feed their families, friends and neighbors with their bounty. I’ve known people who make beautiful things with the hides and beautiful stag knives out of the antlers. These people have respect for the animals they kill. I do object wholeheartedly to people who care so little for property lines or the people who may be on that property completely unaware of being in danger. To me these are people who care little for the animal they kill or anything else. These are not people who have an awareness of sustainability either. Most responsible hunters I have met understand that not taking more than your share ensures there will be a hunting season next year. Unfortunately, rotten apples give the whole lot a bad name sometimes.

I used to feel completely like you do, but now I’m torn. I hate the thought of deer being shot, but on the other hand, here in IL and a lot of the Midwest they are overrunning the land. I’m 53, and when I was first driving right up through the last 10 years or so the thought of hitting a deer was the furthest thing from your mind. Now, I’m seriously afraid of driving in the fall, winter, and spring due to the deer population. I have a niece that hit 5 in a period of 2 months this spring. Summer isn’t so bad merely because it stays light longer and you can see…but after dark, it’s really dangerous.

The big problem here as I see it is that way back when IL started to be settled, the deer moved west as the land was taken over by people. The cougar, wolf, and other predators followed them. Well, some governmental bigshot got the brilliant idea back in the 1800’s that they needed to bring deer back so they’d have something to hunt…problem is they didn’t bring back any natural predators. Over the years, the deer are multiplying faster than the hunters can take them. We have coyotes here, but they don’t do a very good job of controlling the deer population. So, there are many, many deer hit by vehicles every year. Sometimes it kills them right away, sometimes they get up and run away and are OK, and sometimes they get away but probably suffer a lot before they die. And that’s not to mention the cost not only in damage to vehicles, but injuries to the people that hit them.

I’ve always thought that they should find something that works as birth control for the deer and put it out in salt licks for 3-4 months in the spring, or on ground where hunting isn’t allowed. It seems like the only way to try and control the population. I mean, hunters get some, cars get a lot, but there’s still so many left…and living in the middle of corn and bean raising country, I know they are not likely to starve. Harvest always leaves something behind (and it’s apparently more than enough with the sheer number of deer there are here).

So, while I hate the basic idea of hunting, I hate the thought of hitting one with my car worse. And, they do have a program here where hunters that get more venison than they want can donate it to local meat processors who then (through working with food pantries) give it to families who need it.

I, too, hate the thought of deer being shot for trophies or just wounded and left to die. I would never try to shoot a deer myself for fear of doing just that (only wounding it). However, my Dad and other family members have shot deer most of my life. Dad always tried to get his legal limit. It may sounds terrible, I know, but we always ate what he killed. He never trophy hunted. The meat was for our consumption. And it was delicious!

Venison is very healthy meat being so lean. (For example, in weight watcher’s you can eat as much venison as you want, very low points). Of course that makes it dry if not cooked correctly. And it tastes much better if it is handled in the right way from when the deer is first killed. It is great in stews or made into sausage. And as miccisue said, venison donations to food banks are an important source of protein for their programs.

So, I have no problems with legally and conscientiously hunting deer for meat. What these fellas did, though is illegal and very dangerous to all concerned. Just my 2 (or maybe 3 cents worth :teehee: ).

I agree. Being a vegetarian born & raised in Los Angeles I used to have a much more intolerant viewpoint about hunting, but after living in Northern California and working in conservation and with many hunters who are also conservationist has changed my opinion. I don’t hunt and wouldn’t hunt (well, unless we had some sort of complete breakdown in society and I was forced to - never say never :wink: ) However, I don’t think hunting in and of itself is evil. I think stupid, careless, thoughtless & selfish people give hunting a bad name sometimes though. Same with guns. I used to be very anti gun, but now I realize that guns aren’t the problem. many - if not most - gun owners are responsible with their guns. The criminals and the just plain dumb gun owners are the ones that make the news though.

Unfortunately as always, it’s the idiots who give the rest of the hunters a bad name. We have even had people shoot deer on our property while in their vehicle and driving down the road. They have shot right over my corrals and horses. We did catch a couple who drove off and onto my neighbors property and climb through the fence in order to get the carcass. It cost them $500 for that deer.
We have enough neighbors that we have to be very careful who we let hunt on our land. Too many hunters don’t hunt safely. I do wear orange during hunting season when I hike my property during hunting seasons.

That’s awful Plantgoddess! You really ought not have to worry about your or your animal’s life on your own property!