EDITORIAL: York County poaching incident likely leaves law-abiding hunters in angry mood
There’s a group of York County folks who are probably pretty angry right now.
Actually, they’re most likely livid.
They’re the area hunters who play by the rules as established by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
They may not always like those rules. In fact, they may do more than a little grousing about the Game Commission’s many regulations.
Still, they abide by those regulations because that’s what responsible people do. This is a nation ruled by laws, and without those laws, anarchy will ensue.
One Game Commission regulation stipulates that hunters can only harvest animals during well-defined hunting seasons.
Poacher kills trophy bear: A York County man has been found guilty of breaking that rule, and in the process, the poacher deprived local hunters the opportunity to legally harvest the largest trophy black bear ever seen in these parts.
The poacher was convicted of illegally shooting a bear in northern York County that weighed 480 pounds after being field dressed. It’s estimated live weight was a whopping 560 pounds.
A bear that size is simply unheard of in York County, where bear sightings of any kind are relatively rare.
The poacher in question shot the trophy bear with a crossbow two days after bear season ended for archers in November of 2018.
No remorse: Making matters worse, Game Commission officials said the lawbreaker took no responsibility for his actions and has shown no remorse. In fact, they said the poacher took active steps to cover up his crime so he wouldn't lose his trophy bear and have to pay fines.
The poacher admitted during his summary hearing before a district judge that, after realizing he'd illegally killed the bear, he "determined there was no benefit" to him in notifying the Game Commission, even though the commission has set up a program for just that scenario.
Like what you're reading?: Not a subscriber? Click here for full access to The York Dispatch.
The poacher also said he gave away about 180 pounds of bear meat to his friends and told the district judge that he didn't do that to conceal the meat from investigators, as the Game Commission alleged.
"I'm a giving person," he insisted.
Pardon us if we’re more than a little skeptical of that statement.
Defending himself: During his hearing, the poacher defended himself.
Suffice it to say that it did not go well for him.
He offered contradictory testimony, drifted off into irrelevant tangents and incorrectly asserted that his constitutional and due-process rights were being violated. He even brazenly demanded to keep the bear hide and skull — a demand that was rightly denied.
Getting off lightly: In the end, the poacher was found guilty of illegally taking game and was ordered to pay a $1,200 fine plus about $117 in court costs.
The Game Commission will likely revoke his hunting privileges.
He got off easily.
He was found not guilty of obstructing the commission's investigation and the district judge declined to impose the $5,000 replacement fee requested by the commission.
The $5,000 replacement fee seemed like a more just punishment, especially if other poachers are going to be deterred.
In the future, potential poachers may well rationalize that putting themselves in jeopardy of $1,300 in fines and costs is a risk worth taking if the ultimate reward is a once-in-a-lifetime hunting trophy to put on the wall.
That’s the sad-but-true thought process of some so-called "sportsmen."
True sportsmen must report poachers: That’s why legal hunters should be livid right now.
It’s also why it’s imperative that the state’s true sportsmen help the Game Commission enforce hunting regulations. Legal hunters, taxidermists and butchers must report, not protect, the poachers.
It’s not snitching to call out poachers. In fact, it’s the duty of every law-abiding citizen.
If the poachers aren’t reported, Pennsylvania’s outdoorsmen will soon discover that they’ll have fewer opportunities to enjoy the hunt of a lifetime.