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SNYDER: True sportsmen should make poachers into pariahs

ANDY SNYDER
YorkDispatch

I'm not a big fan of thieves.

In fact, I despise them.

Most of us work hard to earn what we have. For some, though, the effort is too much. They'd rather take instead of earn.

The sad fact is you don't have to walk down a dark alley late at night to be a victim. Take poachers, for instance. They're a sportsman's sworn enemy.

As sportsmen, we often discuss the ills of poaching, but we do little about it. We hear the late-night gun shots and we hear the poachers bragging, but few sportsmen give the subject much thought.

Let me make it clear. Poaching is a highly destructive crime and every citizen of the commonwealth is a victim each time a deer is jack lighted, a fish is snagged or a hawk is shot.

Let me make it equally clear that poachers are not hunters. To say so would be the equivalent of calling a burglar a shopper. They are thieves, plain and simple.

So who are poachers stealing from? They're stealing from you, me, our children and future generations of Pennsylvanians. For proof, we turn to the state's constitution.

Article I, Section 27 reads: "Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come."

When a poacher sticks his rifle out his window or nets a fish from a creek, he is eradicating your right to that deer or that fish.

Instead of ending up as evidence, that poached animal could have led to a memory of a lifetime or a living-room trophy that is talked about for generations. The eight-point buck that is destined to walk under your grandson's tree stand on a brisk fall morning should not be destroyed by a greedy criminal's bullet just to lay rotting along the wooded edge of a cornfield.

Few folks who know the facts will accept the argument that poachers kill to put food on their tables. Far too many poachers are caught firing out of brand new trucks or are seen sneaking back to camps loaded with four wheelers for that to be the case.

We do not live in the Wild West. We live in a land ruled by laws and regulations. The vast majority of us are happy to abide the rules. If we're not happy with the law, we work to change it.

Our responsibility as sportsmen is to do our part to eliminate poachers. When you see a game thief, turn him in. When they brag about their so-called success, treat them like the criminals they are. Force them out of our ranks.

Poaching is a serious crime that requires a determined fight. We don't tolerate criminals stealing from our cars and homes. We must not tolerate them stealing from our woods and waterways.

The best defense against poachers and the best way to keep thieves from stealing the wildlife that is rightfully yours and mine is to police them out of our ranks.

Don't be friends with poachers. Kick them out of your camps. Show them that their nonsense is not tolerated.

If you don't, who will?

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.