Illegal Hunting

Yes, people do make mistakes, but there is no such thing as illegal hunting; only poaching.

Poaching is the illegal take of wildlife by kill or capture. Poaching is often defined as unlawful hunting, as if some kind of subset of hunting, which it is not. Poaching is a crime. Poachers are not hunters, nor conservationists. They are thieves.

There are four things that govern or direct hunting:

  • Laws which define legal and illegal
  • Personal ethics such as fair chase
  • Our peers and the standards of a group to which we belong, and
  • The expectations of society

Game laws have been established to protect game from over-harvest, and to an extent, to protect public safety and property. These laws can be knowingly or accidentally broken, but calling these actions “illegal hunting” is a disservice to hunting.

Our wildlife laws are not arbitrary. They are grounded in principles of conservation and social well-being. Modern hunting regulations safeguard sustainable use, fair chase, fair access, and appropriate use of species designated and managed as game. Quotas, limits, and conditions are heavily informed by science to ensure the human influence on hunted species does not adversely affect their populations in the wild. Legal and regulatory decisions, though they vary in specifics throughout the world, are the basis of an important social contract which defines the technical aspects of legal, respectful, and sustainable hunting.

By circumventing the laws and regulations, poachers act in complete disregard of the well-being of wildlife populations, placing “thrill killing” or profits above all else. Poachers are acting outside of the conservation measures established by science and our society. Arguably, they cause an even greater harm by destroying public trust and tarnishing the reputation of law-abiding and conservation-minded hunters, most of whom feel a very personal responsibility toward the protection of wildlife and wilderness.