MISSOULA, Mont. – Poaching is a crime committed by thieves — not hunters. Those who share in the Boone and Crockett Club’s long support of sustainable-use conservation want those thieves punished accordingly.
A 2015 research study by the Boone and Crockett Club found that 92.6 percent of sportsmen support higher fines for those convicted of poaching big-game animals, while 88 percent also support even higher fines for those convicted of poaching trophy-class, big-game animals. The results of this survey led to the development of the Boone and Crockett Club’s “Poach and Pay” program.
“All poaching is illegal and all poachers should be punished. But poaching trophies is a special sin because it is driven by greed and potential profit,” said Boone and Crockett Club Chief of Staff Tony Schoonen. “When it comes to the poaching of trophy-class animals, one of the tools we have available to us is the Club’s big-game scoring system (B&CSS).”
Long recognized as the standard for evaluating the quality of North American big-game trophies to identify conservation successes or failures, the B&CSS is now being used as a valuable enforcement tool in several states to ensure that the severity of the penalties for poaching trophy-class, big-game animals is more in line with the severity of the crime.
Funded through a partnership between the Boone and Crockett Club and American sporting optics maker Leupold & Stevens and in partnership with many state wildlife agencies, the research phase of the “Poach and Pay” program is spearheaded by Vickie Edwards, a former wildlife biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and an official Boone and Crockett measurer.
Edwards’ research will gather data to be used to identify what is and what is not working with state fine and restitution programs, and which state agencies are already utilizing the Boone and Crockett Club’s official scoring system to assess higher fines for the poaching of a trophy animal. So far, states that have implemented the use of the B&CSS as a way to tabulate more appropriate and severe poaching fines include Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Texas.
“For far too long, being convicted of poaching a deer or another big-game animal has been akin to getting a speeding ticket in terms of the severity of punishment. Hunters tell us they want a set of uniform guidelines to ensure punishments are equal to the value we place on our wildlife resources,” said Schoonen. “The Boone and Crockett Club’s scoring system provides a respected, definitive and consistent criteria for defining a trophy animal and is not subject to the legal obfuscation employed by those desperate to avoid criminal conviction.”