Game Law Violations

Word is getting out to poachers — "Stay Away from Lake County, California!" After reading the following Outdoor column from the Wednesday, February 21, 2001 Lake County Record-Bee, you will see why poachers are finding it cheaper to break wildlife laws somewhere else.

Poachers Keep Out!

By Terry Knight

“Fish and wildlife poachers keep out.” That’s the word coming out of Lake County as prosecutors and judges have developed a hard line against those that illegally take game or fish.

In the past six months the Lake County District Attorney has successfully prosecuted 32 game and fish violations. The result is that more than $34,000 has been paid in fines and a number of violators have been banned from fishing or hunting in the state for up to three years.

The fines ranged from a low of $385 to a high of $2,800. In addition to the fines, two hunters were sentenced to jail for up to 45 days and the rest were placed on probation for up to three years. In most of the deer poaching cases, the hunters are barred from hunting in California for up to three years. The courts also seized 11 rifles and shotguns.

According to Lake County Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, one the reasons for the success of the program is because of the diligence of the three game wardens assigned to the county. “Our game wardens have been nothing short of fantastic in making the initial arrests and gathering solid evidence in the cases forwarded to me,” Hinchcliff said.

Hinchcliff, who is an avid hunter and fisherman, requested to be assigned as prosecutor to all the fish and game cases. He believes an important factor has been the cooperation of the local judges and stated, “Our judges have been extremely cooperative in handing out stiff sentences for those convicted of fish and game crimes.”

Most of the cases involved poaching for deer. Much of Lake County is within the boundaries of the Mendocino National Forest and this area draws hundreds of hunters.

Game Warden Lynette Reynolds says they have been very successful apprehending spotlighters who illegally shoot deer at night. “We use a deer decoy and within the past six months we have arrested 15 hunters for shooting at the decoy,” Reynolds said. Last fall, in one evening alone, game wardens cited three different individuals for shooting at the decoy within a space of 10 minutes.

The other violations consist of: illegally hunting in a game refuge, untagged deer, loaded guns in a vehicle, shooting deer out of season, wanton waste of game and selling fish.

One of the more notable cases involved a man who killed two bucks using a bow and then left their caresses to rot in the field. One of the bucks was left near a busy highway and a photographer for a local newspaper took a picture of the huge buck with buzzards feeding on its caress. The picture, which appeared on the front page, outraged local residents. The poacher, a local high school teacher, was sentenced to 45 days in jail and was fined $2,010. He was also banned from hunting in California for three years.

Two other individuals were found guilty of illegally netting fish in Clear Lake. They each paid fines of $640 and were placed on probation for one year.

Hinchcliff said the policy of the D.A.’s office is to make all accused poachers appear in court with the exception of those fishing without a license. “No longer will a deer poacher or other violator just walk in and a pay a small fine and then be home free,” says Hinchcliff. “Lake County will not be a friendly place for those that abuse our fish and wildlife.”

Editor's Note: As many of our readers have repeatedly pointed out to us, people who violate game laws are not hunters/hunting when they commit these acts. They are game law violators (or poachers or ????) and it is our policy to refer to them as such. We cannot, however, change a quotation.

We publish the Game Law Violations column because:
• We believe it is important to publish the fines/penalties incurred by those who violate game laws.
• We hope legitimate hunters will remember the seriousness of these crimes if or whenever they are in the least bit tempted to break a game law.
• We are surprised (and sometimes amazed) at some of the dumb things people do.

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