Hunting and poaching: what’s the difference? When you hear someone ask this question, you know that he or she either knows the difference or is just plain naive. I have compiled a list of questions with three possible answers: hunter; poacher or both. To answer the question, just write H for hunter, P for poacher, or HP if you think the answer applies to both hunter and poacher.
1. Someone who knows gun handling well.
2. Someone who respects hunting seasons.
3. Someone who sells meat for money.
4. Someone who shares their catch of the day with others.
5. Someone who hunts on another one’s trapline with permission.
6. Someone who hunts in an area not familiar to them without a companion who does know.
7. Someone who hunts at nighttime.
8. Someone who kills animals for enjoyment, not for food.
9. Someone who kills a beaver in the summertime.
10. Someone who kills flightless geese.
11. Someone who gathers eggs.
12. Someone who does not clean up after the kill.
13. Someone who kills more than their share.
14. Someone who uses gill nets.
15. Someone who hunts in the spring.
16. Someone who hunts all day and kills nothing.
17. Someone who leaves their snare wires out and never checks them, or only once in a while.
18. Someone who uses corn or bait to attract geese and other wildlife.
19. Someone who uses electronic or recorded wildlife sounds to lure their game.
20. Someone who spends time in jail or prison.
1. HP Most hunters may know the proper handling and use of guns, but some may not. The same thing for poachers.
2. H Hunters respect seasons related to the animal they are after. Poachers do not.
3. HP Although most good hunters know that the selling of wild game is illegal, some do it. Some hunters get caught and pay the consequences. Although the poacher is not generally considered to be a seller of wild game meat, poachers do hunt for wild game as food. Some poachers hunt only to sell as much as they can. Some poachers do not even take the meat, sometimes taking only a small item such as an antler or horn, the gall bladder of bears, the roe of a herring or sturgeon and leaving the rest to rot.
4. H A good hunter does not waste food and shares his food with others if their family cannot consume everything. It is also good to share with others.
5. & 6. H If the hunter is someone who can hunt all year round such as a Cree of Quebec, it is still in bad taste or contempt of others’ traditional hunting grounds as they may have plans for the area of which you know nothing, such as a moose which has been there all winter long and has been left undisturbed by the family living on that land. It is always wise to check with the family that lives there and advise them that you will be going there or get permission. It’s always nicer of you to ask first.
7. P Generally, hunters do not hunt at night. Poachers do.
8. HP Some hunters kill for enjoyment but most good hunters respect the lives of the animals which they kill or harvest, and generally the poacher does not, otherwise they wouldn’t poach. Some legitimate outfitters sell hunting packages for the sportsman and sports hunter. Most poachers kill for money and offer their services to the hunter who enjoys hunting.
9. P It does not matter where you are, killing beavers out of normal season is prohibited by law, except on occasions where the beaver is destructive (flooding highways, for example).
10. HP It depends where you are, such as the far north where geese leave shortly after getting their flight feathers back. Generally, hunters do not kill flightless geese but poachers certainly do—to get as many as possible.
11. H The hunter knows the difference between an egg that is edible and eggs that are not. Poachers generally do not gather eggs except for rare birds of prey which are smuggled out of the country and sold to rich customers abroad.
12. HP Some hunters are sloppy and do not care for the remains of a kill, leaving the hides or intestines lying around anywhere and everywhere. A good hunter cleans up the mess afterwards so as not to attract flies, scavengers and unwanted bacterias. Poachers generally do not have time to clean up because they have to get out of there in order to avoid getting caught!
13. HP Some hunters kill more than their share and generally share their good fortune with others who haven’t the same luck as them. Poacher’s motto: kill as much as possible to make as much as possible.
14. HP Good hunters use gill nets when harvesting is the intention and motive. Poachers use gill nets to get as much as possible, again with the intent of profiting from their activities. Ever see a poacher eat all his catch or share it with others for free?
15. HP In general, First Peoples are allowed to hunt year-round for their own consumption. Hunters who are regulated by seasons are not allowed to hunt in the spring, as it is usually gestation period for many species of wildlife. Fall is the traditional hunting period for hunters other than the First Peoples.
16. HP If poachers were to have good luck at all times, they would decimate wildlife everywhere.
17. P No matter who you are, leaving your snares out and not checking them is considered to be poaching because of the senseless and needless killing of animals. Hunters generally do not leave their snares out.
18. HP Using lures or bait not indigenous to the area is a practice normally confined to the poacher, but hunters use the same techniques, unknowingly upsetting the feeding patterns of wildlife if repeated over the years. The land can support only so many and introducing a new source of food to wildlife will only create a dependency of the wildlife to your offerings. This happens usually to animals in touristic areas or farm areas. Urban geese never leave the cities, for example, and never ever learn to migrate north and south due to the abundance of food and loss of flight patterns over the generations. That is why it is wise not to kill the leader of a flock of geese as that goose is teaching his family the migration routes. Using this practice will ensure the return of geese over your land.
19. P It is illegal to use prerecorded or any electronic means to attract your game. Use of robotic or mechanical decoys is also illegal. Traditional methods are more practical and fair.
20. P Hunters get to hunt again over the years because they practice common sense.
If you did not know the answers to these questions contact an elder or your local Cree Trappers’ Association representative, game warden or the Ministère de Loisir, Peche et Chasse.