For about the thousandth time this year, and we’re barely into February, I read another article about people illegally killing wildlife, and the writer alternately calls the criminals who did it either “poachers” or “hunters.” When are they going to get it right? Those who take animals illegally are poachers. Those who do it legally and ethically, following the principles of fair chase, are hunters. The two are not the same thing.
We don’t refer to pharmacists as drug dealers. The pharmacist follows the laws and dispenses the proper medication to cure a specific malady. A drug dealer is a criminal who has no regard for the law. It’s the same difference.
A hunter is a person who follows the rules, and by doing so, helps keep wildlife populations in balance. In this world where human occupation has altered the natural landscape, hunting is a vital management tool, and without it, certain species would damage the habitat to the point that all wildlife species would be harmed. Hunting protects that habitat, and all the animals that use it.
Poaching is a crime. Poachers are criminals. They intentionally violate the laws, and by doing so, they harm all the species in the habitat – including the people who live or recreate there.
That said, honest mistakes happen. Hunters sometimes misread regulations or accidentally take more than one of their intended targets with one shot. While they might pay a fine for the mistake – and they often voluntarily turn themselves in – they aren’t poachers.
Poachers are scum. They give all hunters a bad name. Stand up for hunting by following the rules and insisting those you hunt with do the same. Then take it a step further: correct anyone who uses the terms poaching and hunting interchangeably.