John McCoy is the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette’s award-winning outdoors writer. His "Woods & Waters" page appears weekly in the Sports section of the Sunday Gazette-Mail.
In 32 years of outdoors writing, John has had articles published in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Bowhunter, North American Whitetail, Hatches and other publications. His works have earned more than 50 state, regional and national awards for writing and photography.
Washington state wildlife police have gotten their first chance to sock it to poachers who not only kill game illegally, but also do it while trespassing on other people’s private property. A new law made it possible.
From the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police Facebook page:
Anyone who hunts knows that respecting private property is essential to continued access and preservation of a prescious resource and heritage. Prior to legislation passing last session, Fish and Wildlife Police Officers could makes arrests when trespass occurred, but because trespass wasn’t a ‘wildlife crime,’ they couldn’t seize the ill-gotten gains.
Well, some folks thought the risk was worth the reward if they got to keep the animal at the end of the day. And this seemed particularly true when trophy class animals were involved. For a $250 slap on the wrist, you could still brag about the wall hanger you harvested.
This was the case with a couple of men who repeatedly trespassed to kill trophy bull elk in East Pierce County. However, these two men will now be among the first to be prosecuted under the new ‘Hunting While Trespass’ law. They had cheated successfully before, but this time they weren’t so lucky. And perhaps their fate can help others decide whether the risk is still worth the reward.
The two subjects took one 5×5 and one 5×7 bull after setting up camp nine miles into private property (closed to hunting) during the archery elk season. It was no accident that Officers Leonetti, Summit, Langbehn, Prater, and Hillman were there when the two men tried to sneak portions of the first bull out at 1:15am. Nine days later, the Officers were back when the subjects took portions of the second bull out at 2:00am.
The two were arrested and booked into the Pierce County Jail on multiple counts of trespassing while hunting, criminal trespassing and wastage. A vehicle and two motorcycles were seized, along with all of their hunting gear and camping equipment. A search warrant was then served at the residence of one of the subjects. The antlers and portions of the first elk were recovered, along with two unlawfully possessed raptors that were found in the freezer.
For all of the true hunters who respect private property and understand the much bigger picture, this arrest is for you! For those who just don’t get it, here is what you potentially face if you ignore the new ‘Hunt While Trespass’ law: A penalty of up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. In addition, upon conviction, the Department will revoke your hunting licenses and suspend your hunting privileges for two years. Any animal harvested or retrieved in violation of the section will be forfeited to WDFW.