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July 17, 2008

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BuckTracker: The Thrill Killers

My truck was at the end of the driveway when we spotted the deer. It was laying in a little square of timber—fifty yards wide, the same distance deep—just beyond my mailbox. “Oh,” I said to my hunting pal Mark, “someone hit a doe and she died right there.” But when we walked toward the “roadkill,” the deer was not only antlerless, but headless as well.

In an instant I knew the deer we were approaching. In the weeks prior, most of my neighbors had seen a giant 10-point feeding and chasing does in the field across from my home. While there are always one or two decent bucks in the area, this deer was special, a monarch that was making himself visible and getting folks pretty excited. I had high hopes that one of the neighbors (or of course, me or my dad) would get a shot at him. I called the warden out to investigate, but they never were able to nail the poachers who shot the buck with a small-caliber rifle.

A few years ago, I’d have been tempted to think the buck was shot by a pro; someone who could benefit financially from killing a trophy buck. But the more I read, the less I believe that. Many of the top poaching busts made in this region lately have basically amounted to the thrill-killing scenario described in the news account preceding this blog. These cases seem to play out in similar fashion; a local (often a kid or group of kids) shoots a deer from the vehicle. They get away with it once, then twice, then…Well, they get hooked. Pretty soon they’re out there all the time, killing stuff off the road. Sometimes they take a head, sometimes not.

Unfortunately I’ve read about several cases like this, including an Iowa man whom wardens caught with over 40 deer heads in a shed, and a group of Wisconsin teenagers who shot a pair of twin albino fawns and left them lay. Is this scenario playing out in other areas of the country? Or are the poachers finding a way to market their deer? And perhaps most important; is there anything we can do to stop this disturbing waste of wildlife? I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.


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Frank fox

This story made me sick. I'm afraid it's wide-spread.

Where I live in Pennsylvania, antler restrictions have really increased the number of big bucks. Unfortunately it has also increased the number of scum who drive the roads at night, spotting and shooting. They're not doing it for profit. Just for fun.

I don't see how there's any fun in that. It sure as hell isn't hunting. Just cruel, lazy destruction of wildlife.

Only a few things we can do about it.

1. Always report any poacher or any sign of poaching activity. It might not result in an arrest, but sometimes it does. Doesn't hurt to try.

2. Lobby our game departments and state legislators to increase fines and sentences for wildlife crimes. Right now they're a slap on the wrist.

3. Don't tolerate any rule breaking from anybody we know. I'm sure nobody on this site would hang around any of the scum that do things like listed above, but lets be honest. Some of us probably have a buddy or a cousin who takes an extra deer "for the meat" or tags something with a wife or friend's tag. Well that stuff is a slippery slope. We can't tolerate any rule breaking in our ranks. We need to to keep ourselves straight if we hope to not get legislated out of existence by nonhunters. And besides, the animals deserve respect.

Tom Sorenson

Too bad they were not able to catch the idiots. I'm afraid the problem is nationwide - and probably internationally, too. It's aggravating and pathetic. As far as what we can do, I suppose nothing more than what we are doing - calling game warden when we do find a poached animal, set up a lot of hunters safety courses, perhaps we could stand more courses on the ethics of hunting for youngsters - I'm not sure how much of an impact it'd have, but it'd feel good to do, anyhow.


I hate to add to the dismay, but it is a widespread problem. Last season, a friend and I were traveling to one of our favorite hunting spots when we noticed a dead deer on the side of the road. Turned out it was a big buck whose skull cap had been removed. Sadly enough, I've ran into similar situations before and I always get so mad, but not just because the wildlife is wasted, but also because the deer are often left for everyone to see. We hunters have it hard enough as it is, even without these "thrill killers" leaving decapitated deer where the public can see them.


It's possible that dead deer on the side of the road were road kill and not poached, one would hope anyway


I have found several nice bucks that were road kills laying on the side of the road. And I cut the antlers off, in some cases the cape also. And I try to salvage as much of the meat as I can. Every deer on the side of the road that has it's antlers cut off is NOT the work of a poacher


Allow me to clarify. The deer I mentioned in the story had an exit wound. It was clearly not roadkill.


I work in lawenforcement and when we find a deer that has been hit with a vehicle but has left the scene we are obligated to keep the public from fighting over these animals and cut the antlers off and give them to our local game authorities. If the person who hit the animal is still there then they get the entire animal including the antlers.

Joe F

this story made me sick too i think its just terrible! Did they do this just because they lacked the skills to acually kill a buck it was all the the antlers its just sick


Unacceptable behavior. we have to do our part in stopping this by turning in ALL poaching activities we are aware of. This is very sad and the people who do this are cowards who cannot hunt like real men or women!

David Miller

People who would do this are the same people that would hit a woman!

R Shaffer

What we are seeing is the severe loss of Respect, Morals, Ethics and Traditions that have gotten us to this point. This is happeneing everywhere folks, not just in our little part of life. I see poaching and bending/breaking game laws as a symptom of the breakdown of our country and it's conscious. While there are still those of us who lament making a "bad shot" and causing an animal to suffer, who respect life enough to help rather than hurt, there are more who think it's a game to take a life (animal or otherwise) like some perverted, twisted computer game. In a society where children plan and long for the opportunity to kill their classmates, why would killing deer at night be a big deal? Who reading this can say that life today is the same as it was in the 50's, 60's, 70's or even the 80's? We have to do all we can to teach those close to us the importance of high moral standards in the field and in life. Unless there is a shift from the general direction our country is heading, our problems will only get worse, much worse, not better.

Ricardo Rodriguez

This tread has remind me of something I have always to know:

Are you someway liable for hiting a deer with a vehicle?

Are you forbiden to use the meat, antlers, etc. of a deer lying on the road?

Scott in Ohio

Liable for your insurance deductable!

I imagine the laws are different in various states. In PA and OH you can take the deer as long as you notify the police.

Dillon Meier

I am from jones county Iowa we have alot of poachers and trespassers. I report these kinds of things but the IDNR. Never seems to get around to doing anything. I am also an avid trapper and trap under bridges and road ditches I know i take a risk when setting ditches of theft so opening night of coon season i kept the hounds home and sat down the crick to watch anyone stealing traps. i caught a local guy threatened him and i had the sherrifs department at my house for trespassing charges so i guess what i am getting at is it is time to do something dramatic to get peoples attention. I know this year if i catch scum trespassing onto my land i will solve the problem myself. The unlucky person wont will finally be put in his place by me is this the right step or not?


This last Saturday, my buddy and I were driving around and found a beautiful buck that had fallen victim to being hit by a vehicle. The rack on this buck was amazing. We pulled over and removed the antlers. We were then pulled over 13 miles down the road by the local sheriff. He informed us that in Colorado if the antlers are over 22 inches that it is illegal to remove them from roadkill. Luckily he let us go without a ticket or a fine but conficated the antlers and returned them to the Division of Wildlife. I have searched the internet and found nothing clarifying the laws regarding roadkill. I have also put some calls in to local wildlife managers and am currently awaiting a return call. I will write again with any more information I can find.

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