I was recently went to a coyote hunting class put on by QDMA. The second half of the class was a game warden from the Ohio Department Of Natural Resources answering questions. We discussed many topics including license prices, herd health, general hunting regulations, poaching loopholes, and online check in of deer.
Online checking of deer has been met with sharp critisism by the hunting community. Many think that it makes poaching much easier and is leading to a decline in the number of deer on the landscape. If a poacher can claim that they are going to check in a deer online then cut it up before anyone notices they could very easily get away with their crime.
The Game warden talked about the concern that poachers are not checking in deer. He claims it is not. Deer numbers are estimated based on models developed over time and lots of information coming in to the DNR. These models have not changed to include more poached deer since on line check ins have started. Although it is true that it is easier to poach, the data coming to the DNR are not showing any significant difference from poaching.
He explained the problems with the old check stations. It use to be that a game warden would get a call of some potential poaching in an area. It may have been a rifle shot, shot after dark, killing a deer on someone else’s land, road hunting, or hunting at night. The game warden would go down to the local check station sort through all the paper tags to find out who has recently checked in deer. Hopefully the information was completely correct. They would then find who killed deer in the area and start their investigation. Half of a day would be spent in order to start investigating. By this time a poacher could be long gone.
Many times a hunter will shoot a deer in an illegal way and still check it in. Many times a hunter will be tempted to shoot a trophy buck after leagal shooting hours, over property lines or shoot an extra buck. This hunter will more than likely check in the deer. Online check in helps game wardens to investigate quickly leading to more poachers being caught.
With Online check, a game warden will get a call of potential poaching and immediately pull up all the deer checked in the area and the address they were killed at. This helps determine who is hunting, where they are hunting and potentially who checked in a deer that was gotten by illegal means. According to the officer I talked with the real time data they receive is “invaluable” to catching poachers. The new system also gets the information more accurate than the check stations did.
Poachers are going to poach no matter what system we have. With only one officer per county in Ohio, their time is extremely valuable. The best thing we can do is police ourselves.
“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching” -Aldo Leopold