Each week on our podcast we have a special segment dedicated entirely to those that deserve to take a lap. Dubbed the “Idiot of the Week”, these folks have won the dubious award for doing something incredibly dumb, and sometimes dangerous, in the outdoors. It can range from unknowingly shooting another hunter, sinking a boat, or getting caught breaking wild game and fish laws. Unfortunately, there’s never a shortage when it comes time to pick a new winner.
I can’t sit here and say that I’ve never broken a law when it comes to the outdoors. I have. Like many, in my more youthful days I’d bend a law or two without hesitation. Like most people, I fortunately grew out of that and have a greater appreciation for the laws that are in place to protect our wildlife. However, there are far too many that just do not care and continuously break the law. I can understand a sixteen year old kid being dumb enough to test the reach of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks…but a grown man?
Most weeks we try to pick our award winner from another state. I’m particularly fond of throwing shade on folks from Louisiana. One, they make it fairly easy. Two, they are our next door neighbor, so it’s always fun to prod them a little bit. We’ve also mentioned quite a few from New York and one former mayor of a town in Ohio that wanted to ban ice shanties over fears of a prostitution ring. However, it brings me pain that this week we had to crown some Mississippians as the new winners. As much as I wanted to avoid blasting fellow folks from the ‘Sip, these acts were the most egregious of all.
Recently, game wardens in Mississippi uncovered the largest turkey poaching operation in United States history. There were 286 state charges brought against the accused, and another 12 federal charges. Fifteen different people were charged with illegally killing birds in three different states, Mississippi included. I normally don’t like to mention names, but the ringleader of the group, Kenneth Britt, received over $37,000 worth of fines and a 5 year hunting ban. All in all, over $100,000 worth of fines have been handed out.
To most, that would seem like a lot. I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum. I don’t think that it’s nearly enough. Do you honestly think that people that have spent the last few years hopping fences and shooting birds are going to abide by a ban? And if we are going to issue a ban, let’s make it a lifetime ban. Not only did these folks have a blatant disregard for our wildlife laws that protect our way of life, they also took it upon themselves to go on other hardworking people’s land and steal from them. Theft, that’s exactly what it is. These selfish son of a guns stole opportunities for others. They took away chances for a youngin’ to kill their first bird. They took away chances for a veteran. They took away chances for that senior citizen that wants to kill one last bird before they take up the rocking chair. These people are no better than a thief that breaks into your home and steals money out of your sock drawer. They deserve to be treated as such.
That brings me to my next rant, social media. There’s a particular turkey hunting page in Mississippi where quite a few members joke about “can’t stop the hop.” That phrase is mentioned for hopping fences to go and shoot birds. While most are probably joking about it, how in the heck anyone sees this as okay is beyond me. I’m not sure if it’s satire or if they are actually being serious, but there are more than a few that openly brag about shooting birds off of land that they don’t have permission to hunt. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t like it if someone came and took my patio furniture off of my back porch. How is it any different with someone coming onto my land and shooting a turkey?
There’s only one way to stop this madness of trespassing to pursue wildlife. You’ve got to hit them where it hurts the most, their wallet. One of the accused quipped that it was cheaper to pay the measly $500 fine rather than join a hunting camp. You know what, he’s right. That’s a pathetic way to justify trespassing and stealing, but it’s not an inaccurate statement. Hunting clubs are expensive. In order to deter this type of behavior, we need to make the fine for such actions so high that it’s not worth it to poach. I’d say, at minimum, the fine for trespassing and harvesting a turkey should be upwards of $10,000 and the possibility of jail time. Pretty harsh, right? It should be.