What is poaching? I’ve been meaning to bring this up, as there’s been some disagreement on the subject in your comments here and on other blogs–which is no surprise really, when you consider that different states have different poaching definitions. Some define it as taking game illegally, others more broadly as hunting or fishing illegally. The Michigan DNR actually offers both definitions: “Poacher – a person who hunts, traps, or fishes illegally. Poaching – the illegal taking of fish or wildlife.” Go figure.

Dictionary definitions likewise vary. In a hunting context, Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “poacher” as “one who kills or takes wild animals (as game or fish) illegally.” My Webster’s New World bound copy has “poaching” as, “to hunt or catch (game or fish) illegally….”

I favor the broader definition. A person should not have to be successful in his attempt to kill game illegally to be called a poacher. A jacklighter who misses three shots at a midnight buck should not be spared the label by the mere fact of his ineptitude. Besides, the higher threshold does not automatically denote a more egregious offense: the hunter who kills a hen pheasant by mistake or shoots a duck a minute past legal light is technically a poacher by either definition.

I say if you break a game law, you are poaching. Doesn’t necessarily make you evil incarnate, but you’re poaching nonetheless.

What say you?