Poachers are game thieves. Sportsmen hate them; state wildlife officers hate them; finally, state lawmakers hate them; and sometimes judges hate them enough to sentence these criminals to the fullest extent of the law. Following are two recent stories of Tennessee game thieves, and two judges, one commendable and one contemptible.
First case: On Thanksgiving Day morning last, Clarence Robertson of New Market saw an 11-point buck in his neighbor’s hayfield across the street from his home. He shot the deer from his driveway without permission and drove his truck into the field to retrieve the trophy animal. Robertson was charged and convicted under a new Tennessee state law that authorizes a $1,000 fine for poaching a big game animal, and additional fines if the animal is of trophy status. In this case a deer with 11 or more antler points earns an additional fine of $750 per point. Robertson has to pay $269 in court costs, an initial $50 fine, and $9,250 in restitution. Bravo, judge.
Second case: Two Morristown poachers, Ben Williamson and son Brett Williamson, illegally hunted elk in Colorado several times between 1999 and 2011. They used an illegal outfitter and hunted in a special trophy elk management area so exclusive that it takes the average hunter 20 years to win one permit for the area.
Over their multiple trips the Williamsons took many trophy bulls without the special permits. In 2004 Ben killed two bull elk (state limit is one per year). In 2009 Brett hunted without a license and killed a big bull; in 2010 Brett returned and killed two bulls. Last March a federal judge in Colorado convicted the Williamsons of misdemeanors under the federal Lacey Act (the oldest national game law) and each was assessed a fine of $6,500. They also were required to forfeit their trophy mounts.
Unfortunately, the judge ignored the much tougher statute called the Samson Law, which adds penalties for trophy animals. To wit, a bull elk with six or more antler points on one beam would costs an additional $10,000 – for each violation! Judge, so much for discouraging game thieves.