Poachers in West Hunt Big Antlers to Feed Big Egos

I think poaching of trophy animals and the impetus to have fenced encloses where people can shoot bull elk and other big game (turned into livestock) comes from the same motivation–get those antlers by “hook or crook.”

The increase in poaching may be due to the underfunding of wildlife law enforcement. The New York Times article below suggests that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the biggest poachers, or those involved in facilitating it, are local political leaders in these states, thus explaining in part the poor funding for law enforcement.

New York Times. Poachers in the West Hunt Big Antlers to Feed Big Egos. By Randal C. Archibold.






  1. AmatureNaturalist Avatar

    Ted Nugent, former Rocker turned Animal Trophy Murderer turned Political conspirator? I have seen Ted on numerous talk shows and radio feeds praising his little “hunter’s paradise” in Michigan. It is truly sad that “hunting” has become a murderous industry in which The Hunt has been taken out by money, greed, and trophys.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Well the article is about poaching, not hunting, and I wouldn’t agree with you that it has become a murderous industry. Shooter pens are not hunting, but an alternative form of butchering an animal.

    However, reading a bit about Ted Nugent, with whom I was only vaguely familiar (an old rocker), and knowing a bit about social psychology, I have to wonder what he would score on the F-scale (as in the Authoritarian Personality).

  3. Jeff Empey Avatar
    Jeff Empey

    I have wanted to bring up the subject of poaching for several days now in the context that if poaching could be greatly reduced or wiped out we would have so many animals of all spieces around that we would probably have to chase them off our door step with broom. I believe that while much poaching is done for trophy Antlers, (two years ago while hunting near Daniels resivoire in south east Idaho I came across a moose carcass with the head gone. If the antlers matched the body this was a definate state record class aniamal.) just as much or more is being done for the black market in meat. While it is hard to get figures and estimates, what I have concluded through my research the past week is that in my opinion we lose tens of hundreds of aniamals of all spieces to poaching year round. One effect of elminating poaching how ever is that ranchers would then be whining about deer, and elk being overpopulated and competing with the european cow spiecies that is being turned loose on my public lands. Hmmmmm, you don’t think……………………….?

  4. TPageCO Avatar

    When I read this article I was impressed – in my experience most newspaper stories (particularly from coastal papers) relating to poaching use it as a vehicle to push anti-hunting views. This story didn’t do that for the most part.

    I agree that the explosion in more powerful ATV’s, snowmobiles, and 4×4’s has made the poaching problem worse. (Incidentally, it’s also made it much harder for me to find a good place to hunt that’s not overrun with vehicles). Combine that with reduced law enforcement budgets for wildlife agencies and BLM/USFS, and it’s an even greater problem. I don’t think that there’s more incentive to poach for antlers than there has previously been, it’s just that the opportunity to do it without getting caught is greater.

    As re Ralph’s comment that local pols may be facilitating poaching by reducing enforcement budgets – I think that’s a stretch. Most of the poaching is occurring on public lands patrolled (or supposed to be patrolled) by fed agencies or state wildlife officers, not local county sheriffs.

    It’s personally embarrassing that Ted Nugent is one of the faces of hunting. But just because he’s an in-your-face thrill kill loser, doesn’t mean that he’s a poacher. Most people never see the really good hunters because those guys hunt quietly alone in the backcountry. They don’t have some silly TV show where they shoot exotics.

  5. Alan Gregory Avatar

    Ted’s a “chickenhawk.” My friend Dennis Jensen penned a great outdoors page column about “The Nuge” for the Rutland Herald in Vermont earlier this year. Unfortunately, Dennis’s piece is no longer available free via the paper’s archive. The Herald’s URL is http://www.rutlandherald.com

    Here’s an excerpt: Don’t you just love the Nuge? Here’s a true-blue, red-blooded guy that any patriotic American could really get behind.

    Ted Nugent is an avid hunter, a member of the National Rifle Association and hosts two outdoor shows. Every time he takes the stage, Nugent can be seen waving the American flag at his rock concerts. And he’s not afraid to say what he thinks.

    The Nuge is also a big fan of the current war in Iraq.

    In fact, the 57-year-old rocker…

  6. Jean Ossorio Avatar
    Jean Ossorio

    Folks, it’s not only humans who have a fetish for those big antlers. Note the following excerpt from the November 1-30, 2006, Mexican wolf monthly update, listed under Incidents:

    “On November 30, the IFT received a report that a wolf observed in the area the day before may have carried off a hunter’s elk antlers that were stored next to his vehicle at camp. The hunter did not see a radio collar on the wolf. The following day, the IFT located AM806 of the Meridian pack in the area and searched for the antlers, but could not locate them.”

    Poor AM806 was unable to save his mate, AF838, from a poacher’s bullet in September, so perhaps he can be forgiven for making off with the antlers to assuage his offended “manhood.”

    Can’t you just picture the wolf project folks out ransacking the woods for the missing rack?

  7. Robert Hoskins Avatar

    There seem to be a couple of things going on here with the increase in poaching; we’ve been seeing it locally with the Whiskey Mountain Bighorn Sheep Herd near Dubois, Wyoming, where we just recently had a ram and two ewes shot on the Whiskey Basin winter range, into which a Forest Service road goes all the way, nearly to the wilderness boundary.

    There is an unbelievably lucrative market for wildlife parts, especially antlers and bighorn sheep horns, and as with everything, where there’s a demand, there’ll be a supply, legal or illegal. Where animals are shot and just abandoned, there is a “thrill” component that is even more disturbing than the illegal “collecting for the market.” One can understand, if not condone, criminal economic behavior, but when there’s merely killing for the thrill of killing, we’re dealing with a kind of psychosis that has its roots in social disintegration. The latter is not something that law enforcement can really do anything about.

    Ted Nugent is an embarrassment for most hunters; but he certainly has hung onto his adolescent fantasies, hasn’t he?

  8. David Elledge Avatar
    David Elledge

    What I would like to see is a scientific study done by a Masters or Ph.D. candidate, comparing the personality traits of domestic abusers, sexual abusers and others of that ilk, with the mentality of the poacher who takes animals only for trophy, and with the mentality of the person with the antler fettish.
    I would like to see it done, and published for Fish & Game Law Enforcement to utilize in training new Game Wardens and prepare them for what they are going to be dealing with.
    Probably would not be a bad thing if it was then required reading for prosecutors and judges too.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan