14News Special Report: Poaching Problems

14News Special Report: Poaching Problems
Updated: Nov. 14, 2016 at 10:25 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - We have been shining a spotlight on poachers, showing what goes on in their minds, moments before they take an illegal shot.

So, we asked a former poacher to take us into his world. And what he showed us, may make you think twice about your safety, the next time gun shots ring out.

"We were pretty slick at what we did," said the former poacher. "Like, I never got caught red handed, ever."

It's opening deer gun season in Indiana. And chances are, you'll hear hunters in the chase, but what this former poacher showed us is not hunting. Not by a long shot.

In Indiana, it's illegal to shoot from the roadway, shoot from a vehicle, shoot out of season or without landowners permission. It's illegal to trespass, to spotlight then shoot, and to shoot without a license. This guy has done all of those hundreds of times.

"It's an adrenaline rush it can't be explained," said the poacher.

And he showed us how he got away with it for so long. For one, he used .22 caliber bullets, illegal for deer hunting.

"It's too small," said this former poacher. "It's super accurate, and it's super quiet. And if you shoot it right in the neck or the head, it'll fall down dead every time."

Sometimes, he used arrows, so homeowners wouldn't hear. He poached with buddies, for help dragging the bodies back to the truck. And once they got 'them there, they covered the evidence.

"One time I found some old carpet," explained the poacher. "We put some bags of trash on top of the carpet, silicone them on.  As we shot deer, we could stick em under the carpet to hide it. Second night we did that, got pulled over by Warrick County Sheriff. We crossed the center line is why he pulled us over.  He came to the window, we were nervous because we thought we were caught. He gave us all a warning and let us go.

Conservation officer Joe Haywood was there the night we sat with a DNR crew, using this decoy to try to catch poachers.

"People they know decoys are out there, so we've had people stop and they'll sing to it, they'll clap their hands, they'll honk their horns," said Haywood. "They figure it out sometimes."

That night, only one truck passed. The passenger was shining for deer, which is legal in Indiana if don't have weapons with you. But they apparently overlooked our decoy.

DNR officials tell us, poaching is both unfair to law-abiding hunters and to deer because poachers who shoot from vehicles don't give deer a fair chase. But their biggest concern about poachers is actually you. People at home, who have no idea what might be unfolding in your front yards.

"We know from riding with a former poacher that people who are gonna do it, do it fairly quickly," said Haywood. "That means, their eyes are here and not here on houses beyond that deer. If you hit my house which has siding, wood, and particle board, it may go through three rooms."

And unlike hunters, who often shoot downward from tree stands, DNR's Gorden Wood tells us poachers typically shoot out or upward and with Indiana's newly passed high powered rifle law, some of these bullets can go 3.5 to four-miles with clear line of sight.'

"The bullets gotta stop come place," said Gordon. "A lot depends on the angle. If it hits a house, if it hits a window.  Oh my god."

The former poacher in our story claimed he took so many deer because his family and friends were poor and needed the meat.  And he stopped about 10 years ago after losing some of hunting paraphernalia to the DNR.

We checked into it. This former poacher has been cited at least 14 times, but was never arrested for hunting violations. But that's a real possibility for many.

Gfx: We found Indiana Department of Natural Resources officers issued 108 warnings and made 154 poaching arrests in southern Indiana in 2014 and issued 101 warnings and made 146 arrests in 2015.

]Poachers risk losing their guns, vehicle, and anything else on them when they get caught… and up to a year in jail plus fines.

"Guys don't realize, if you do get caught poaching, I'm telling you, they're gonna go after everything they can possibly get, every single time," said Haywood. "All the way down to your 4-wheeler. That's why I don't advise on it."

DNR Officials tell me some of their best poaching-catches have come from your tips. If you see something suspicious, don't hesitate to call 911 and report it.

Copyright 2016 WFIE. All rights reserved.