An experienced hunter witnessed a mule deer being poached. He was so rattled he forgot who to call and how to report the crime. Here are tips for what to do when you see poaching, then read on for this hunter’s story that bagged him a reward.
The *OSP number goes directly to the Oregon State Police dispatch office. Don’t be surprised if you feel very nervous. As a non-criminal, it is normal to have shaky hands when you witness criminal activity.
When the dispatch office answers your call, they will ask for your name and location. You can choose to be anonymous.
Describe the nature of the crime and the location. Take your time. Run through the events chronologically. Consider details that will be helpful in finding and identifying the poachers like their vehicles, their camping gear, RV, boat, or whatever else they may be traveling with.
If there is a trooper nearby, dispatch may instruct you to wait to meet with the trooper. If there isn’t a trooper nearby, dispatch may call in another agency from that jurisdiction, or they may hold the case until a trooper is available.
One hunter’s story
The first snows of winter fell quietly from a white sky in Eastern Oregon and Sagebrush Sam was eager to try his luck at bagging a predator. A cougar to be precise. He positioned himself on a bluff near the snowline, and pulled out his binoculars to look for footprints. As he glassed the nearby hillside, he saw a station wagon on the road below, traveling slowly back and forth. He then noticed several mule deer bedded down next to the road, on state park land. Sam focused on the little blue car.
The station wagon stopped. Backed up. Stopped again. Then the doors swung open and two men in camo extracted themselves from the little car. One of them pulled out a rifle, aimed, and shot.
A large buck jumped up and bolted away. The two men followed their prey for a few yards, then turned around, got back in the station wagon, and drove up the road a short distance. Sam saw them stop, get out and raise binoculars in the direction the buck had gone. Then they got back in their car and drove away.
Sam tried to grasp what he had just seen. Men shooting from the road- into a park no less. Then driving off. They had committed several crimes and now they were gone!
Sagebrush Sam is an experienced hunter. He knows the rules and how to report poaching. But in that instant, he forgot everything. He forgot who to call. He forgot what to report. He forgot to take photos with his phone.
Sam tossed his gear in his pickup, started the engine, and headed toward a state park office he had noticed a few miles back. Maybe he could get cell service there.
When he reached the state park, Sam pulled out his phone and checked for service. Three bars. But who should he call? The sheriff? What was the number? Maybe 911? The state park office?
Just then, the little blue station wagon pulled into the parking lot and veered toward the public restrooms. Sam watched incredulously as the car stopped and parked. The camo-clad poachers got out and went into the restroom. Sam acted fast.
He pointed his iPhone camera, zoomed in and clicked a photo of the car. He zoomed in more and got the license plate. He considered waiting to get a photo of the poachers, but no telling what these people might do.
Then Sam spotted a posted sign: “Turn In Poachers” with a phone number. He punched in the number and heard a calm voice on the other end asking what he would like to report. Sam told the OSP operator where he was, what he had seen and that the men who did it were still nearby. He described his location and forwarded his photos.
The next day an OSP Fish and Wildlife trooper identified the poachers using Sam’s photos of the vehicle and license plate. Several weeks later, OSP offered Sam his choice of a cash reward or hunter preference points for reporting a poaching incident that led to a citation.
Upon reflection, Sam is still surprised at how rattled he was when he observed and reported the crime.
Be safe out there, be aware of your surroundings and if you see something suspicious or out of the ordinary, call it in!
Yvonne Shaw is ODFW’s Stop Poaching Campaign coordinator.
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