Last week a poached elk was found in Sevier County.

It was an affront to all true wildlife enthusiasts. 

True sportsmen view their role as hunters to be one of responsible stewardship. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is an agency tasked with maintaining healthy numbers of wildlife in the state. Part of the management is to issue tags for hunting. 

While most people associate hunters only with the taking of wildlife, many don’t realize the tens of thousands of dollars raised locally for organizations like Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and Ducks Unlimited. These organizations are dedicated to conservation efforts. 

Yes, this means more hunting opportunities, but the larger benefit is more wildlife for everyone to enjoy — whether it’s hunting or just viewing. 

Local sportsmen also dedicate untold hours to things like an effort to raise pheasants for release, and youth sporting shoots. These activities are designed not just to improve hunting, but also to pass on a legacy that is part of American culture. 

This is why everyone, from dedicated hunters to people who’ve never touched a gun in their lives should be concerned about incidents of poaching. It’s the ugliest, lowest way to enjoy shooting or hunting.

A sportsman may spend years as a dedicated hunter, giving service, donating money and putting his or her name in on prime bull units and never get a tag. They still do it, and follow the rules because that’s the honorable thing to do. Whether or not they get to hunt a prime unit or not, the time and effort they spend can enhance wildlife and other outdoor experiences for everyone.

When someone poaches an animal and leaves it to waste, it makes other hunters look bad to those who don’t understand the difference between a sportsman and a poacher. This type of poaching is an idiotic waste, and not representative of the ethics the vast majority of hunters abide by. 

Everyone can play a role in reducing the incidents of poaching in Utah.

One of the main things people can do is pay attention while in Utah’s backcountry. Look at vehicle make, models, colors and license plates. Watch for people doing things that appear suspicious. 

While watching out and taking note are important, people are encouraged not to confront an individual who may be breaking the law. Instead, report suspicious activity and allow conservation officers and local sheriff’s deputies to do their jobs. 

The hotline to report possible poaching activity is (800) 662-DEER, and it is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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