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New bill would make things easier for poachers the first time they're caught

posted Feb 21, 2015, 8:25 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Feb 21, 2015, 9:29 PM ]
This new bill, to be introduced 2/23/2015, would let first-time deer-poaching offenders off without a penalty.

Benson, Michelle R.; Ingebrigtsen; Gazelka; Saxhaug. 2015. MN 2015 SF 1033: Only a warning for first-time deer poachers.

The current rule during the regular firearms deer season (and five days before, and 2 days after) is that a person may be armed to take deer only if he has a deer-hunting license and he's in a deer-hunting area. A violation is a clear sign of poaching, yet the authors of this bill don't want first-time violators to be penalized.

The bill seems to be this year's poke at law-enforcement. Last year's bill (HF 2421 / SF 2188) failed on its first hearing on 3/5/2014 in the MN House Environment & Natural Resources Policy Committee. Its plan, presented by two of the bill's authors, Rep. Melin and Rep. Dill, had been to make things easier for poachers who were caught for the first time hunting over bait. Law-enforcement officers present for the hearing pointed out that the current penalties were necessary. Poachers know that what they're doing is illegal, but they lean on the slim chances that they'll be found and caught by law enforcement at their secluded location. If the penalty were lessened or taken away, poachers would have more confidence to lean on.

The stated goal of last year's bill was to lessen the penalty to match the crime. That's forgetting, though, that the penalty is necessary to hold the criminals accountable and discourage others from following their example--and giving poaching an easy try.

MN Sen. Michelle R. Benson (R-Ham Lake) MN Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) MN Sen. Paul E. Gazelka (R-Nisswa) MN Sen. Tom Saxhaug (D-Grand Rapids)