If you are going to be poaching game, it’s pretty foolish to do so on a game warden’s property. Yet that is exactly what the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) said happened on New Year’s Day in Claiborne Parish.
Lieutenant Kenneth Balkom was off-duty and at home on the evening of January 1 when he heard a UTV being driven on a road outside his house. Curious, he went to the window only to find the vehicle shining a spotlight directly into his hayfield. Suspecting that it was poachers, Balkom put on his uniform and went outside.
Five men were inside the UTV. After stopping the vehicle and inspecting its contents, Balkom found three freshly-harvested rabbits, one spotlight, a rifle, three shotguns, one handgun, an open container of alcohol, and a bag of marijuana.
“LDWF Lt. Kenneth Balkom cited Justin S. Wren, 34, of Monroe; Christopher L. Wren, 23, of Shreveport; Jordan M. Wren, 26, stationed in Atsugi, Japan; Aaron C. Kilpatrick, 27, of Katy, Texas; and Joseph B. Ralston, 27, of McKinney, Texas; for hunting rabbits during illegal hours, hunting from a moving vehicle and from a public road,” the department said in a press release.
The men were also cited for having an open container of alcohol in a moving vehicle, possession of marijuana, possession of a firearm while in possession of illegal drugs, and driving a UTV on a public road. The men were later taken to Claiborne Parish Jail.
In Louisiana, hunting during illegal hours or from a moving vehicle can cost up to $500 in fines and result in 90 days in jail. Hunting from a public road carries a maximum $350 fine and 60 days in jail. The most serious charges, however, would be the drug and firearm violations. Possession of marijuana by itself brings a $500 fine and six months in jail, while possession of a firearm alongside an illegal drug could lead to a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
Altogether, the maximum fine for the men adds up to at least $11,850, or nearly $3,950 per rabbit—quite a price to pay for a few small game animals.