For some time now, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has made it a policy to reward citizens who report poaching with a free hunting tag or a cash prize. This is very popular with hunters, and several reward permits are generally issued every year. According to those that support the program, it incentivizes hunters to report suspicious activity, aiding law enforcement efforts. The program is also well-known, so when Jeff Quibell helped wildlife officers track down a poacher last fall during the elk season opener, he had hoped for a free tag to make up for spending half the day on the poacher’s trail.
“The saying they have is, ‘Catch a poacher [and] receive a tag for that species in that unit,” Quibell told KUTV.
There’s a little bit more to it than that. According to the DWR, only information that leads to the successful arrest and prosecution of a poacher is viable for a reward. Additionally, the Division notes that a free permit is only sometimes awarded and never guaranteed. In Quibell’s case, there was also another mitigating circumstance.
Once the poacher saw that someone was following him, he called the DWR and turned himself in.
According to Quibell, the man shot and killed an elk on opening day, but as soon as he saw Quibell, he took off his blaze orange vest and decided to hightail it out of the area. Thinking this was suspicious, Quibell called the DWR and agreed to help officers track down the poacher. What he didn’t know was that the poacher later turned himself in, leading officials to charge him with a lesser crime: unlawful taking. According to the other man, the entire incident was an accident and he did not mean to shoot the elk.
Either way, Quibell could not receive a free tag because of the lesser charge. He did receive a $1,000 cash prize, but said that he ultimately was disappointed by the decision. As like many states, Utah hunters must apply in a drawing before possibly being awarded with an elk tag.
For once-in-a-lifetime hunts, such as for bighorn sheep, turning in a poacher is one of the few ways for a hunter to get their hands on a tag.
“The Division sometimes offers reward permits when poached animals are once-in-a-lifetime species or big game animals on limited-entry areas. To receive one of these permits, you must be eligible to receive the permit, and you must provide information that leads to a poacher’s arrest and successful prosecution for wanton destruction of wildlife,” the DWR stated.
Additionally, officials advise hunters to never try and stop a poacher themselves. Instead, witnesses should call the DWR and report what happened. Information such as the appearance of the suspect, weapons used, details on their vehicle, and physical evidence are especially useful.