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What’s the Difference Between Hunters and Poachers?

Once again, I’ve come across an article that’s so chock full of high linguistic comedy that I feel like it’s Christmas in . . . well, you know what I mean. In this morning’s New York Times, Randal C. Archibold, whose name I just adore, reports about some profoundly contradictory issues in Poachers in West Hunt Big Antlers to Feed Big Egos. The only problem is I don’t think he sees the contradictions.

The premise is that in Nevada and Montana and Idaho, where the deer and the antelope play (until hunting season, at which point they are, shall we say, under the gun), increasing numbers of poachers are killing animals, resulting in the decline of wildlife (duh).

I put this post under the Language category, so I’ll concentrate on that alone. Trust me, there’s enough material. Let’s deconstruct from the beginning of the article:

  • Game wardens searched for an elk that a tipster said had been killed by illegal hunters "apparently just for the thrill of it." Uh, call me crazy, but aren’t the legal hunters killing for the thrill of it? Isn’t that why hunting is considered a sport; the thrill of the kill?
  • Organized rings of poachers who get large antlers trade them on Internet auction sites or submit pictures to glossy hunting magazines that prominently feature big kills. So what?  Don’t legal hunters submit their fancy-pants pictures too?
  • The federal government is concerned about "the big money that seems increasingly a factor" in poaching. In other words, they want a piece of it. Among other things "illegal," and "poaching" mean the person doesn’t have a license or permit. He didn’t PAY for one.
  • A spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game in Idaho said, "Legitimate hunters don’t find it entirely understandable, but some people will pay to have some critter on their wall they can claim they have shot. . . . Hunters find that completely out of the realm of understanding." The key words here are "They can claim to have shot." Let me get this straight: "legitimate hunters" put critters on the wall, but only the ones they themselves have killed? ARE YA KIDDIN’ ME?
  • Rob Buonamici of the Nevada Wildlife Department delivers my favorite line: "Wildlife belongs to everybody." Oy.
  • Lazo Pavlakis, a 76-year old hunter who waited 18 years for a permit to shoot a single elk (now there’s a goal worth waiting for), said: "I don’t understand why they just go out there, kill it and leave it." Of course, there’s that word "it" again. I’m not sold on the idea that if you eat the elk, it’s okay to kill him. Unless you’re starving in the woods.

Poachers and hunters commit the same act: they kill animals. The only differences are: the absence of presence of a permit, and what they do with the animal once they’ve killed her.

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