It's fair to argue that anyone who is knowingly breaking the law is doing something rather stupid—but some people are just really, really good at being really, really dumb. Poachers—a sworn enemy of all legitimate hunters—are exceptional at this.
One-Track Mind has already delivered the story of some of 2011's dumbest poachers to you, but AmericanHunter.org couldn't resist going back in for another taste of poaching failure. Here are four more stories for your consideration and entertainment.
The Undisputed Champ
It’s not easy to be a champion, but some folks were just born with a gift. Or lack thereof. That’s kind of debatable here. Regardless, Darin Lee Waldo of Florida may be hands-down the Dumbest Poacher of the Year.
While at first it seems like another gave-myself-away-online story, Waldo’s gaffe was two-fold and could land him in jail for quite a while.
The story: Waldo and some pals were allegedly illegally hunting on the Lake Marion Creek WMA in Florida. Waldo, like so many other Poachey contenders, bragged about his success on Facebook. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators got wind of it and set up an online sting that eventually brought Waldo down.
The kicker, though—and the part of the story that Florida officials were most interested in learning—was that Waldo also happened to be a convicted felon, which made him possessing firearms at all a wee bit illegal in itself.
The result: Waldo ultimately had seven felony charges and six misdemeanors leveled against him. It’s going to be hard to topple this master of disaster.
The Tasmanian Devils
A lot of poachers get busted by their own digital stupidity—the story above this one is proof of that. But it’s rare that we see our villains done-in without a Facebook or Twitter confession of their own.
Three poachers from Tasmania got themselves into hot water during a hunt in Idaho and were ultimately defeated by their digital camera. As reported by The Mercury, Anton Kappeller, Daniel Tubb and Samuel Henley were already under near-constant surveillance by authorities (Kappeller’s an Idaho regular that had long been considered a potential poacher) when they killed a bull elk before the season officially started.
When ultimately apprehended days later they claimed the elk had been killed on Nov. 1, which would have made it legal. The problem? The not-so-tech-savvy hunters took a picture of their kill, and the camera time stamped it with the actual date: Oct. 28. Now that’s a Kodak moment.
When found guilty they lost their guns and a fair bit of money—on top of varying bans on their ability to hunt in Idaho.
In this tale from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Florida's poachers apparently had a rough year), the poachers in question actually got themselves busted while illegally hunting on state prison property.
Thanks to reports from locals and nearby legitimate hunters, FWC officials were able to arrest Aaron Griffis, Houston Fender and Shea Wilson for allegedly poaching on prison property in Raiford, Fla.
All three defendants were charged with the introduction of firearms on prison property (a second-degree felony), among other things. Fender, being a dedicated poacher, was actually already "serving" (well, not quite) a 3-year hunting suspension for a 2010 poaching arrest at the time of his apprehension.
Hopefully the irony of this situation isn't lost on the boys. Though if their actions say anything about their brains, it inevitably will be.
A League of their Own
Whereas the average states-side poacher is just in it for a trophy or a little out-of-season venison, International poaching can be a high-stakes affair. The latest target: Rhinos.
Valued for their horns—which sell for more per ounce than gold, according to this Huffington Post report—rhinos are being poached at record rates, especially in South Africa. The horns command such high prices because there’s a growing belief in parts of Asia that they can be used to cure major diseases, including cancer. And no, this has never been scientifically substantiated.
National Geographic reported that more than 400 rhinos were killed in 2011, a staggering number considering that a decade ago that number was estimated to be a paltry 15. These aren’t run-of-the-mill poachers here—they’re hardened criminals. The proof? When busted, they have a habit of getting into firefights with authorities. And losing. Of course, the alternative could be 25 years in jail, which BBC reported happened to three poachers from Mozambique.
These guys don’t really fit in with the rest of our other award winners, but something of this magnitude couldn’t be left out.