The government is us; we are the government, you and I. -Theodore Roosevelt

Poach and Pay - Phase 1

A Boone and Crockett Club Program Researching the Processes for Calculating Current Poaching Fines and Providing Assistance to Increase Poaching Penalties in the Future

Poaching is a crime. Poachers are not hunters, nor conservationists. They are thieves.


Poach and Pay is a research project launched by the Boone and Crockett Club with the support of its partner, Leupold & Stevens to determine what is and is not working in the war against poaching in the United States. There are many aspects to successfully fighting crime. Poach and Pay is focused on one aspect, the financial deterrents to poaching and ensuring that the fines being assessed for this illegal killing are in line with the value our society places on its wildlife.

  • Does the fine fit the crime?
  • Have these restitutions kept pace and reflect the value people place on wildlife resources?
  • Poaching is poaching, but should there be higher fines for the illegal killing of certain wildlife being targeted by poachers?

Poach and Pay seeks to answer these questions and more, and ultimately help to form a framework to complement the efforts of our law enforcement agencies by sending a clear message that poaching doesn’t pay.

Program Objective


The research phase of Poach and Pay will consist of a study of the fines or restitutions each state wildlife agency has for poaching, how these fines are determined, and whether they are different for different types of poaching relative to what is being illegally killed. It will also look to determine if fines have increased over time and if there is any evidence that these fines are a significant enough deterrent. The research will look to establish a foundation of what is working and why, and if there are ways to strengthen our attempts to stop poaching.

Boone and Crockett Score

The poaching of any animal is a crime. Increasingly, law enforcement personnel are dealing with individuals illegally targeting and taking trophy animals. Whether this is thrill killing or for some commercial enterprise, mature trophy animals are of value to people, and poachers. Some states have responded by instituting a restitution scale using B&C score, or other method to determine higher fines. Another objective of Poach and Pay is to find out which states are using different ways to assess higher fines to deter poaching, how these methods are working, and how this information can be shared with other states.


Elk killed in velvet in Yellowstone National Park by notorious poacher, Fredrick Bottler in 1875. During the spring of that year, Bottler and his brother Philip, reportedly killed 2,000 elk in the vicinity of Mammoth Hot Springs.

Historical Context

The Boone and Crockett Club has a long history with sustainable use conservation dating back to the Club’s founders, Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell, that began with the protection of Yellowstone National Park. The park’s wildlife was supposed to be protected, but was being plundered by poachers. Grinnell, who was editor of Forest & Stream magazine, sensationalized an incident that involved the poaching of six of the park’s remaining bison in 1893. Public outrage over the illegal killing led to the Congress passing of the Yellowstone National Park Game Protection Act of 1894, which was drafted and endorsed by the Club and also spurred the Club’s development of the nation’s first game laws.

Poach and Pay 2019 Update

The Department of the Interior and Secretary David Bernhardt signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Vietnam to work more closely to combat the illegal trade in wildlife. The Boone and Crockett Club is in full support of this historic and badly needed escalation in anti-poaching efforts.

In 2015 and 2016, the Boone and Crockett Club and Leupold & Stevens funded research for their Poach & Pay initiative to get a better understanding of our systems of restitution in this country for poaching convictions. “We want to see the fine fit the crime,” explained Timothy C. Brady, president of the Boone and Crockett Club. “Our research indicates that if a case is not dismissed beforehand, restitution after a conviction is often minimal because many courts see poaching as a victimless crime. This is not the case. Poaching is stealing from the public and we can do a better job using the restitution process as a deterrent."

To that end, the Club, with the assistance of professional member Jon Gassett and his wife, Kristie Blevins, who is a criminologist, is embarking on a two-pronged approach. The first is the development of a legislative template for state legislators to utilize in the drafting of effective legislation for fines and restitution. The second is to build a model that reflects what the economic costs are to the public as a result of poaching activities. Initial research shows these costs in the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars—dollars that could have been spent on conservation. This economic approach will hopefully raise awareness within the judicial system that poaching is far from a victimless crime.


Hunters and Poachers are NOT Brothers





More on Poach and Pay:

B&C's "Poach and Pay" Program Continues to Lead the Fight in Anti-Poaching Research

Poaching is a crime committed by thieves - not hunters. Those who share in the Boone and Crockett Club's long support of sustainable-use conservation want those thieves punished accordingly.

A 2015 research study by the Boone and Crockett Club found that 92.6 percent of sportsmen support higher fines for those convicted of poaching big-game animals, while 88 percent also support even higher fines for those convicted of poaching trophy-class, big-game animals. The results of this survey led to the development of the Boone and Crockett Club's "Poach and Pay" program. Read more

Poachers Feel Sting from Boone and Crockett Scoring

Courts in a growing number of states are using the Boone and Crockett scoring system to slap poachers with more felony charges, stiffer fines and longer revocations of hunting privileges.

...Read more

B&C Congratulates Maryland Hunting Coalition on Passage of the Poaching Restitution Act of 2016

Boone and Crockett Club applauds the Maryland Hunting Coalition for the passage of The Poaching Restitution Act of 2016 in Maryland. The Act has been sent to Governor Larry Hogan for signature in...Read more




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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt