Poaching in Michigan: Crimes, Penalties & Defense

Law gavel and Michigan poaching defense attorney, David J. Kramer

Poaching in Michigan is a serious offense in Michigan with serious penalties if convicted.

Did you know Michigan has elk? Most people think of these animals as belonging in the Western states or Canada. However, Michigan is home to a population of these beautiful, wild creatures. Michigan is also home to many avid hunters. 

Unlike deer, who run rampant throughout the state and suffer from overpopulation, elk are more protected by the law. You could get in big trouble for hunting them without a special license.

Elk hunting licenses are only available by drawing, and there are a limited number available each year. If you don’t get a special permit, that’s it. You will have to try again next year.

Illegal hunting is called poaching, and poaching could cost you your ability to hunt in this state – potentially for the rest of your life. 

Elk Poaching in Michigan

Two Michigan men were charged for poaching a cow elk in Wolverine, Michigan in 1998. It was through the DNR poaching hotline that DNR officers investigated Jakob Gagnon and Logan Turbin.

An anonymous tip about the pair led to a search warrant, which led to investigators finding elk meat and cocaine in Gagnon’s residence.

Turbin was charged with assisting Gagnon in processing the elk and illegal possession of elk meat. 

Gagnon initially fled the state after authorities searched his home, but turned himself in to law enforcement. He was arraigned August 28, 2020 for taking an elk without a license, possession of stolen property, and cocaine possession. 

Penalties for Poaching in Michigan

While Gagnon’s poaching crime was a misdemeanor, his actions attracted law enforcement who went on to find evidence to charge him with a felony crime.

That’s just one way in which breaking hunting laws can backfire on you.

  • For illegally taking elk, the penalties include up to 90 days in jail, $5,000 in restitution, and loss of hunting privileges for up to 15 years. This doesn’t include fines and court costs.
  • For possessing elk without a license, Turbin could have spent up to 90 days in jail and paid up to $1,000 in fines. He pleaded guilty to a lesser wildlife crime and paid $2,500 in restitution. His hunting privileges have been revoked for one year. 
  • For violations of permits, hunting seasons, bag limits, shooting hours, and hunting methods, you could be fined up to $500 and spend up to 90 days in jail.
  • For illegal use of artificial light with a bow and arrow, crossbow, or firearm, you could spend up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, and loss of your hunting license for the remainder of the current year plus all of the next year. 

New Deer Hunting Regulations in Michigan

It’s also good to be aware of some of the new bag limits on deer hunting as we get closer to deer hunting season. A mistake or a crime of opportunity could result in a massive fine.

In 2014, Public Act 175 of 2013 went into effect, making it more expensive to break the hunting laws. Rather than a flat $1,000 restitution fee, the fine increases with the number of points on the deer’s antlers, to discourage hunters from taking more trophy bucks than they are legally allowed to bag. 

According to Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (Excerpt) Act of 1994:

  • You may legally bag two antlered bucks each season.
  • Poaching deer is a $1,000 restitution fee or $2,000 for an antlered deer.
  • Whether you don’t have a license, or you’re bagging more than your allotted number, it’s considered poaching. Here’s how the restitution fees break down:
  • Additional $500 per point for 8-10-point bucks
  • Additional $750 per point for 11 or more-point bucks

A Michigan hunter was fined $15,000 for bagging an 18-point buck in 2015. It was his third of the season. Apparently, it was a “crime of opportunity.” He had the right to hunt, and the buck just walked in front of him.

Michigan Poaching Defense Attorney

Poaching may not be one of the top crimes leading to jail time or felonies on your record. However, if it doesn’t lead to those things, it can undoubtedly bleed your wallet dry.

For a hunter, losing your license potentially for 15 years isn’t worth the bagging that one animal. Don’t assume no one will tip-off investigators either.

If you’re facing jail time or hefty fines related to poaching in Michigan, call my office and get us working for you. 

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