PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Poachers can found on dirt roads in the backcountry, looking to cheat the system and take home big game.
Aaron Roth is a senior trooper for the Oregon State Police. It's his job to patrol areas to check for poaching.
That's kind of why we're out here just to make sure that everybody has a level playing field for hunting so everybody has an equal opportunity," Roth said Thursday.
In 2016, OSP identified 674 illegally harvested animals. That included 236 elk, 388 deer, 15 bears, nine cougars, nine bighorn sheep, two wolves and one moose.
"Lots of times on decoy operations, we'll catch people in the act who have already filled a tag, and they shoot a decoy. or they're spotlighting at night," Roth said.
Spotlighting is basically the deer-in-headlights effect. Animals stare at the light, tend not to move and make for an easy target.
For these reasons, Oregon lawmakers voted to increase poaching penalties substantially, starting next Jan. 1.
The penalty for poaching an elk with less than six points on one antler has gone from $1,500 to $5,000, for example.
But OSP says it needs the help of everyone to catch poachers.
"You know, our biggest witnesses are other hunters who see people doing the wrong thing, because they obviously know the rules for hunting. But also just the general public, too," Roth said.
"People see stuff that we can't see," he said. "We can't be everywhere, so they're calling us with tips of vehicles or people they see, and we can follow up. And a lot of times, we can make a lot of cases that way."
Officials say even though they've seen several cases already this year, the numbers are no higher than usual, and that may be attributed to all the smoke and fires across Oregon.
To report poaching you can email: email@example.com or call 1-800-452-7888. The Oregon Hunters Association offers rewards through its TIP (Turn In Poachers) line, for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.
You can also check out the OSP website: http://www.oregon.gov/osp/FW/pages/index.aspx