For all the good stories I'm told about an angler's memorable catch or hunter's tale of hits or misses, I also hear a fair share of stories without laughs or smiles. These are the stories of illegal activity or suspect practices that people witness or hear about all to frequently.

It's these kinds of stories that erode the heritage of our outdoors in North Dakota.

090215-poaching-fHonestly, over the course of my career as a game warden and biologist I have listened to stories ending with this statement many times.

Typically, the encounter begins with a story teller relating an outdoor experience that went sour because of illegal activity by another hunter, angler or unwanted outdoors visitor. Usually by the time I hear the story, it's too late for the Game and Fish Department or anyone else to do anything about it.

But there is a way for many more of these stories to turn out in favor of the law-abiding citizens using the outdoors. It's actually quite simple.

If you witness a possible poaching violation, don't get mad and wait until the next time you run into a Game and Fish representative to complain.

Report the violation. Right away.

Keep this in mind while hunting or fishing this fall, and any other time spent outdoors. I know from experiencing a few seasons as a game warden that poachers won't stop until they're caught, and for most poachers, if the instance is intentional it is not the first time they've skirted the regulations.

Jot down the pertinent information and call the Report All Poachers hotline at 800-472-2121. If you have a cell phone, don't even wait until you get home. In fact, it's a good idea to program the number into your phone ahead of time. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for an award upon conviction of the poacher.

A call to the RAP hotline will put the caller in touch with the nearest game warden, who will need accurate, timely information so they can investigate.

No matter the line of law enforcement in this day and age, the Game and Fish Department doesn't recommend that anyone take the law into their own hands or confront violators directly.

It's also a day and age where many stories have been documented of drug or other possible illegal nonhunting activities that take place on public land away from populated urban areas. It's a simple yet important reminder to let law enforcement handle the details after you report accurately what and who you observed

Every violation is worth a call because poaching is stealing - stealing from hunters, anglers and everyone else who chooses to enjoy the outdoors within the realm of the law. There's no place for poachers, and if everyone helps - hunters, landowners, and all citizens who appreciate North Dakota's natural resources - we can keep these stories of misuses of our natural resources to a minimum.