Injured Carter Co. horse inspires poaching bill

By: Alex Belser Email
By: Alex Belser Email

MILO, OK - A horse possibly shot by poachers has helped to inspire a proposed new law aimed at stopping poachers in their tracks.

Pat Telford is used to his horses eventually coming when he calls. But a year ago in November, one of them didn't show up.

"When I went to find him, he had been shot in his back leg," Telford said.

It was deer season, and Telford said he had seen vehicles idling on a nearby road.

"Several evenings at about dark, they would leave as soon as I would show up leaving my property," Telford said.

Telford said he believes they were looking for deer and accidentally shot his 5-year-old gelding. The injury stopped the sale of the horse, but the animal is doing fine, Telford said.

He shared his anger with a fellow church member, state Representative Pat Ownbey.

"They know that it's only a $50 fine and chances are they're not going to be caught," Ownbey said. "And if they are, is it worth catching them and prosecuting them? Now it will be worth it."

Under Ownbey's proposed law, the minimum fine would go up to $500, similar to the law for trespassing. A second offense would carry the loss of the hunter's license for at least a year and possible jail time.

The House agriculture committee approved the bill on Wednesday, but it still faces a few more steps before becoming law.

Telford said he used to live in Texas, where a similar measure cut down on hunters trespassing on private property.

"You'll never eliminate all the poachers," Telford said. "But I think if we make a fine that people find a little more costly, they will do what is right, which is either lease a property, go on to public land and hunt, or find permission from somebody."

"I think it might make people think twice about going on land they're not invited on," Owneby said.

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