Poaching has been illegal for hundreds of years, but it was during the Late Middle Ages that poaching became a punishable offense. During this time, the right to hunt was limited to landowners and nobility. Peasants usually did not have weapons, skills or the extra time to hunt, so in order to provide food for their families they devised another way to bring meat to their tables, including snares [source: NationMaster].
While hunting was reserved for the privileged, it was illegal to buy and sell wild animals. It remained illegal to do so until the mid-1800s. Gangs of poachers formed outlaw bands and sold animals through the black market. Buyers of black-market food even included wealthy people, who could not or chose not to hunt on their own.
As rural poverty was prevalent in the 1700s, many people turned to poaching just to survive. Commoners protected poachers as an act of rebellion, because food was so scarce. Though poaching gangs did provide food to the poor, they were also violent and often greedy, poaching to feed the black market more so than hungry peasants.
Because authorities could not depend on citizens to turn in poachers, they created traps and spring-guns that would maim or kill poachers. In the 1830s, traps and spring guns were deemed illegal, and in 1883, peasants were allowed to kill small game, such as hares and rabbits, on their own farms [source: Scribd].
Have poaching issues changed since the Middle Ages? Indeed, they have. Move on to find out how modern poaching differs from the poaching of the days of Robin Hood.