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Once referring to any and all persons engaging in illegal hunting activities, the term "poacher" has become a catch-all phrase for organized gangs and syndicates across the Wasteland dedicated to hunting and profiting off of the fauna of the Post-War world. Poacher gangs have been seen in most corners of Post-War America, and their presence evokes differing responses from different people, such as hatred and legal prosecution by the NCR or adoration by isolated communities living in fear of Deathclaws. Few critters of the Wasteland are beyond their ability to handle, and fewer still are safe from their rifles.
Poaching had been an issue long before the Great War, even before Little Boy and Fat Man were unleashed in the mid-20th Century by the United States. Just prior to October 23, 2077, however, poachers across the world had become more active due to the nuclear apocalypse paranoia and drove several forgotten species to extinction in the wild. This crime wave stopped when the bombs fell and annihilated most lifeforms on the planet. Poaching would have remained a forgotten art were it not for the eventual rise of new and bizarre creatures created by radiation, FEV, and government experiments. Eventually, wastelanders began hunting these new beasts, and over time a new market for poached animals was formed.
It is unknown when the first Poacher gangs were formed, but it's speculated by some that they branched off from a group of raiders who wisened up and realized that they could make more caps through poaching rather than raiding poor farms and looting old vending machines. This idea spread to other raiders and eventually to some upstart hunters, and soon Poacher gangs began to spring up wherever there were bottlecaps to be made.
The first Poacher gang to gain notoriety in the Wasteland was the Tuskers, a band of 30 poachers who had discovered a lone ghoul elephant that had allegedly terrorized a small town. On August 3rd, 2180, the Tuskers hunted the beast and eventually killed it and took its tusks for trophies, thus earning the gang its name. The Tuskers continued to hunt big game across the West Coast until 2260, when another ghoul elephant was discovered roaming through NCR territory. the Tuskers prepared to hunt this rare creature as well, but the New California Republic had already enacted a law forbidding unlicensed hunters from hunting on federal land. When the Tuskers arrived at their hunting ground, the New California Rangers ambushed the gang and killed all but one of the poachers, who was arrested and sentenced to 20 years of hard labor. Since then, poachers across the West Coast and now in the Mojave have operated in groups of no more than 10 to avoid NCR justice. This decrease in overall hunting activity may have allowed the deathclaw population to grow in the Mojave Wasteland. The Tuskers have become legendary among the poachers of the West Coast, and many gangs outside of the New California Republic's reach still aspire to become as notorious as the slayers of the ghoul elephant.
On the East Coast, another gang of poachers has gained widescale notoriety; the Hunters' Society. Lead by Louis "Lewie" Chrichton, these gentlemanly poachers thrive on hunting the creatures of Florida and South Georgia and are beloved by the communities they have inadvertently protected from man-eating predators and dangerous pests. They are often hired as mercenaries by the highest bidder to hunt some of the more dangerous mutants of the wasteland, and some are even willing to take jobs as manhunters and assassins- for the right price, of course.
Poachers vs. Raiders: the Differences
Raiders are known to engage in poaching, but dedicated gangs of Poachers do not always fit the part of a Raider, although many do. The first Poacher gangs came from Raiders on the West Coast, and in that time the only difference between the two was that Raiders hunted people while Poachers hunted animals. Over time, however, Poachers in the various regions of the American Wasteland have taken to various mannerisms and practices, particularly depending upon wether or not they are welcomed by the local population. In places like the Commonwealth where there is is no governing body they are treated as any other merchant, and therefore they tend to be shrewd businessmen, while in NCR territories they are much more likely to dress and behave like any other Raider gang because they are considered criminals by the New California Republic.
There are twelve common traits of a Poacher, of which the first two are the defining traits:
1. They hunt Wasteland animals for profit.
2. They have at least some trading skill or else are associated with a merchant.
3. They do not raid potential customers unless they know they can turn a profit.
4. They are able to blend in with a general Wastelander population more easily than the average Raider.
5. They understand how best to hunt the creatures of the Wasteland.
6. They dress in a more civilized or cultured fashion than the average Raider.
7. They tend to avoid taking chems.
8. They do not sell chems.
9. They are able to live off the land.
10. They avoid associating with Raider gangs.
11. They don't wear heavy armor.
12. They don't hunt men.