I'm gonna catch what I'm gonna eat,
With my longdog. I am a poacher!"
An inversion of Evil Poacher, some older works, particularly fairy tales and Folk Music, pitch a Loveable Rogue poacher against an evil fat-cat landowner in a Peter Rabbit-vs-Farmer MacGregor kind of relationship.
These are generally from a time when even kids' stories admitted that animals have to be killed for people to eat meat (and this kind of poacher always does hunt for food, usually for his starving family or to share with the community), and the conflict is more about the morality of claiming ownership of natural resources.note
Whereas the Evil Poacher is an Egomaniac Hunter out for endangered "charismatic megafauna", the Roguish Poacher hunts prey animals like rabbits, fish, and game birds (the only quarry the two might compete over is deer). Where the Evil Poacher is a Glory Seeker who wants to put trophies on his walls, the Roguish Poacher wants to feed his family and maybe scratch a living selling the meat and skins.
Naturally, in Real Life, it's more complicated than this. For example, how to classify a poor "third-world" hunter poaching endangered animals on a game reserve in order to sell bushmeat, ivory, luxury furs, etc., on the Black Market would be much more open for debate. But fiction is usually more willing to take sides.
Subtrope of Classical Hunter and Karmic Thief. Often a Guile Hero, who may be portrayed as Just Like Robin Hood. Compare Hunter Trapper. Sympathetic portrayals of The Rustler may also fall under this trope, with the Cattle Baron as the bad guy.
- Crocodile Dundee fits the archetype pretty well, except for the "poor subsistence hunter sticking it to the man" part. He's allegedly a fisherman who runs a safari business in Australia's Northern Territory, but in the first movie a barfly calls him a "bloody croc poacher," and while Mick punches him out for it, it does seem to be an open secret in Walkabout Creek, where he's generally well-liked.
- The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen hunts illegally to feed her starving family and coincidentally stick it to The Man.
- Johnson County War: Cattle rustlers Harry Hammett and Timberline Burdette are portrayed as resourceful, fairly friendly guys stealing from the local stuffed shirts. Of course, this causes those ranchers to bring in hired gunmen who kill Timberline and Harry's more honest brothers.
- French movie Ni vu, ni connu (1958) stars Louis de Funès as Léon Blaireau, a sympathetic poacher who's pitted against Parju, a Meddlesome Forest Guard and gamekeeper. Mr. Bluette, the prison director, calls Blaireau a "Rural Bohemian" but the mayor angrily reminds that he is still a poacher. Much to his dismay, Blaireau is incredibly popular in the village since he brings in most of the game and fishes...
- Robin Hood:
- The Adventures of Robin Hood begins when Much, a poor Saxon peasant, poaches "the king's deer" to feed himself. He is captured and about to be executed by Sir Guy, and Robin intervenes to save his life.
- In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the boy that Robin finds trapped up a tree by some soldiers is accused of shooting a deer. When asked by Robin (after chasing the Sheriff's men away and branding himself an outlaw) the boy confirms it's true (although Robin doesn't seem to care either way).
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights has Robin similarly rescue a boy from the guards. Later, Robin barges into Prince John's castle and plops down a poached boar right on his table.
Robin: No, that's a wild pig. [Points at Prince John] That's a wild bore.
- The 1923 version of Scaramouche begins with a peasant having been executed for poaching on the Marquis' land. We are meant to sympathize with the slain poacher, who was presumably desperate for food, and to see the Marquis as evil. In fact, this is how the Marquis is first established as the bad guy.
- The British propaganda film Went the Day Well? has Bill Purves the local poacher as a genial old man who gets along well with kids and isn't portrayed negatively during a scene where he's trying to outwit the local policeman. Later he's a heroic figure during the conflict.
- Aunts Arent Gentleman: Herbert "Billy" Graham is the local poacher in a particular Somerset village, whom all the gamekeepers of local landowners like Cook and Briscoe can never catch. Bertie Wooster unsuccessfully enlists Graham to return a cat to a horse's stable (It Makes Sense in Context).
- Roald Dahl's book Danny, the Champion of the World is based on this premise. Danny's father is a kindly but poor rural mechanic who poaches pheasants from the estate of the local rich guy, who happens to be a cruel, pompous, Jerkass. It's implied that he does so for the sport and challenge more than the food (considering it to be much more sporting than the canned hunts the pheasants were destined for). The plot of the novel involves Danny hatching a plan to poach all the pheasant on said estate, just before the big annual hunt.
- Carpenter the Poacher in Lords and Ladies is specifically described with quotes from "The Lincolnshire Poacher". Nanny Ogg's Cookbook implies everyone in Lancre has a bit of this, when talking about how fresh food is always available in the countryside: "As we always say, you can boil it, bake it, or fry it, but for preference, you poach it."
- In Pyramids, Pteppic spends some time under the wing of a roguish poacher, whom his absent-minded father mistook for his tutor. The main thing he learned was how to operate a "punt-bow", a device that can turn a flock of ibises into a heap of pâté.
- The aforementioned Fantastic Mr. Fox, who combines this with Carnivore Confusion by stealing chickens from industrial-scale farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean.
- Black George in The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling is a gamekeeper on an estate (the guy supposed to stop poachers) but also does some poaching himself — a combination of feeding his family and being a (lovable) scoundrel. At the end of the novel, the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue indicates he was ultimately transported for his crimes.
- The Hunger Games opens with Katniss and Gail hunting outside their District's perimeter in order to feed their families, which is described as a harshly punishable crime.
- In the 1927 novel Night on the Galactic Railroad by Kenji Miyazawa, as well as the 1986 anime adaptation, Campanella and Giovanni meet a friendly poacher who catches herons and turns them into candy.
- Several of the minor characters in Phoenix and Ashes poach the Fenix woods with the tacit permission of Reggie Fenix — it's a source of protein that isn't affected by rationing.
- San Francisco Bay illegal fishermen and oyster pirates in Jack London's 1905 Tales of the Fish Patrol are in a somehow sporty competition with authorities over fishing resources. London does not shy from portraying them as quick to beat, shoot, or stab people, but, at the same time, they are mostly trying to feed themselves and their families, rules be damned.
- Vera: The Victim of the Week in "The Deer Hunters" is suspected of being this. The truth is more complicated, but he certainly wasn't an Evil Poacher.
- According to Steven Toast, fellow actor John Nettles has had to become one after falling on hard times.
- Poldark has Jim Carter, who is caught poaching pheasants and sentenced to transportation. He is portrayed sympathetically and saved from this fate by main character Ross, who pleads his sentence down to imprisonment.
- The traditional English folk song "The Lincolnshire Poacher" is sung from the perspective of a poacher who prides himself on his ability to outwit and, if necessary, fight the gamekeeper. The song ends by wishing "Success to every poacher that wants to catch a hare" and "Bad luck to every gamekeeper that will not sell his deer".
- "Longdog" by Show Of Hands, thus inspiring the band's Fan Community Nickname. A longdog is a variety of sighthound popular with hare and rabbit coursers, and the hero's ownership of one is used as circumstantial evidence to send him to jail.
- The Australian folk song "Waltzing Matilda" is about a "jolly swagman", i.e. a sheep rustler.
- The Eric Bogle song "Poachers Moon" is about the traditional Scottish pastime of poaching salmon from the laird's stream.
- Foxes are often depicted as the animal version of this in several older folk songs. One of the most notable is "The Fox", a 15th-century Middle English song about, well, a Fox who steals a goose from a local farmer to feed his family.
- Defied by Jethro Tull's song "The Whaler's Dues"; the whalers see themselves as this, but the song points out they work for an industry that's rendered a number of species of these majestic creatures almost extinct, if not entirely.
- Greek Mythology: The Homeric Hymn to Hermes has the titular Trickster, not yet part of the pantheon, stealing the herd of cows entrusted to Apollo and managing to charm his way out of trouble when he's caught. He then divides up the meat into sacrifices for all the gods... including a portion for himself, so that their acceptance of the sacrifice implicitly acknowledges him as a fellow god.
- Robin Hood and his Merry Men are often wanted for illegally hunting deer in the king's wood, either alongside his other crimes or as the crime that drives him to brigandry in the first place. Since being outlaws means that they can't exactly go into town to buy groceries, poaching would have been their primary source of food.
- Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Land" is about a line of countrymen named Hobden, who the narrator (who may be Kipling himself) imagines tending the land which the narrator owns since the time of the Romans or before. The narrator knows full well that Hobden is a "flagrantly a poacher", but considers that really the Hobdens have a better claim to the place than its legal owners (and anyway, his advice on the land is beyond price).
I have rights of chase and warren, as my dignity requires.
I can fish but Hobden tickles I can shootbut Hobden wires.
I repair, but he reopens, certain gaps which, men allege,
Have been used by every Hobden since a Hobden swapped a hedge.
Shall I dog his morning progress o'er the track-betraying dew ?
Demand his dinner-basket into which my pheasant flew?
Confiscate his evening faggot under which my conies ran,
And summons him to judgment? I would sooner summons Pan.
- The Stanley Baxter's Playhouse episode "The Pool" is about a salmon poacher on a Scottish estate being caught by the laird, and eventually revealing that he's the son of the local blacksmith, who many years earlier taught the laird to poach on what was then his father's estate.