By Josh Boyd
The vast majority of today’s hunters are tasked with scheduling time for their outdoor pursuits around the confines of their normal nine to five job. For this very reason, time spent afield carries immense value. Weekdays at the office, or on the assembly line, are spent dreaming of the bountiful adventures that the upcoming weekend in the woods has in store.
In turn, we as sportsmen, make every attempt to ensure that our limited time spent afield is utilized in the most efficient way possible. The off-season is spent hanging stands, brushing in blinds, readying gear, and scouting in earnest. No matter the species pursued, the success of a hunt is never guaranteed, but through diligent preparation, we give ourselves every possible chance to succeed.
However, despite our best efforts, some unforeseen circumstances are beyond our control and have the potential to negatively impact our time afield. When these circumstances are of a human nature, and take the form of intrusion by individuals who lack permission to access the property on which they have ventured, a situation arises.
Trespassing is a problem as old as property ownership itself. There have always been individuals who felt that property boundaries signaled nothing more than invisible lines that were of no significance to their endeavors.
Few circumstances yield such aggravation for a hunter as those felt upon finding countless photos of a wayward stranger when checking your trail camera, or watching from a stand as an uninvited party makes their way through a woodlot.
Even more unsettling is the fact that, while rampant in many areas, trespassing is often a practice that is not easily curbed. People who knowingly and routinely trespass lack respect for the ownership of property and feel that laws of ownership have no application in their day to day activities.
With this in mind, how does a hunter prevent trespassing from becoming a problem and what recourse does one have if trespassing is encountered upon a property?
Unfortunately, there is no surefire method for preventing trespassing in its entirety. Despite a landowner’s best efforts, trespassing is a nuisance that runs hand in hand with property ownership. However, with some effort, trespassing can be kept to a bare minimum.
It is highly advisable to post property boundaries in multiple locations at evenly spaced intervals, as to make anyone who considers entering onto your property fully aware that this practice is forbidden. While not fail-safe in eliminating trespassers, clearly posting property boundaries eliminates a guilty party’s excuse of being oblivious to the situation.
Marking property lines can be accomplished with the use of simple no trespassing signs that can be purchased from many local hardware stores. Additionally, the inclusion of intermittently placed signage indicating that the property is monitored by video surveillance can serve as an additional deterrent to trespassers.
Limiting discussion in regards to the quality of hunting on a property of which you own, or frequent is also a pertinent consideration when attempting to prevent trespassing. Discussions regarding any game taken in the past, especially of a trophy nature, often serves as a catalyst for a trespasser’s intrusion onto a certain tract of land.
At times, less is more when deciding how much information to share regarding the whereabouts of your hunting. The same also applies when showing fellow hunters trail camera photos of game that you are actively pursuing. When in the wrong hands, this information can facilitate an epidemic of trespassing in relation to the property discussed.
The regular use of trail cameras can also have the added benefit of serving as property surveillance and as a deterrent to would-be trespassers. Unbeknownst to offending trespassers, trail cameras overlooking game trails commonly capture images of unwanted intruders. If this situation arises, these photos should be cataloged and submitted to the proper authorities.
If a trespasser locates a trail camera and feels that they have been caught in the act, it is relatively common for the offending party to attempt to prevent the retrieval of the image by theft of the camera, or by destruction of the unit itself.
In order to counteract these attempts, many property owners have begun stationing extensively camouflaged secondary cameras in strategic locations as to monitor any of their primary units. In the event that vandalism of a trail camera occurs, images of the perpetrator are captured by the secondary camera.
In the event that a trespasser is encountered on a property while hunting, it is imperative to know and understand the laws that apply in your state. It is common for trespass laws to differ from one state to the next. In some cases, ignorance of the law can actually land a landowner in substantially more trouble than that of the trespasser.
In several states, it is unlawful to detain a trespasser on your property until law enforcement arrives. Violation of these laws have the potential to yield substantial consequences for a property owner that is unaware of these legalities.
If contact is to be made with a trespasser, it is imperative to stay level headed in a way that prevents the escalation of the situation. As difficult of a task as this might be, by adding fuel to an already emotionally charged fire, when both parties are likely to be armed, consequences can be dire.
If contact is to be made, it is of benefit to calmly explain the situation, while attempting to garner the needed information to allow law enforcement to make a case. Although a knowingly guilty trespasser is unlikely to give their name, identification of the individual’s key features, as well as a description of their vehicle and license plate number are all beneficial to have.
In this day and age of the inclusion of cameras within cell phones, a photo of the guilty party can also be useful to law enforcement. Again, a decision must be made in regards to if the photo can be taken in a way as to prevent escalation of the situation.
No matter the situation, it is imperative to prosecute any individuals guilty of trespassing. This sends a clear message that this infraction will not be tolerated and word will spread, serving as a deterrent to future attempts.
Although trespassing will likely never be completely avoided, by considering and utilizing all tools at your disposal, the prevalence of such actions can be reduced. In doing this, a hunter is better able to return to what is really of significance; enjoying the vast beauty of nature and the inherent joys that are provided to those who seek to experience it.