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    MattF's Avatar
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    Angry Hunting and Trespassing

    My post is inspired by one made in the General Tractor Ownership and Operation by briansims. The guy in the story is a kindred spirit to me in many ways and its a timely and relevant post. I decided to post here rather than in that thread as my response is more of a question to the community atlarge and less of one contributing to the "Tractorman" thread.

    This guy in that thread could be me. At times, I'm equally frustrated. My question to the hunting community is how have others prevented/reduced trespassing on their land?

    I live in an agricultural area, very near a small town where everyone is either related or knows each other pretty well. A lot of folks were born a here and never left for any duration. It's a very nice little red/white and blue American town. However, among the "lifers", many have the attitude, "it's always been a certain way and always will be", especially when it pertains to hunting. My land had not been settled since before the state was formed. Folks owned it and used it for pasture/farming, but never lived there. It's been hunted by everyone forever until I bought it and built my home here.

    Full disclosure - I was born here too. 'Lived about a 1/4 mile from where I built my house until my parents moved us to a neighboring county and I grew up there for all of my school aged years. Now I'm back.

    I have numerous neighbors, some of whom owned the land at one time or another, others who just trespassed, have hunted here forever. Despite my requests to respect my property, especially now that we live here, they still do. The land is posted appropriately.

    My land is very hilly, wooded and has numerous water hazards. As I have only been here for a few years, its not easy to patrol or keep watch over yet. It's 70ac in size, but being very hilly, it has far more than 70ac of surface. Much of the land on one side of me is now public, exacerbating the issue.

    One time, early on, I was approached on my own land by a neighbor's middle aged son and buddy, carrying their firearms, accusing me taking down their deer blinds on my land. Not at the boardering edge either, 1000+ft from the border with their land. My response was kinder than it should have been but still pretty terse. I was honest. I hadn't touched their stuff, yet - but it was on my list. If some other hunter trespassing out here had taken it, it wasn't my problem and saved me the effort of taking them down myself. If I had taken it down, I would have given back to them when I did. Now 'git!

    Who approaches a land owner on his own land, brandishing firearms, accusing him or taking down deer stands that should have never been there to begin with?! I have not had a run-in with those individuals since, but sheesh...

    I don't hunt currently, my family and job demand my priorities be elsewhere, but some day I will have more time. My expressed requirements to my neighbors are to give me a call if they want to hunt my land so I can keep track of who is where, when. If no one else is hunting, I really would not hesitate to give permission to my neighbors to hunt the land. I'm not trying to be a jerk about property rights - I just want to know who, when and where so I can reduce some of the liability. I'd be on the hook if they trespass and get hurt too... but maybe I can reduce some of the risks if I have some information.

    I never hear from any of them.

    But I often hear things like, "I heard Moe got an nice 8 point out at your place!" at the gas station or the local watering hole. It's a small town, everyone knows or hears about everything. When confronted, Moe denies trespassing but the taking of the deer on my land is corroborated by all of Moe's "friends"... And when I say often, I mean at least once a year...

    Calling the cops/DNR about trespassing or poaching isn't really an effective option. I have 4 LEO's for neighbors... They all know it's going on too, some are hunting their own land. Obviously, they are not the offenders. 'No evidence and the trespassers would be long gone before I got to them after I heard a shot and bow hunting is almost undetectable. I'd have to post trail cams all over the place to catch folks trespassing. The actual poaching has decreased (off season hunting) but I still see and hear indications it's going on. I would certainly anyone to task with the police/DNR if I did catch them.

    My trail system is expanding, but I am not on it to patrol very frequently (or I'd be hunting myself).

    As much as principle, liability comes into this. Have any of you had similar experiences? Any thoughts/experience on how to reduce the trespassing?

    Thanks!
    Matt
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    RetiredDoc's Avatar
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    When I was into fox hunting, we had hunters commonly poaching on land that was dedicated to horseback riding. Since they were always armed and usually at least partially intoxicated and belligerent confronting them wasn't really a great option. As in your situation, the poachers were local residents who felt it was their God-given right to shoot deer anywhere in the county. There's not really anything to be done to control that type of hunter. Anything you do may come back to harm you, family, pets, livestock or property.

    If you do come across their truck on your land, rather than smashing it with your tractor, you might chain it by an axle to a tree so they'd have no way to escape quickly before your local law enforcement arrives.
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    MattF,

    You obviously have a good head on your shoulders and explained the situation very well. If you are not going to hunt it you might consider thinking about who has asked. People who can actually return a favor should you need one with larger equipment or just good upstanding people who will take care of keeping others out for you. If you tell someone like this that they can hunt it but you would prefer it was just them, they might help keep others out and take some of the brunt for you. Itís a shame how hard you have to work for it and the crap you have to put up with. You might also let the conservation police know you do not want people hunting there and they could watch it but I suspect you would still have to be involved in pressing charges which I agree will probably just cause you future headaches.
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    coaltrain's Avatar
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    You mentioned liability - thatís a tough one.

    I have a similar problem not with hunters so much but from city/suburban people who come up here on the weekends and think my property is a state park or something. I live along a nice small river.

    What I have done as far as liability is post my property which I hated to do. Most states have a guideline of how many signs per a certain amount of feet. Then I took a couple pics of the signs and put them away (cloud storage) with my home inventory. So now if someone comes on my property and gets hurt I can show a reasonable amount of work that I have done with defining my property with no trespassing signs.

    Being in the Appalachian mountains the problem was different years ago similar to yours I guess. People from the city would buy some property and immediately post it. The locals would be pissed and the war would begin - one that nobody ever wins.

    Nowadays there are very few old locals around - now itís a problem with city people renting camps for a weekend or week and thinking that they can just go anywhere they want.
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    Frustrating issue

    I have property that's 40 miles away from my home. It's posted and the roads are cabled or gated but there are still trespassers. I lease hunting rights to a hunt club, partly for income but mostly because that's another 10 sets of eyes on the property. They've been pretty good about letting me know what's going on when I can't be there. It's a small club and some of them have literally hunted the property all their life but they recognize they have a very, very good deal with the lease and work to keep me happy.

    I've had to visit with neighbors several times. Once my son and I were putting gates up and the hunt club president came and got me. A neighbor was raising Caine because the hunt club had a stand close to the property line which was and is surveyed and clearly marked. The tree stand was situated so anyone in it was shooting back into my property. I verified the stand was about 10 yards inside the property line and that it was literally impossible to shoot toward the neighbor's property from that stand and told the neighbor I had no problem with it and he should just get over it. He was furious but there wasn't anything he could do. About a year later he sold his land.

    The new owner subdivided it. I made a point of introducing myself to the new neighbors but within 6 months one of the new neighbors rode a four wheeler down into my property and go it stuck. He then took a Jeep and pulled the 4 wheeler out and by the way, cut doughnuts in the field while he was at it. The hunt club matched the vehicle with the tracks so I paid a visit and told him to stay off. He seemed to have an attitude and denied doing anything even though I was standing by his extremely muddy Jeep with tires that matched the tracks. Unfortunately for him, in his backyard was his company's service truck with the company name across it. I've worked with that company and knew many of the managers so I gave them a call and explained their employee would find it hard to come to work if he did it again because I would have him in jail. That really POed the neighbor but he hasn't been back.

    I have multiple game cameras up and periodically swap out the cards and review them at home. If I see someone who shouldn't be there, I share the info with deputies and the game warden. If I can identify them, I'll pay a personal visit. The first visit is polite and I explain that the land is posted and I'd appreciate them honoring it. A second visit is more direct. There won't be a third visit but a summons to court will be delivered by the deputy as I will press charges. I haven't had to do that yet.

    By the way, in Virginia and most other states you can post your property by painting a stripe around trees or posts with silver or purple paint. I do both. I hate driving nails into trees and the paint is non-destructive and lasts about as long as the signs. I also try to be as visible as I can be on the property but none of that guarantees that scumbags will obey the law or your property.

    I've had other run ins but they all involve idiots doing something they shouldn't be doing. A couple of them have gotten really tense but so far, I haven't shot anyone.

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    Thanks guys - good food for thought.

    I know over time this will shake itself out (at least this is what I tell my wife). Folks get older, the next generation doesn't have the precedent the previous folks did and I have more time to reinforce my requirements and rights.

    Coaltrain - I'm kinda like one of those city folks who moved in from nowhere and posted his land, I guess.... but I bought what appears to be what had previously been the town's ancestral hunting grounds. Folks are nice and all, but for some, we represent significant and unwelcome change. Oh well. Liability is my biggest concern as it can ruin someone in an instant. We need to manage wildlife and I'm all for hunting to do it. We are already being overrun with coyotes and deer because the town itself doesn't allow hunting but is mostly rural.

    I have about of mile of river running through my place. It's the primary water hazard and biggest obstacle to patrolling it. The ash blight has made it all but impassable to navigation.

    Herminator - I have a friend I let hunt here just for the purposes of patrolling and making a presence known. In return I get some venison and a bit more confidence things are as they should be. I also get reports on when folks are doing things they shouldn't out there. Like most folks around here, he has many places to hunt and as I do not allow gun hunting here, just archery, he rotates me in and out. Due to the shape of the lot, location of my house and topography, gun hunting isn't something I'm willing to let anyone other than me do out here (and I don't). It makes it obvious when you hear shots go off behind the house - some one is where they shouldn't be.

    The conservation officers... good folks. Just the same, I'd like to keep my distance. Unless I have someone dead to rights violating game law, I won't engage them. They have God-like powers here, 'search your house without a warrant (well, at least your fridge) and other things. I don't have anything to hide but I don't invite the Gov't on my land casually. They should already be patrolling the public land next door to me and that's close enough (and still not effective).

    RetiredDoc - You are very accurate in your assessment of risk. This is a small town and harm comes in many forms. This is a reason I've been very forgiving, in many regards, to folks/neighbors. We all have to get along like it or not. We live next door to one another (although it's 1/2 to a mile from my house). They've been here a great deal longer than me with a much larger network of folks that they know.

    I would never take my tractor and trash a truck of a trespassing hunter - tempting, but no. Maybe let all the air out of the tires... there is only one way in and out by vehicle to my land, my driveway. The other sides are blocked by river or swamp. As my Marine brother-in-law says, this place is highly defensible!

    Fortunately for me, my neighbors are the gritty, down to earth sorts who do not first think of suing folks for wrongs perceived or actual. Good people, really... For that I am grateful and give them all the credit due. I do not take that for granted though and know that a bad trip, slip or fall could change a mind. Especially if the economy get rough again. This is my biggest fear and the majority of my desire to restrict access. There is a part of me that also feels the pain of the gigantic sum I pay in property taxes annually and pretty penny paid for the land itself. From that perspective, I would expect to be asked permission before hunting here. One angle is cautionary, the other is principled. The principled stance makes me grumpy when discussed.

    Under the right circumstances I could have a great situation with good neighbors who know the ropes around here both in the woods and out around town and we'd all come to mutually beneficial arraignments. I'm still trying, but I need to slow the intrusions. The public land next door is ripe hunting turf that is accessed from my land if coming from my neighbors approach. There is too much temptation there and I'm in the way.

    Thanks - any other thoughts? Has anyone actually used game cams in situations like this and had a good resolution to the issue? I envision just losing a substantial investment in game cameras...

    Matt
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    MattF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Treefarmer View Post
    I have multiple game cameras up and periodically swap out the cards and review them at home. If I see someone who shouldn't be there, I share the info with deputies and the game warden. If I can identify them, I'll pay a personal visit. The first visit is polite and I explain that the land is posted and I'd appreciate them honoring it. A second visit is more direct. There won't be a third visit but a summons to court will be delivered by the deputy as I will press charges. I haven't had to do that yet.
    I missed your response while writing my own the first time. We have tried cam's in the past and lost them or the cards. They weren't normally out in the open either... we'd hidden them pretty well. Never have we caught anyone on film. That was a long time ago when the traffic was MUCH higher. Perhaps its time to try again before it gets busy with the new land next door.

    Quote Originally Posted by Treefarmer View Post
    By the way, in Virginia and most other states you can post your property by painting a stripe around trees or posts with silver or purple paint. I do both. I hate driving nails into trees and the paint is non-destructive and lasts about as long as the signs. I also try to be as visible as I can be on the property but none of that guarantees that scumbags will obey the law or your property.
    Michigan is pretty weak on this. Post every 30 ft, trespassers are given a verbal warning for first offences. Given the liability presented, you'd think property rights would be a bit more protected. No hunt purple is not utilized here to my knowledge... only signage is recognized as notification of private land. So 310 signs and a verbal warning later I could press charges. I've posted signs, but not that many.... Ash trees provide most of my signage posts. They won't grow and absorb the nails.

    Quote Originally Posted by Treefarmer View Post
    I've had other run ins but they all involve idiots doing something they shouldn't be doing. A couple of them have gotten really tense but so far, I haven't shot anyone.
    My best run-in was described. I've never been approached by someone with a gun demanding something from me on my own land before that. And in that case, it was two someones with guns. Other discussions have been around town or at various neighbors houses but typically polite, apologies made and assurance are given it won't happen again... but it does eventually.

    That makes it a bit harder to come down tough on folks though, one guy may not offend for a few years but eventually temptation gets the best of him. In the mean time, you've made a bit better connection with your neighbor. I understand its hard to just not come over here and hunt - I'm not looking most of the time. No one is there and no one will probably know. The big ones are always just over the river... (No, they aren't - They move around too much to pin down to an area as small as my land) My neighbors are nice, good folks who I really don't want to make enemies of, but I need to protect my family from the liability at minimum.

    I'll have to look into the cams a bit more. I had written them off a few years ago.

    Thanks,
    Matt
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    You already have what I was going to suggest, a friend to hunt with keen eyesight. I'd go a bit more. Call him your game keeper, get some of his buddies, call them a hunting club, and I bet it takes care of itself. Use peer to peer pressure.

    Duty owed to trespassers? I hated the answer in school, and still hate the outcomes. That is best handled with an umbrella policy and mitigating known hazards.

    Good luck.

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    One of my fears is someone wandering onto our property from the National Forest behind us. We are close to a mile from the nearest public access, so it's not that bad, but I still worry about an errant shot.

    In order to make our land as visible as possible, I have the required number and spacing of signs (heavy plastic, still look new after 9 yrs), but I have gone one step further.

    On every tree in between my signs that is over 6 inches, I wrap the trees with yellow and black caution tape. At approx. 5 feet above the ground I apply 4 or 5 wraps and tie the ends together, no nails or staples. Usually lasts 2 seasons. You can't miss my property line, helps make it visible if someone is lining up a shot in our direction.
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    I don't like this idea because so much hunting ground is already going to club leases, but to take the problem off of your plate, you might consider leasing your place to a hunting club and let them manage to access/trespass issues.
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