Dealing With Trespassers on Your Hunting Properties
Trespassers are a nuisance everywhere, but more so on remote locations in the countryside and rural areas, where fences around private property are difficult to build and maintain. Also, the definition of what is private land becomes slightly blurry when one is out of the city, where there are no neat plots marking one’s own space. So it’s very easy to find a random hitchhiker camping out in the open on your property, while you are away working in the city for the week. Trespassers are especially common on hunting grounds, where the lure of wild game will draw a lot of hunting enthusiasts, who will then interfere with the ecosystem and encroach on your private rights.
How to keep your hunting properties free from trespassers? Well, here are a few tips that can comfortably secure your land from illegal forays:
Know your laws
Trespassing laws vary from country to country and state to state, but in all cases the greater legal right is with the landowner. Most states define trespassing as the deliberate entering and remaining on private premises without authorization, privilege or license. Wherever you buy your property, check out all the land laws pertaining to the place so that you know your rights while dealing with a trespasser. Depending on the extent of the offence, the trespasser can be charged with misdemeanor or felony, be asked to pay a fine and also be incarcerated.
Fence your property
This is very important as according to most trespassing laws, the property must be fenced for the unauthorized entry into it to be deemed unlawful. In a lot of cases, the land will come with its own fencing. However if it doesn’t, you will need to know the boundary line of your property and build a wood or wire fence around it. In case of hunting land, do not use a barbed wire fence, as the wild game can easily be caught in it. Try to set up wooden agricultural fencing around 1-1.5m high; this will allow free passage of wildlife in and out, and also let strangers know that the property is private.
Putting up “No Trespassing” or “Private Property” signs is essential, as property laws require you to notify passers-by that the land is private. For example, land laws in Florida define “Posted Land” as one which has a “No Trespassing” or “Keep Out! Private Property” sign every 500 meters. Posting your land means putting up signs on trees and other visible areas, usually in 2 inch high purple or orange lettering, to warn the trespasser than he will be held responsible for his actions. The language on the signs also differs from place to place, so you must research these areas while putting them up. Without signs saying “Posted Land”, the hunter or trespasser might not be held liable for entering your property and shooting without permission, or at most get away with a minor sentence. A common complaint of landowners is that these signs spoil the view, but it’s best to be on the safe side legally and minimize one’s own liability.
Tips To Keep Trespassers Off Your Hunting Property
While the law is on your side while dealing with trespassers, you are not entitled to get violent or abusive. If the trespasser charges you for causing injury and damage while attempting to remove him, you can find yourself in a sticky spot. In such a scenario, you can appeal according to the Defense of Property provision, which states that one can resort to “reasonable force” while protecting oneself against threat to person or property. But in any case, the limit of “reasonable force” is not too well defined. Do not try and attempt a “citizen’s arrest” under any circumstances, that is, detain a trespasser forcefully on your land. In most cases, the best idea would be to ask trespasser to leave politely and in case he insists on remaining, to call the law enforcement.
Protecting the trespasser from dangerous areas
This might come across as bizarre, but in several states it is the landowners responsibility to secure the potentially dangerous areas inside the property; like unused mine shafts, or a pesticide zone. This is especially true about hunting property, where the prevalence of wild game means that you have to be extra careful that the unsuspecting walker does not fall prey to a dangerous species, like bears for instance. You can post “Warning” or “Danger” signs to warn people away from the hazardous areas on your property. Failure to do so might make you liable for the damages ensued out of “willful neglect.” Be sure to post the “No Hunting, Fishing, Trapping” signs around the boundary fences to prohibit trespassers from indulging in these activities.
Not all trespassers are thieves, illegal hunters, or vandals bent on ruining your property. Some of them may be environment enthusiasts wanting to enjoy the outdoors just like you do. Don’t grudge people the opportunity to enjoy the open country space. In case of hunters that come in during the peak hunting season; you can hunt together, or ask for a percentage of the game that is hunted. Don’t run after and threaten every lay hitchhiker who passes through your land. You can provide your contact on the signs posted around your property, so as to discern genuine callers and grant them permission to enter.
With the advent of new technology, monitoring your premises has become really simple. Install cameras at specific areas around your property to keep a check on unlawful activities. That way, you can be sure your land is free from trespassers while sitting in the comfort of your cabin.
Above all, don’t go overboard
Remember that no matter how much of a nuisance trespassing is, it is at best a minor offence, punishable under civil law. On the other hand, you can find yourself in a tight legal spot if you deal too severely with trespassers. There have been numerous cases where trespassers have been shot by homeowners, leading to the latter’s permanent incarceration. Be careful while dealing with the guns on your hunting property and keep a close watch while you are hunting, so that you don’t accidently shoot a human being.