Monday, March 31, 2008

Trespass Runs Rampant In This State

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One of the biggest problems private landowners face is trespass, and incidents of this problem are increasing.

Many of my hunting buddies have found strangers roaming their land, are swore by them when told to leave, and they wonder why no one wants them on their land. A few have tried to sneak on my land, and find themselves in serious trouble. There are no second chances with me.

I detest arrogant, loud, obscene and rude people. I also have trouble with those who claim to know me and feel they can hunt my land without asking. The problem is that trespass isn’t limited to hunting seasons. Some trespass occurs during the morel picking season, or while people are looking for wild flowers or just taking a walk.

Some hunters are as tidy as an unmade bed, and they find it difficult to find a place to fish or hunt and no one is willing to let them set foot on their land. People who walk up to a landowner, carrying a firearm when they ask for permission to hunt, are politely asked to leave. It’s an insult to a landowner for someone to be so presumptious as to carry a firearm into their presence before they’ve shook and howdied.

I have very few problems any more but the same can’t be said for some friends. One couple was having their morning coffee when he spotted eight or nine people in his back yard.

“What are you folks doing in my back yard?” the man asked the group.

“Picking mushrooms,” one nitwit said. “Why? What’s it to you?”

“It’s my land and you are leaving,” my friend announced. One of the guys gave him the finger, and he vaulted the deck railing in his stocking feet, and took off after the trespasser. Grannie was hiking up her skirt so she could run faster, and Mom, Dad and the kids managed to reach their car. My buddy’s feet were sore for two weeks after chasing them through the woods without boots or shoes on.

The tales of trespass could go on forever. I spoke with a doctor who caught a man trespassing several times. The man said he had hunted there all his life and wasn’t going to stop just because the land had been sold.

The doctor told him he’d be arrested if he didn’t stop trespassing. The trespasser told my doctor friend that if he were arrested, he’d come back and burn down his barn. If he were further hassled by the owner or police, he would burn down his house and pour sugar in the gas tank of his vehicles. tractor and plow truck.

The doctor was beside himself. He finally reached a truce with the trespasser. The guy had a spot that he always hunted, and it was the only place he wanted to hunt, so they reached a tenuous agreement.

The trespasser could keep hunting that one spot but his job was to keep everyone else off the land, and to never set foot near his house or buildings or vehicles. The guy agreed to the deal, and the landowner has had no problems with other trespassers or his unpaid caretaker

And, guess what? Most trespassers do not care about your land. Like poachers, it becomes a game for trespassers to hunt your land without permission and without being caught. If caught, the conversation turns nasty and the results can be ugly.

Most lawmen detest trespass cases, and many county prosecutors have more important (to them) cases to handle. A trespasser gets a verbal hand slap, pays a small fine, and is free to continue to do whatever he wants to, including trespassing on your property.

Back in the old days, cattle and horse thieves trespassed on someone else’s private land to steal live stock. If they were caught, they strung up from the nearest cottonwood tree. Granted, such measures are a bit harsh for the offense of trespass, but very little is being done to curb this type of crime.

Vigilante justice doesn’t apply here, but many who suffer from continuous trespass problems would probably be happy to dole out some form of personal justice. However, we live in a society where honest people can’t take the law into their own hands so they fight a continual battle over the rights to fish and hunt on their own land with people who have no qualms about illegal access.

The jails are full, and it’s difficult to prosecute a trespass case, and even more difficult to get the problem stopped. One man I know solved the problem by allowing a deputy sheriff to hunt his land. His job was to deal with the trespassers, and for them, seeing a lawman every day brought the trespass problem to an abrupt halt.

Angry words and fisticuffs are not the answer. What best addresses the problem remains unclear. A neighborhood watch among all neighbors could work but unfortunately neighbors often are the people who access your land illegally.

It is a very real problem, and it is one for which there appears to be no clear-cut way to legally halt the crime.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/31 at 06:50 PM
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