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Dealing with Trespassers – Part 1



Nothing is more infuriating than spending thousands of dollars on a piece of land, as an owner or lessee and finding evidence of someone or someone’s trespassing on your property. Landowners everywhere have to deal with some levels of trespassing. Some of it is innocent and accidental, others is intentional and belligerent. Knowing how to deal with these situations can go a long way when faced with these unfortunate situations.

In this two part story we will look at real life situations that I and friends of mine have endured and in some cases still endure with those who access our land without permission.

Last season my son and I drove to our property the Friday after Thanksgiving for a long weekend of hunting. When we pulled up to our cabin, I heard hounds running and shooting all around us. Within one hundred yards of us, there were people shooting. There I stood with my eleven year old son. We jumped on the ATV and rode along the perimeter road looking for the culprits. Obviously the heard us coming and hid from sight, but the evidence was everywhere. Piles of shotgun shells, dead deer and blood trails across our property told the story.

I called the local DNR law enforcement and met him at the sight. I followed as he investigated the scene. All told we collected over forty spent shotgun shells, one dead doe and empty shotgun shell boxes. Empty soda cans and food wrappers. Frustration was rampant as I wanted someone to be caught. Needless to say, the culprits escaped and we never caught them. However, I put the word out into the community that I will prosecute to the fullest anyone caught.

While this may be the extreme – other stories I have are more similar to what others face. One such story, began while scouting one June, I came across a tree stand in a tree one hundred and fifty yards from the property line. (The property line is a dirt road – so it’s not hard to miss) This was the third stand I found on our property in as many years. This one area is an excellent location and the neighbors know it. Every year I find bait piles, tree stands and other evidence of their presence.


But without question the worst case happened three years ago. When I spent the previous deer season traveling with a new job, I was not able to go to our land at all the entire season. I guess the club that adjoins our property took it to mean that I wasn’t coming back. So during the turkey season, I happened along an old logging road – only to discover that the road had been plowed and planted. Following the road a hundred yards more to an old logging deck, I find a full food plot planted in our logging deck, tower stand in what is virtually the geographic center of our property! Trees cut down for shooting lanes, and bait piles everywhere. Needless to say, I gave the neighbor a call and we had some words about the situation. They had two hours to get their stands and get off the land.

A friend of mine has a constant situation that he deals with on his property. The adjoining landowner leases his land to a club. The club has a stand along the property line which is a shared dirt road. (The road is the property line for the length of the property) Their stand is actually on his side of the road facing their land and a food plot on their land. Many times a season, he drives down the road and there is a hunter sitting in the stand looking down the road. He has found evidence of them shooting deer on his side of the road and trailing deer onto his property. Conversations with the club has accomplished nothing.

Another acquaintance lives in a county where hunting deer with dogs is legal and his property is close (within a mile) of a large parcel that is dog hunted weekly. Every Saturday and most Sundays during the season he has a run in with someone looking for their dog. Most dog owners are oblivious to posted signs when their dog is on the other side. While it may be illegal for hunters to release dogs on land they do not have permission, it’s also illegal for them to enter your land to retrieve their dog. This doesn’t stop them.

Lastly, the other example is the wounded game animal that crosses the property line. According to the law, you cannot retrieve that animal without the permission of the landowner. I have personally faced this many times, in my life from both sides. I have the phone numbers of my property neighbors in my phone. I have sat and waited for hours for a landowner to arrive so I could continue my search. But most of the time, the 30 second phone call is all that is needed. I call, tell them the situation and get the permission. I’ve never understood why some wouldn’t make the phone call, and instead march directly across the fence, to get a deer, raccoon, turkey or whatever.

These may seem extreme, and to some degree they may be, but more and more as the price of leases increase landowners and land managers are facing issues with trespassers.  Dealing with them is a delicate and frustrating situation. Every landowner has to determine their own course of action when it comes to dealing with trespassers. And as with every situation often the circumstances dictate how you proceed.

Illegal trespassing is a crime. And it is punishable by law – the degree of punishment depends on your state and the reason for trespassing. The situations above are similar to what many face. In our next post, we will look at things a land owner can do to deter trespassing on their property.