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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Tough Hunting Season

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

For the most part, hunting seasons around the state have wrapped up for the year. This year, in particular, that makes me feel better, as my neighbors and I have all complained about local hunters this fall.  
For years, I, along with others, let hunters have at it as far as where they could hunt on my property. I finally had to shut them down because of the torn up roads, the trash and the overall lack of respect for private lands. I did try a Wyoming Game and Fish Walk-In Only hunting program, but still had problems.
When an outfitter asked to lease my hunting rights some years back, I jumped at the chance, not only for the added income, but also because they would take care of trespassers and watch out for the country. In other words, the outfitter paid for the privilege of hunting on the private lands, which have the best hunting, and they would also respect the lands. Everyone is happy, except for the local hunters, some of who are the reason the lands were closed to the public in the first place.
In our area this fall we’ve had numerous gates thrown back and left open, letting cattle mixed between ranches, trash left around, especially on the county roads, and numerous hunters hunting on posted private lands. Some local hunters were simply arrogant enough to think they could just hunt anywhere they wanted to.  
We wondered if we had created a backlash by closing our lands to the public, but then we realized we’re not doing anything wrong. It is entirely within our rights to provide, or not to provide, hunting privileges on our lands, and to decide to whom we give our hunting privileges. When we’re in town buying supplies, no one gives us anything free. We can’t walk into the hardware store, grab a box of staples and just walk out. If we did, we would get fined.
Last year I trespassed a local taxidermist who was outfitting two other hunters, and the judge fined him just $100. And that wasn’t the first time he had been caught trespassing. I feel that we surely need to get the fines raised to where they do some good, instead of serving as a mere slap on the wrist.
At my outfitter’s urging, we did set aside some smaller pastures on my place for the public to hunt. We reserve them for youth on their first hunt, friends, or those who have helped us out during the year, as an alternative to saying no to everyone, and I think that is a great idea.  
Some discussions have taken place this summer about incentives for private landowners to allow public hunting, and some still hold their nose while discussing the issue. While the Private Land/Public Access program has been a success for some, we still need think about new solutions to serve the hunter, as well as the private landowner.  
The best part is that the private landowners still have, and will always have, control of their private lands. Hunters who show disrespect for that right will not help the cause.

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