Where Have We Gone Wrong?
One day this past week while driving to the ranch, I noticed hunters just driving past no trespassing signs to get where they wanted to go. The sign meant nothing to them – maybe a target to shoot at, but that was about it.
How have we got to this point? Where have we gone wrong? I realize it is not like this all over the state, but in some areas in central Wyoming, some hunters feel the right for them to hunt is bigger than private property rights. Some think, “Well, if we get caught trespassing, we will just lie our way out of it,” and I’m sure it has worked for them at some time. We have all heard some big whoppers from various hunters throughout the years.
We have the laws behind us. The penalty for trespassing is a maximum $750 fine, six months in jail or both. In our area part of the problem is the judicial system. Judges may hand out a $100 fine and that’s it. Some seem to resent landowners taking up their time with trespassing charges, and while I can understand that, breaking a law is breaking a law.
While some hunter’s may make an honest mistake by wandering on to private lands, it is their responsibility to understand where they are hunting, and new technology has made that easier. New global positioning system (GPS) units now display land ownership, and the newest versions even tell users who owns the property. These programs have updates available every year to help sportsmen get the most updated and accurate information. The best part is, it is easy for both the hunter and landowner to use. With Wyoming’s intermingled private, state and federal lands, it can be difficult for hunters and landowners to know where they are at in some areas of the state, but that is no excuse for trespassing, and these new GPS units can tell you exactly where you are.
For the landowner, it is a legal tool. If you find someone trespassing, just get as close as you can to their vehicle and license plate and take a picture with the GPS. The GPS automatically places the date, time and location on the photo. What more proof do you need? At that point, I’m not sure, but I’ve heard that it is illegal to take a payment from the person trespassing because it could be construed as blackmail, and so you, the landowner would be the one in the wrong. After catching trespassers, it’s best to let the legal system take the reins.
As I said before in this column, we need to follow the state of Texas on private property rights. They learn early in life that one doesn’t go onto another’s property without permission – it is just something one doesn’t do.
The right to bear arms, to worship freely, to protect your land and all the others are rights we treasure as Americans. A farmer, rancher or any landowner, for that fact, are just like those landowners who live in town, only their backyards are bigger. The law doesn’t diminish as the number of acres goes up. We need to honor private property – it’s the American way.