For those of you that are not familiar with the great Empire State, it is a very short drive from one of the largest cities in the world, even shorter drive from the lesser known cities to find yourself amongst the great farmlands, forests, mountains and fisheries of New York where I call home. Despite bizarre politics, stifling regulations, punitive taxation (#1, highest in the Nation) that has driven out industry and the prosperity that goes with it, it is one of the most resource diverse states when you come to appreciate the four million plus acres of public lands, nearly another million more acres under conservation easements, the raw natural beauty, and recreational opportunities we have here. I reside with my bride in one of the seven valleys of Cortland County which I am more than fond of. The topic at hand actually applies across our great nation and not soley unique to New York. As I truly love what I have here as my little piece of paradise, I’ll refer to my beloved state as my frame of reference.
With such highly coveted resources, much of which is available to everyone as public lands and public waterways, the subject of trespass, destruction of property, theft and other criminal behavior appears to be more common even in the off seasons, despite numerous large tracts of state and federal lands for all to share. My comments are aimed specifically towards sportsmen and sportswomen. Criminals, common thieves, polluters are not likely to be moved or swayed by any opinions you, or I may have or convey. As a landowner and as a member on a hunting lease from time to time I have that set of perspectives. I also hunt and fish on a mix of state game lands, waterways and a fair amount of private holdings that have granted me the right to spend time on and enjoy. I’ll break down my thoughts in lists for each view point.
As a hunter:
- Do we show ourselves as being fortunate and privileged to be granted access to private lands that another pay taxes on, farms, maintains for their business or homestead, manages for wildlife? Do we show respect for them and their property? Do we fundamentally understand that landowner rights take priority over any right or desire we may feel to hunt or fish?
- On lands that are commonly known for open access do we make it a point to learn of the owner’s name as a courtesy to thank them or to learn of any concerns they may have? Helps to avoid future problems. Do we we take for granted these lands and treat them as a free for all, our personal playgrounds?
- On state lands do we treat it as if we own it? In a round about reasoning we do via the income taxes that are paid. Being respectful, having regard for our resources should not be a conditional thought or action.
- Challenging a landowner or another hunter in general is not the smartest idea, nor a step in improving hunter/land owner relations. The exception is the arrogant slob hunter who is not authorised to patrol a property or trespassing themselves and falsely claiming a spot. Too many stories of others trying to throw people off that have permission including landowners off their own property.
- Items we may come across while hunting without regard to who owns the land, do we leave undisturbed, unmolested unless clearly lost (such as a jacket, wallet, personal camera, game call). Stealing or destroying treestands, game cameras, blinds, traps, etc. is a despicable, lowly act to inflict on a fellow hunter. Even when we find such items on our own places that are not suppose to be there, do we attempt to find out whom they belong to first and get the word out? If that fails to produce a result in instances I have come across, I bring it back to the house and attempt to find the owner while notifying the county Sheriff’s/ NYSDEC ECO, and they can retrieve their items after a intimate chat with law enforcement. Charges may apply if egregious, or not your first time trespassing. In principle do we take take another’s property not knowing fully the circumstances.?
- While being respectful of the lands hunted, it is good practice to extend that to fellow hunters. Having someone purposely interfering with your time in the woods is greatly unappreciated. A common occurrence with the mentality of having to get your gobbler or buck before the other hunter does. As sportsmen, sportswomen we are better than that.
- Access to hunting properties have dropped while the behavior of some fellow hunters deters hunter recruitment or makes the hunting experience on state lands or private lands less desirable for the recreational hunter, fisherman. The same foolishness, monkey business that is assumed all too common on public grounds in known to be just as much a problem on private holdings. Private land is not immune to breaches in ethical or sportsman like conduct. There is no legitimate excuse for treating fellow hunters and fisherman in the poor manner that occurs. Trespass shows disrespect for the land owners and fellow hunters alike
- Of our sport, our passions we so dearly love. are we humbled and appreciative of the great forests and waterways? Are we humbled and appreciative towards our fellow hunters and fishermen that we share these great resources with?
As a landowner or lease/club member:
- Vast amounts of money are involved to purchase, pay county & school taxes, or fees to lease. Land taxes have risen well ahead of inflation to the tune of 2X-3X over other states in the union. Can be viewed as legalized theft in some lines of thought. As a landowner it is a thought process quickly learned and a reality. Leases have risen due to taxes, and the popularity of outdoor focused leasing /realty companies. The continual loss of farms and increase in development further increase the cost and demand for recreational properties. Maintaining a property for wildlife involves plenty of funds and sweat equity.
- Because your past three generations of family hunted there, it does not trump or replace courtesy, respect or asking permission. Your ignorant boasting of entitlement to hunt wherever you want is a false premise. It is all too common a complaint about local hunters. Your family or those that passed on are not maintaining, nor paying taxes on the property. You can easily change that, be a great neighbor.
- Fisherman do not get a pass on self granted rights to trespass as access to private honey holes are not a entitled right of way. In New York navigable waters have a separate set of laws that apply.
- Poor behavior, trespass, destruction of property, theft, infighting between hunting parties, poaching, ignoring specific instructions or requests are all legitimate reasons why landowners say no, or rescind your permissions. As a land owner saying no is their right that may or may not come with a explanation.
- It is a major irritation to expend time and money to thwart, report and or prosecute trespassers only to see them given a slap on the wrist or a minor fine. $50 to$250 fines are not enough to deter the disrespect, the ignorance that exists in the hunting community.
- How many of you visit to help a landowner in the off season or in season, send thank you’s or visit to thank on person? Do you invite them for a home cooked meal, or in general conduct yourself as a good neighbor, an ethical hunter that appreciates the privilege?
With the acceptance of game cams as scouting tools, it has become an additional season of installing and checking in the summer months. With the competitive nature of some in our ranks, the quest for boon’r buck or record setting long beard or the best fishing hole in the county causes some to steal memory cards, game cams, or destroy them and any stands or blinds they come across. In the past few years the frequency of this type of criminal activity is increasing if judged by posts on social media. Whether there is increased trespass or that we now have better tools to capture it it is made far worst that it is being done in many occurrences by fellow hunters. Clicking through the various hunting groups on social media it is astounding the number of reports of tree stands stolen or rendered unusable, deer cams broken or stolen, SD memory cards stolen.
In the following list are links to NYS sites that deal specifically with trespass, regulations, posting info etc. I have included other useful links as well one to a prior blog on game cam strategies.
- Public Fishing Rights and the Landowner -NYSDEC
- Posting Information for Landowners, Boaters, Fishermen and Hunters -NYSDEC
- Avoiding Conflicts Between Waterfowl Hunters and Waterfront Property Owners -NYSDEC
- ASK -NYSDEC
- Dealing with Trespassers -Cornell Univ
- Recreational access and owner liability -Cornell Univ
- Post Deer Season- Time to Implement a New Game Camera Strategy
As a landowner I can tell you first hand you will quickly expand your fan base in a less than desirable way by wanting to control your property in any configuration. Some folks feel or even insist they have a right to your place. You and I may have an adverse response to such arrogant entitlement thinking. Trust me it is out there as many that are not shy about it, in fact boastful.
Diligence and willingness to press charges does pay off as it eventually reduces trespass once they learn you have a spine and will do what is needed to fully enjoy your place as owner of the property. I can tell you that sending a certified notice against trespass or having the local sheriff deliver it in person is and effective way to get your point across. Posting, maintaining signs, the expense of cameras, batteries,and other items just to secure your place takes away from time and money otherwise spent enjoying it.
Poor behavior is not a one way street, as we all know that one special landowner that tries to claim rights to other properties, accosts anyone that comes near their boundary or travels an adjacent road along their place. It makes for hostile or worse interactions. I have been privy to one property owner near me that claimed to own the county road that disected her place . Unnecessary conflict and bad relations for all involved.
It is my well learned opinion that we New Yorkers have easy access to thousands upon thousands of the best public hunting grounds to be found in our great nation. Our waterways are world renowned and something to cherish. As ethical sportsmen and sportswomen, criminal trespass is an abhorrent act towards each other and especially land owners. As hunters, as fisherman, as landowners there is much room to improve relationships with only a little effort and a large dose of mutual respect. We all deserve this from each other.
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