Why Can't We Access Private Land

(A brief rant)

A lot of folks I know complain about how hard it is to get access to private lands... at least without paying an arm and a leg in use fees. I am constantly astounded at the number of "No Hunting" signs that pop up along property edges. Why is this happening?

Well, there are a lot of reasons, and depending on where you live and hunt, they'll vary. Some of the arguments for posting land include a fear of liability in the event someone gets hurt. Or perhaps the owner wants to reserve the hunting on the property for a select few..family and friends, or paying customers.

Posting property also provides the landowner with legal rights to prosecute poachers and tresspassers (see the graphic on the right). It shouldn't be a big thing for anyone to ask permission before coming into someone else's property. And in some places, all it takes is a few moments with hat in hand, to gain access to wonderful hunting. But be prepared to accept a negative response as well. It happens for all of the reasons stated above.

But a big reason property owners don't want you on their land is simply because people have traditionally shown minimal respect for the property they hunt, and for the owners of that property. This is easily evidenced on public land, where you can identify a trailhead by the piles of garbage scattered around. It is almost always the same, too. There are cigarette butts, beer cans, empty shell casings, food wrappers, and ammo boxes. Mingled as well are "kleenex flowers", where some losers can't even be bothered to bury their own scat. I mean, jeez... even animals can cover their crap with a little dirt and leaves.

Once you leave the trailhead, you'll generally find scattered evidence on any ridgetop or water hole. Empty water bottles, more beer cans, wrappers, etc. mark the hunters' trails.

That kind of thing is bad enough on public land, but I'm sure that most reasonable folks can understand how it might be just the tiniest bit aggravating to a landowner. OK, not just a tiny bit aggravating. It pisses them off. And why not? How would you feel about someone dumping that stuff in your front yard?

Other signs of disrespect include shooting up the landscape, whether it's signs, old buildings, or even the trees. Livestock sometimes falls victim as well.

So I know most hunters will instantly exclaim about how they aren't the ones who do these things. But it's not important who is actually doing it. What's important is that it happens. And even more important is, what are we doing about it? How many of you have ever bothered to stop before departing and clean up the campsite or trailhead... Not just clean up your own mess, but pick up behind some less considerate individual?

I'm not saying anyone of us should be picking kleenex flowers that someone else left behind. That's a little extreme, not to mention potentially unhealthy. For all of my own efforts at going above and beyond in keeping the landscape clean, used toilet paper is outside of my scope. But it wouldn't hurt any of us to stoop over and collect a few empty cans, or some empty brass. A box of garbage bags fits nicely under the seat of most pickup trucks. Is it too much to ask?

A little evidence that we care can go a long way toward changing the negative attitudes that so many folks hold toward hunters.

This note is from the California DFG Hunting Regulations booklet. Take a really close look at the definition of "Tresspassing" (enclosed in the red box). This is the law of the land, and is similar in most states. Common sense is a great guide too, and it's better to err on the side of caution than on the side of law. In other words, if you're not sure, find out first. However, should you ever be in doubt, or confronted by a landowner, this definition is really good to know.

By Phillip Loughlin
Copyright 2002-2004 - Elwing Enterprises

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