WHETHER POSTED OR NOT, PRIVATE LAND REQUIRES PERMISSION TO HUNT
Trespassers face stiff penalties, damage landowner-hunter relations
PRATT — With the firearm deer season in full swing as of Dec. 1 — and other seasons ongoing — the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) reminds all hunters that it is illegal to hunt on private land, posted or not, without the owner's permission. Whether someone actually enters private land without permission or shoots onto it from the road or another landowner's property without permission, it is illegal.
Geese pouring into corn stubble or deer standing in an open field can be temptations to break the law, especially when hunters are driving country roads. Such temptations should be resisted; not only is trespassing illegal, but hunting from public roads requires permission of landowner adjoining the side of the road being hunted, the center of the road defining who must grant permission. Railroad rights-of-way require permission from the railroad. In addition, written permission is required to enter land posted with hunting and/or trapping "By Written Permission Only" signs or bordered by trees or fence posts painted purple.
In any situation, shooting from a vehicle is illegal unless legally hunting with a disability permit on land where permission has been granted. Shooting from a road is also extremely dangerous, threatening landowners, other hunters, livestock, and equipment.
According to KDWP’s Law Enforcement Division, Kansas convicted 210 poachers for trespassing-related violations in 2009. "This problem drives a wedge between all hunters and landowners, often making it difficult for hunters who once easily obtained permission and have not broken the law," said Mark Rankin, Law Enforcement Division assistant director.
Whether trespassing is accidental or intentional, it damages the hunting heritage. Because trespassing harms landowner-hunter relations — and because the penalties for trespassing can be severe — hunters should be aware of the following trespass issues:
- landowner permission should be obtained before pursuing wounded game onto private property. If the landowner cannot be found, contact a local natural resource officer or sheriff's office;
- hunting from roads or railways without legal permission is a form of trespassing called criminal hunting;
- conviction of trespass or criminal hunting may prevent the convicted person from enjoying hunting privileges in other states. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is a member of the Wildlife Violator Compact, to which 34 other states currently belong. Under this compact, anyone who has had hunting, fishing, or furharvesting privileges revoked or suspended in a member state cannot hunt, trap, or fish in other member states;
- conviction of simple criminal hunting can result in a maximum fine of $500, plus court costs, and one month in jail on the first conviction. Additionally, the court can suspend or revoke license privileges for up to a year. A second conviction requires at least a one-year suspension of privileges in addition to any fines or jail time;
- if big game or turkey hunting is involved, the penalties get stiffer. Upon first conviction, the law states that the violator "shall not be fined less than $500 nor more than $1,000 or be imprisoned in the county jail for not more than six months, or both." The law requires fifth and subsequent conviction penalties of a minimum $1,000 fine and minimum 90 days in jail;
- criminal trespassing is when the violator does not leave property when told;
- it is illegal to hunt on land requiring written permission without having written permission on one's person;
- in any of these cases, hunting privileges may also be revoked; and
- by law, all hunters must have permission whether the land is posted or not.
Hunters can address this problem by always asking for permission courteously and accepting denial in the same manner. Hunters can also help by reporting trespassers. Take down the license tag number and all other details of the violation before phoning a local natural resource officer, sheriff's office, or KDWP's Operation Game Thief toll-free hotline, 1-877-426-3843. (Do not confront the violator.) A list of phone numbers for all natural resource officers, listed by counties they cover, can be found in the 2010 Kansas Hunting & Furharvesting Regulations Summary available wherever licenses are sold, or online at www.kdwp.state.ks.us.