Do you know what to do if you catch trespassers on your property?
Many of us have had the misfortune of dealing with trespassers on our hunting land. It’s inevitable. A growing population of hunters coupled with the increasing scarcity of available hunting land means modern day hunters have no choice but to live with the unfortunate reality of more and more trespassers on private land.
One of the most aggravating experiences a hunter will ever face is that of a perfect hunt ruined by a pushy trespasser. There is so much time and money invested in securing a great hunting lease or purchasing the right property that the idea of trespassers ruining the hunt becomes almost personal. Hunting is a sacred sport and one that involves a hunter and the nature that surrounds them. Introduce a trespasser into the mix and the entire dynamic is ruined.
Some of us do nothing, some of us report with vague details, and some of us try to take matters into our own hands. It is important to have a safe plan in mind for dealing with these criminals in less than ideal circumstances. Let’s face it; trespassers in a hunting environment are likely to be be armed, angry, scared, and potentially dangerous. Confronting them may be necessary, but it must be done in a safe way in order to prevent a frustrating situation from becoming a dangerous one.
First and foremost, if the time comes to confront a trespasser in your favorite hunting spot, stay calm. There is always a possibility the trespasser made an honest mistake and somehow ended up on the land by accident. While this rarely happens on clearly posted land, it is still possible. Before blowing your top and accusing the trespasser of invading your space, take a moment to remind yourself to keep a cool head.
An angry confrontation in a situation where weapons are present is never a good idea. If you calmly ask the trespasser why he or she is on your land rather than angrily accuse them of blatant trespassing right from the start, your calm tone may set the stage for a better interaction overall. Anger begets anger and it is imperative to keep that kind of emotion out of the conversation.
Remember Who You’re Dealing With
When dealing with a trespasser, often you are confronting a person who feels comfortable disregarding the law. There is a good chance they have been on your land before your encounter and an even better chance they will continue to trespass, if not on your land, then on someone else’s property.
Habitual trespassers are commonplace and most never get caught. However, once a trespasser is standing in front of you, there are two ways the conversation can go. Emotions and accusations can escalate into a violent confrontation or both parties can calmly communicate and figure out the next step. Habitual trespassers need to know they cannot continue to break the law and if they do, there will be consequences. However, this is a tricky conversation to have and one that needs to be done carefully.
Consider a Warning Rather than Prosecution
As the landowner or lease holder, it is up to you to decide if you want to pursue a trespassing charge. Before you involve the authorities, you must decide if that is the route you really want to go. Often a warning and threat of future legal action if the trespasser is caught on your land is enough to defuse the situation and deter future infractions.
Either way, whether you choose to pursue legal avenues or simply give a verbal warning, it is important to get that person’s information. Ask for their name and phone number. Don’t do it in an accusatory tone, but be firm. It will likely be met with hesitation, but you could mention that you’d call to let them know if the land gets opened up to more hunters in the future. If you choose to pursue a prosecution for trespassing, that information will be necessary. Even if you choose to allow the trespassers to walk away with just a warning, knowing their identity provides you with vital information for future reference.
How to Deal with the Threat of Violence
If you’ve done all you can to keep the situation calm and under control, but the trespasser is becoming angry and confrontational, it is time to change tactics. Most hunters carry a cell phone and when the situation begins to escalate, call the authorities. Make the call quickly, but never take your eyes off the trespasser while you are reaching for your phone or making the call.
Watch his hands and his weapon. Do not point your weapon at him, but never let him point his weapon at you either. This is the worst possible scenario for a hunter and if caught in this situation, let the trespasser walk away. Do not let a simple trespassing issue become something much worse. If he threatens you as you pull out your cell phone to call the authorities, put the phone away.
Let the trespasser walk away and call the authorities once he is gone. If you are unable to get his name, give the authorities his description and let them handle the situation from there. If at any time you feel threatened or sense the trespasser is becoming a threat, it is best to remain calm and let him leave. Never let the threat of violence become a reality.
In a world where hunting land is at a premium, trespassing is an inevitable side effect. While dealing with trespassers is unpleasant, it is often a necessary evil.
Having a plan in place to deal with trespasser confrontations is something every hunter should consider.
Remember, not all trespassers have ill intent but the ones who do have the potential to become dangerous. If forced to deal with a trespasser, calmly diffusing with the situation will get you a lot further than angry accusations and maybe quite a bit safer, as well.