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Thoughts on Property Lines and Hunting Etiquette

When hunting etiquette comes into question, it’s always good to play it safe.

It’s a situation many of us have found ourselves in over the years: We have permission to hunt a sizable slab of land, but none of the properties around it.

One day, we happen to see a monster buck just on the other side of the property line. Technically, we’re not allowed to hunt it because it isn’t on the property we’ve been given permission to hunt. But man, it’s one of the biggest bucks we’ve ever seen, and no one would know if we just took the shot and then quickly dragged the buck onto the right side of the property line. After all, what a neighboring landowner doesn’t know won’t hurt them, right?

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Interestingly enough, there is quite a bit of gray area when it comes to property line disputes. If you own a slab of land, you probably don’t want your neighbors shooting across the property line and taking a buck that is on your property. Theoretically, since the deer is on your property, it is yours to hunt and kill, and you obviously don’t want other hunters ruining your chances or killing your deer if that’s what you’re after.

On the other hand, deer don’t care at all about property lines. They wander freely from one slab of land to another, and a buck who is on your land today might be on your neighbor’s the next. Make no mistake: a deer doesn’t belong to any one hunter or landowner until someone puts a bullet or an arrow in it.

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With that in mind, shooting across the line – especially if it’s just a matter of 10 yards or so – should be no big deal, right? If you are there and your gun is loaded, you should be able to take advantage of the situation and kill the deer. An imaginary boundary should have no bearing on the situation.

Ironically, some hunters who own land tend to flit back and forth between these two viewpoints depending on which one benefits them in the moment. And while they will often try to tell you that the “gray area” inherent in property line disputes is the reason for their flip-flopping viewpoints, that’s hogwash.

Property lines are about as black and white as you can get: everything on your side of the line belongs to you; everything on the other side belongs to the neighbor. The only “gray area” in regards to hunting would be if a deer was perfectly straddling the property line when you shot it.

So what’s the ultimate rule for shooting deer on the other side of the property line? Simply put, if you do not have permission to hunt on the neighboring property, you can’t take the shot. True, the deer isn’t far, and you could probably shoot it, drop it, and haul it over to your side without anyone being any wiser. You would have to trespass to do so, and if you were caught – or worse, if your shot went astray and struck someone or something on the property – you could find yourself in a lot of trouble.

But even if you get away with it, you’re breaching the unspoken rules of hunting etiquette, and you can expect karma to bring that kind of grievance back to you somewhere down the road.

So hunt your side and mind the line: you might lose a deer or two because of it, but you might be able to respect yourself as a hunter a little better.

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Thoughts on Property Lines and Hunting Etiquette