Trespassing Hurts Hunters

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In Kansas, it is illegal to hunt, fish, shoot, or trap on private land without the owner's permission. Hunting from public roads and railroads requires permission of landowners on both sides of the road or railway. Railroad rights-of-way also 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 having trees or fence posts painted purple.

The state of Kansas convicted 91 poachers for trespassing while hunting in 2004. This problem drives a wedge between hunters and landowners, often making it difficult for hunters who once easily obtained permission. Sometimes, trespassing is accidental, but in many cases it is intentional. 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 to get permission, contact a local natural resource officer or sheriff's office;

* it is both trespassing and dangerous to mount blinds or treestands on power poles, whether they appear abandoned or not;

* trespassing to hunt, fish, or trap from roads or railways without legal permission is criminal hunting;

* conviction of trespass or criminal hunting, trapping, or fishing may prevent the convicted person from enjoying these privileges in other states. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is a member of the Wildlife Violator Compact, to which 20 other states currently belong. Under this compact, anyone who has had hunting, fishing, or furharvesting privileges revoked or suspended cannot hunt, trap, or fish in other member states;

* not only is trespassing illegal and unethical, it can also be costly to the violator. 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, at the discretion of the court. Additionally, the court can suspend or revoke license privileges for up to a year. A second conviction requires at least 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;

* intentional criminal hunting is when the violator does not leave the property when told to or illegally hunts on land requiring written permission. Upon first conviction for this violation, the law requires the revocation of license privileges for a minimum of six months, to which can be added a fine of up to $1,000 plus court costs and up to six months in jail, or both;

* 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. It is the responsibility of the hunter to get permission to hunt before entering any privately-owned land.

Hunting is a great tradition in Kansas, one that can combine the values of hard work and respect for natural resources with the camradarie of time spent afield with family and friends. It is also a significant economic benefit to local communities throughout the state. However, when a minority choose to violate the property rights of landowners, the image of all hunters suffers.

Hunters can address this problem by always asking for permission courteously, and accepting denial in the same manner. Hunters can also help by turning in anyone they see trespassing. 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. A list of phone numbers for all county natural resource officers can be found in the 2005 Kansas Hunting & Furharvesting Regulations Summary available wherever licenses are sold.