You religiously refresh your mineral sites in the spring and summer, you clear debris and hang cameras all summer for this one moment. The deer have been using the mineral lick since early June and it is now time to see exactly what you have growing on your lease. You ease in to the camera site, retrieve the card and now sit nervously in the front seat of your truck waiting for your laptop to power on….you insert the card and see there are hundreds of pictures on it…you wade through the first few and see a couple of good bucks and then there… he… is…..the one that will keep you awake at night…. You have a !@#$%  TRESPASSER!!

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that infuriates a hunter more than an illegal trespasser destroying all the work you have put in over the last several months. These people don’t care about your work, the money you have spent or the effect they have on your life. They are simple criminals (in most cases) and should be dealt with appropriately. 

 It may surprise hunters to hear that the number one reason landowners lease their farms to hunters is to address a persistent trespassing problem. Landowners have reported that by leasing their property to hunters, the trespassing issues they were experiencing were all by eliminated. This can be attributed to several related factors, so let’s take a closer look at what you can do to help your landowner.

Establish a Presence. – Of course, the best way to deal with a trespassing problem is to prevent it from becoming a problem. The fact is that most trespassers are cowards. They take what they want, when they think there is little or no chance of being caught. They may travel past a farm every day and notice that no one lives there and that there is virtually never anyone around. When hunters lease a particular piece of ground, their same trucks are routinely seen parked along roads and in driveways. Trespassers that live or work nearby notice this. When they see the same group of hunters or notice a truck parked in the same spot, they are far more likely to avoid illegally entering a property. The fear and risk of being caught or even approached is simply too much for them.

Establishing a presence could also include knocking on a few doors in the area and introducing yourself to the neighbors. Make sure they know who you are, what vehicle you drive and that you are now leasing the “Smith” Farm.  Word travels fast and the locals will soon find out that the “Smith” Farm has been leased by serious hunters that are keeping a close eye on it.

You Can’t Post it Enough!– There are a handful of tried and true excuses trespassers make up when confronted. The most popular is a simple “I didn’t know it had been leased!”  Or “They sold it? Really?”

To avoid any confusion or misunderstanding, post your lease as much and as visibly as you possibly can. As a rule about every 50 yards or at every entry point is a good start. Place your signs high on trees or posts, at least 7 feet to avoid having them easily removed. There should be absolutely no question that someone has either leased or purchased a property and that there is to be NO TRESPASSING. You can even take it a step further and place signs on the interior of a lease. Maybe there is a creek crossing that has been used by a rogue ATV user…put a sign at eye level so the next time they come through they will know they have been noticed. 

If you are posting your lease in the winter or late fall, remember that spring time foliage is likely to block them from view, so take time to clear limbs away and make sure your sign will be seen from any angle.

PROSECUTE the first one you catch! – Let’s be honest, this isn’t always pretty or pleasant. But, the hard truth is someone is stealing what you have paid and worked for. The locals and the other trespassers (yes, they know each other) need to know from the beginning that you will not tolerate anyone illegally entering your property or hunting lease. The quickest and most effective way to deal with this is to simply get the law involved and prosecute the first trespasser you can identify. Like we mentioned earlier, these people are lazy and don’t want to be hassled. A trip to jail and a steep fine are more than enough of a hassle to make sure they don’t make a return trip to your place.

This can get a little tricky from state to state, so check your local laws. Some DNR Officers are slow to prosecute a trespasser on behalf someone that doesn’t own the land. However, a well written lease may include a clause that gives the licensee the right to prosecute.  This makes is very important to have a copy of your lease agreement with you. If your lease does not include such a clause, it is very important to have a discussion with your landowner and make sure they are willing to prosecute on your behalf if a trespasser decides to show up uninvited.

One common mistake made by hunters that discover a trespasser is to let your emotions take over. As hard as it is at times, avoid the temptation to confront them angrily for two reasons. Once you tip them off that they have been caught, you are giving them time to come up with some lame story for the police or they may just pick up and run. The real reason to use good judgement and common sense is for your own safety. As we mentioned earlier, trespassers are simple criminals. The last thing you want to do, is make a criminal feel like they are backed into a corner. You just don’t know how they will react.

Take a minute or two to breathe and think about your next step. Nothing is worth getting hurt over or worse, when a quick call to your local conservation officer or sheriff will do the trick. After all, that is what they are paid to do and are usually happy to help.

Top 5 Excuses Trespassers Try to Use.

1. Its ok. We are tracking a deer. (Show me blood or some evidence or we have a problem!)

2. My uncle works with a guy that knows the owner. He said it was ok. (Call your uncle for bail money!)

3. I thought I was still on the other property. I must have gotten turned around. (A compass, an iPhone, a GPS or a map. pick one on your way out)

4. What’s a lease? I have $50, I might lease it next year. (Good Luck)

5. Mr. Jones has been letting me hunt here for 30 years!  (Mr. Jones died 23 years ago. You’ve been trespassing since then. Congrats.)