Sunday, December 04, 2016

Respect Private Land

© Othmar Vohringer

To respect private land is part of the hunter ethics creed, but not everybody adheres to it. In conversations with landowners I hear complaints all the time. This is not good because the negative impressions some hunters create will ultimately affect all hunters equally.

At the top of the list of the most common complaints I hear is trespassing without obtaining permission first. According to the “British Columbia Trespass Act” it is an offence to trespass onto land to which you have no permission. This could lead to prosecution, fines and paying of damages if any occurred.

Hunters shooting game on private land from the road is another. Under the Wildlife Act a hunter commits a criminal offense if shooting a firearm from a road and shooting a wild game animal on private land, even if it is during a legal season. This is regarded by the law as an act of poaching. A hunter shooting from a road at game on private land to which he has no permission is a double offense case that will lead to prosecution and a trial in court. Sentences for this multiple offense are the loss of hunting privileges of one or more years plus confiscation of firearms and heavy fines, or even jail time.

Even when landowners grant permission to trespass on their lands it leads to complaints about some individuals. On top of the list is property damage. Such damages include driving vehicles across hay and crop fields, cutting fences, cutting down trees for firewood, shooting at signs and discharging firearms to close to buildings and erecting permanent treestands. Another complaint is that hunters having permission invite family members or friends onto the property. Getting permission to hunt on private land is not a free pass to do whatever you want and, unless negotiated otherwise, only you have permission, not your family and friends. Every landowner has his own set of rules and stipulations that an ethical hunter will obey. As a hunter on private land you’re only a guest, a privilege that can be revoked at any time without having to give a reason, don’t make it a bad reason that will affect others too.

This list is followed by complaints that hunters disregard the conditions the landowner provides with the permission to trespass. Things like not leaving gates the way you found them (open or closed), leaving campfires unattended and leaving bags of garbage behind. In one case a landowner told me of three hunters he gave permission to hunt on his land with the stipulation that a certain easily recognizable buck is off limits to the hunters. The disappointment and understandable anger of the landowner was big when one day he saw the hunters driving past his house with that very buck in the back of the truck. While wildlife belongs to all people, and in this case the hunters acted in a perfectly legal manner by taking that buck, they clearly violated the trust and a promise they made as part of getting permission to step onto private land. The result of this breach of trust and promise resulted in an action from the landowner under which now all hunters have to suffer in that he refuses permission to every hunter. “Burned child fears the fire” comes readily to mind here.

Wildlife management is very important, especially on private land where wildlife often causes damage to crops. Hunters could be a great asset for landowners in controlling wildlife populations and the damage they create. Yet it only takes a few irresponsible hunters to put all hunters into a bad light. Hunting on private land is not a right, it is a privilege based on mutual respect, trust and common-sense manners. As a hunter on private land you’re invited as a guest. That means not only do you have to respect the law but also the conditions the landowner attaches to this privilege. You wouldn’t like it if someone trespasses on your land without permission, neither would you appreciate a guest that takes advantage of you and does whatever he likes. That brings another saying to mind; “Don’t do unto others that you don’t want others to do unto you”. It’s simple really. Show some respect for landowners and the law and we all will be better off for it.

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