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Trespass and Road Hunting

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November already, how did that happen so fast? I’ve been whining about the heat and looking forward to fall so much during summer that I failed to realize fall is here and we are quickly headed toward winter. The whitetail deer rut is here as well, and what a great time to be in the woods. A skiff of snow underfoot and the chance to glimpse a thick necked buck strut by your favorite hunting spot make it an exciting time of the year. November brings more deer hunters than any other time during the hunting season.  

During the heat of the whitetail deer season your local Conservation Officers receive hundreds of calls related to trespassing. This year I received a number of calls about trespassing in the general weapon season elk than I have in years past. I hope this is not a growing trend because it looks bad on hunters and it’s the reason we see more land posted for “No Trespassing.” Some hunters were flagrantly ignoring trespass signs so they could get a chance to hunt a critter they’ve seen on that property. We have millions of acres of public land; go find that on the map and hunt there and you won’t have a problem.

Here are a few reminders of Idaho’s trespass laws. If your land is not cultivated, you must post your land with signs or fluorescent orange paint. The paint or signs must be 100 square inches (10x10 square). The signs must be posted every 660 feet along the property boundary, and at any reasonable access points (trail, driveway, gate, etc.) If someone disregards the signs and enters your property they are in violation. Please call the Bonner County Sheriff’s office dispatch to report this immediately. They will dispatch your local Conservation Officer, or a sheriff’s deputy.  

Unfortunately, I see one too many folks this time of year who think hunting is done from a vehicle. It never fails to amaze me when I check a guy who’s wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, with a loaded rifle across his lap in the pickup. This is hunting? Not only is it unethical, illegal, and unsafe, but where is the fun in that? They always say, “Where are the deer and elk, I haven’t seen a critter in 40 miles?” And my typical response is, “In the woods, not on this road.”  

I was working a check station the other day and a hunter told me that he was limiting his usual “hunt” due to gas prices. Huh?? “What is your usual hunt?” I asked while I grimaced, knowing the response that was to come.  “Oh, well, I drive up Dry Creek and then down the divide road to Johnson Creek,” replied the “hunter.”  Good luck with that! What a waste of time and gas I thought. Get your butt out in those woods and hike a little. 

Now with that being said, the majority of hunters are doing the right thing and ground pounding the hills in search of their quarry. The above little rant was not aimed at those hunters. You’ll have to forgive me as I use this column to blow off steam from dealing with the frustrations from the minority of rotten hunters.

One of the ways Conservation Officers combat both trespass problems and hunting from a vehicle in areas is to deploy a decoy deer or elk, or what we call Artificial Simulated Animal (A.SA.). Wildlife decoys were first used by game wardens in Wisconsin in the 1940s, and they have been used by other wildlife agencies across North America ever since. They have been readily accepted by the courts as a legitimate tool for wildlife law enforcement officers. 

The use of decoys has many benefits, but most important is they reduce the number of live animals lost to poachers.  Additionally, the decoys bring the wildlife thieves to us rather than conservation officers using valuable resources to find violators across thousands of miles of landscape. The aim of decoys is to discourage shooting game animals before a season opens or after it is closed, after legal shooting hours, or on private property or other land closed to hunting, hunting with an artificial light, or shooting from or across a public road. If you’re not engaging in such activity you don’t have to worry about running into us or our decoys.

Happy Veterans Day to all our Vets out there, thank you for your service to our nation and the sacrifices you and your families have made. For those brave souls who never made it home to their loved ones, you are not forgotten. The Sandpoint District Conservation officers wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving as well. Remember to take the time to be thankful for the natural resources we have here. It’s all our jobs to take care of it responsibly. Please call your local Conservation Officer, Sheriff Dispatch or Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline at 800-632-5999 with any information to stop natural resource thieves.

Leave No Child Inside... and get them out of that vehicle to hunt!

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Author info

Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

Tagged as:

trespassing, The Game Trail, road hunting

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