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PRESERVE YOUR HUNTING HERITAGE: GET PERMISSION

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Trespassers bag nothing but stiff fines, damaged landowner-hunter relations

Firearm deer season is in full swing, and all hunters are reminded that it is illegal to hunt on private land without the owner's permission, posted or not. Whether a "hunter" actually enters private land without permission or shoots onto it from the road or another landowner's property without permission, it is illegal.

Firearms deer season can present the temptation to break the law, especially when a deer is spotted while driving country roads. But the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) reminds hunters that 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. In any situation, shooting from a vehicle is illegal unless legally hunting with a disability permit. Shooting from a road can also be extremely dangerous, threatening landowners, other hunters, livestock, and equipment.

"The state of Kansas convicted 153 poachers for trespassing in 2007," says Mark Rankin, KDWP Law Enforcement Division assistant director. "This problem drives a wedge between all hunters and landowners, often making it difficult for hunters who once easily obtained permission and have not broken the law."

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, contact a local natural resource officer or sheriff's office;
  • hunting from roads or railways without legal permission is a form of trespassing called criminal hunting;
  • conviction of trespass or criminal hunting may prevent the convicted person from enjoying hunting privileges in other states. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is a member of the Wildlife Violator Compact, to which 30 other states currently belong. Under this compact, anyone who has had hunting, fishing, or furharvesting privileges revoked or suspended in a member state cannot hunt, trap, or fish in other member states;
  • 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. 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;
  • criminal trespassing is when the violator does not leave property when told;
  • it is illegal to hunt on land requiring written permission without having written permission on one's person;
  • upon first conviction for any of these violations, the law allows 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.

Hunters can address this problem by always asking for permission courteously and accepting denial in the same manner. Hunters can also help by reporting trespassers. 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 2008 Kansas Hunting & Furharvesting Regulations Summary available wherever licenses are sold, or online.

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