Sportsmen can help themselves by the knowing harassment law

Madison – During the 2009 gun deer season, conservation wardens
investigated and issued citations for 15 hunter harassment cases,
something DNR Chief Warden Randy Stark termed a “notable increase
in hunter harassment complaints.”

In 2008, wardens issued four citations for harassment.

The hunting harassment law protects legal hunters from being
harassed. Most hunters might assume this is often from
anti-hunters, but that’s usually not the case.

Instead, most harassment comes from non-hunters and rural
residents, and increasingly from other hunters who are hunting in
the same area.

One of the 2009 cases was investigated by Conservation Warden
Joe Paul, of Lakewood. One group that had hunted an area for many
years got upset when another group moved into “their” area on
public land. On national forest lands, treestands may be left up
overnight until the end of the season, but the hunters who believed
it was their area took down the new stands and left them on the
ground.

They also destroyed a ground blind that was built by a
first-time adult hunter, and left notes near the stands warning the
hunters to leave the area.

The harassed hunters didn’t leave and were confronted by the
original group, who said that if the new hunters were there on
opening morning, they would play loud music.

One of the harassed hunters got a license plate number. Paul
went to a residence where he was met by a mob of angry hunters who
eventually admitted their wrongdoing. Paul wrote a citation. One of
the harassing hunters paid $343.50.

In another instance, two goose hunters had permission to hunt a
field, but a nearby homeowner didn’t want them there. The man
confronted the hunters. When the hunters didn’t leave, the man
called in a false report to the DNR hotline.

Paul worked that case, too, and wrote the homeowner a harassment
citation. The man lost in court and paid the $343.50 fine.

“Sometimes it’s hunter-on-hunter over who has the right to hunt
an area. Other times it’s hunting close to populated areas,” Paul
said. “We also see problems up north with people pouring fuel oil
on bear baits to (keep) bears … away or to seek other baits.”

Paul said that if people have a problem they should report it to
a warden or sheriff’s department, or call the hotline.

“It helps to get any little bit of evidence, such as license
plates of cars parked in the area, copies of notes left by people,
or anything like that, but it is also worthwhile to avoid a
confrontation,” he said.

Shawano County warden Mark Schraufnagel had a case last fall on
the Navarino State Wildlife Area.

A landowner bought 4 acres next to Navarino and built a house on
it. There is a small strip of state land that allows people access
to thousands of acres of wildlife area.

Two coyote hunters were using calls on the state land when the
landowner drove a snowmobile over state land and confronted the
hunters.

“The person made a comment that when they leave they may not be
able to drive their vehicles away, and when they came out he again
confronted them and again threatened damage to their vehicles,”
Schraufnagel said.

Schraufnagel got a hotline call, investigated the case, and
issued one citation for running a snowmobile on state land and one
citation for harassment. The defendant, who may have wanted to
“save” the state land for his own hunting, paid $175 for the
snowmobile fine and 343.50 for hunter harassment.

“We are seeing more hunter-against-hunter harassment issues,
especially for prime spots,” Schraufnagel said. “I also see where
someone buys land adjacent to state property and they want everyone
else to stay away. As more and more properties are broken up and
more houses are being built around state lands, we will see more
conflict.”

Stark said the hunter harassment law (state statute 29.083) is
formally titled “Interference with Hunting, Fishing and
Trapping.”

“We call it the hunter harassment law, but it makes it illegal
for someone to interfere with somebody who is lawfully hunting,
fishing, or trapping, with the intent to take a wild animal,” Stark
said. The law covers lawful activities and would not cover unlawful
activities such as someone interfering with shining deer where
shining was illegal.”

The law makes five specific behaviors illegal:

1. Harassing any wild animal or engaging in an activity that
tends to harass wild animals. This would cover someone trying to
scare away game.

2. Impeding or obstructing a person who is engaged in lawful
hunting, fishing or trapping. This could include trying to get in
the way of a sportsman.

3. Impeding or obstructing a person who is engaged in a lawful
activity.

4. Disturbing the property of a person engaged in one of the
activities (slashing vehicle tires).

5. Disturbing lawfully placed hunting blinds or treestands.

“The law makes it illegal to do these things, and if … officers
become aware from personal observation or facts gathered that prove
it is true, they can order someone not to engage in that behavior,”
Stark said.

It is a violation if the harassing person knowingly fails to
obey that order.

Sportsmen have to be aware that the law specifically provides a
defense from prosecution – the right to free speech. The
application of the law is limited to physical interference, Stark
said, so that it does not infringe on a person’s right to freedom
of speech.

This means that if someone shouts at a hunter or trapper, that
probably would not fall under the law.

Anyone subjected to harassment should contact a local
conservation warden or call 800-TIP WDNR or (800) 847-9367.

Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part series.

Categories: News Archive

One Comment

Rob Lathrop

My wife and I are bow hunters. We manage a small piece of land to have hunting previtages. We often see dog walkers during last lite when the deer move. We have seen dogs with radio collars run thru the property to drive the deer off of it. This only happens when they see our vehical. Our local DEC and sheriff department do not have any helpful recourse. CAN U HELP
We spend lots of time and money . We have rights to the game too.

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