Many of today's hunting landowners invest significant time, money, and energy to improve their land in order to attract, hold, and grow wildlife. The few guests and family allowed on the property typically have to abide by harvest rules that far exceed the current hunting regulations. And, of course, the perimeter of their property is clearly posted. Still, trespassers with the intent to harvest animals can occasionally be found on trail cameras and by the footprints they leave on trails.
During the 2014 regular season, a neighbor hunting my brother's Allegany County hunting land with permission noticed drag marks on one of the property's snow covered trails. He followed the bloody drag marks right to another neighbor's driveway, then reported it to my brother. Mike raced to his property as soon as he could and a confrontation ensued with the poacher-neighbor. Unfortunately, the drag marks had melted away and the deer was gone, so he felt that he had little to report to a game warden. The poacher got away with a warning and the neighbor who had permission was given the authority to act immediately on Mike's behalf in the future, reporting all trespassers to the authorities.
Trespassers take what another has worked for regardless of posted signs, hunting regulations, laws, and simple common decency. They have been known to kill animals at all hours of the day and night, often with the help of buddies. They have been known to engage in risky drives, low percentage shots, and even kill trophy deer in order to take the head and leave the body to rot. Their activities are not only illegal, they are unethical and dangerous. Confronting a trespasser has to be done carefully.
Craig and Neil Dougherty, long time advocates of Quality Deer Management (QDM), wrote some solid advice in their book Grow ‘Em Right - A guide to creating habitat and food plots. “When dealing with trespassers, firmly but politely ask for identification. Write down the pertinent information, as well as the description of the trespasser. Then ask them to leave your property. Avoid confrontation at all costs. Leave that to the law.” They also recommended, “If you're uncomfortable encountering trespassers, hire someone to do it for you."
The point is, trespassers must be stopped. And, when a trespasser is more than just a wayward hunter who made a mistake or a wrong turn, they must be prosecuted whenever possible. Just approach them carefully, with a cool head, and be firm.