DNR deals with increased trespassing during hunting season

OSCEOLA COUNTY — As hunters enter the woods in hopes of bagging the biggest buck this season, their quest can sometimes cross the line — property lines to be specific.

With bow season in full swing and firearm season around the corner, this is one of the busiest times of the year for the Department of Natural Resources when it comes to trespassing complaints, explained Sgt. Mike Bomay, area law supervisor with the DNR’s law enforcement division.

According to Bomay, trespassing complaints begin coming in even before the season starts.

“People start coming to us in September,” Bomay said. “Often hunters are out scouting their property and will see stands and blinds put up that don’t belong to them.”

This type of trespassing, known as recreational trespassing, is a 30-day misdemeanor with fines of up to $500.

People sometimes will take advantage of using property for hunting if it’s not properly fenced in or posted with “no trespassing” warnings, Bomay said.

“In order for us to enforce the law, landowners are required to fence in or post warnings to their property, except farm land,” Bomay explained. “Most people post very well if they don’t want people on their land or have had issues in the past.”

If there is a complaint, the DNR is typically contacted by the landowner or someone who has permission to hunt on the property. From there, the DNR will investigate the issue and hopefully catch the perpetrator in the act of trespassing, Bomay said.

In his experience, Bomay sees a lot of trespassing issues arise when hunters who use private property don’t check back in with the owners.

“People who have an agreement to hunt on private property should freshen that arrangement on a yearly basis,” he said. “Many times we catch a trespasser who says, ‘I’ve been hunting here 10 years,’ but it turns out the property changed hands five years ago and all this time they’ve been illegally hunting.”

It’s also a good idea to verbally check in with the property owners in case they simply no longer want anyone else hunting there, Bomay continued.

Utilizing state land for hunting is always an option and it will be clearly marked.

“State land is always posted as open and the wildlife division of the DNR does an excellent job posting so everyone is aware,” Bomay said. “Even when state land abuts up against private property, there should be no confusion where the line is for state property.”

To report a recreational trespassing complaint, Sgt. Mike Bomay, area law supervisor with the DNR’s law enforcement division, recommends calling the 24-hour dispatch center for the DNR at 1 (800) 292-7800. If someone does not answer, leave a message with a name, number and the county where the trespassing is occurring. The closest DNR office will be contacted to deal with the issue.