Dec 06, 2011 Amanda Wada Uncategorized
According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, Hunters have a right to enter land that is “unimproved, apparently unused and unfenced (or not otherwise enclosed to exclude intruders).” This can pose a problem for property owners who do not want hunters trespassing on their land.
“You have to spend a lot of time and money posting your property,” said David MacKaig, a landowner in Elbridge.
“People who want to control access to their property without personally seeing everyone who enters may post signs warning people to keep out. This may be done with simple “Keep Out” signs under the Penal Law, but for rural properties with many possible points of entry, a few signs may not be effective. Where activities such as hunting, fishing and trapping are concerned, the Environmental Conservation Law provides more specific guidelines which make posting more effective.”
“At least one sign must be set on each side of the protected area and on each side of all corners that can be reasonably identified. Signs shall be no more than 660 feet apart, close to or along the boundaries of the protected area. Since the signs must be conspicuous, they should be high enough, and spaced closely enough to be seen. Please don’t turn your property into an eyesore by using more signs than are necessary.”
Like many landowners, MacKaig posts his property to keep hunters off his land. Posted signs on the corners and obvious access points of the property generally get the point across, said MacKaig, but in some instances disagreements about the rules can lead to awkward conversations.
“Our property has a railroad right-of-way that goes right through the center of it,” he said. “A high percentage of people think that that’s public access, and it isn’t. It causes us almost embarrassing situations where people are trespassing and they don’t realize it.”
Other awkward situations arise when hunters are unaware of property lines. When landowners do not post their property, hunters may not realize they have crossed from land that they have permission to hunt on to another owner’s property where they are trespassing.
MacKaig is a recreational hunter but, with only one exception, does not allow hunting on his property. He said he hunts his land “only with a camera.”
“Right now hunting season is open and we’ll have a dozen deer that come next to the house for safety, and we enjoy that. They still get thinned out as they cross the line, but in essence I don’t hunt my own property just because I know them all personally. But I am a hunter and I used to hunt everywhere around here. But as my testosterone levels drop, I kill less and take more pictures.”
MacKaig and his wife, MaryLou, enjoy exploring their property with their grandchildren, and want to preserved their land for wildlife.
MacKaig travels to Montana for game, where he hunts deer and elk. He said the wildlife in Montana is in greater need of harvest than in upstate New York, where “nothing starves to death in the winter. They’re all harvested by hunters or Fords or Chevys.”
Deer aren’t the only wildlife they enjoy.
“We had beaver down there, really enjoyed watching him, and someone snuck in and killed him last year. That really changed the eco-system and ruined it.” Before the beaver was killed, MacKaig and his family took daily walks to the beaver dam, enjoying the wildlife that had sprung up as a result of his work. “The beaver have backed up acres of water and we had wood ducks and mallards and muskrats and mink. When they’re killed, it just turns back into a trout stream.”
MacKaig isn’t just looking out for wildlife with his decision to post his land, he’s also mindful of safety. “This is our recreation area,” MacKaig said, “and I don’t want someone in there I don’t know with guns.”
“A hunter should know exactly where they are,” he said. “But there’s so many houses now tucked back in off the road and through thick stuff that they can end up shooting directly towards someone’s house without knowing where they are.”
DEC hunting regulations do not allow the discharge of a firearm within 500 ft. of a dwelling, but in the MacKaig’s case, hills and heavy forest make their property difficult to see in some places.
“A bullet goes a mile,” said MacKaig. “That’s 600 foot,” pointing to a hedgerow behind his house, “but a bullet could go from there right into our house with no problem.”