LAPEER COUNTY — With hunting season comes the reports of hunter harassment. That comes in the form of unwanted harassment from those who do not support Michigan’s right to hunt laws and also from other hunters. In our County Press Blotter last week, we detailed how a hunter was assaulted by other hunters, his gun was taken and aimed at him. All because of a dispute over hunters’ rights to public land locations.
Every year hunting blinds, tree stands and equipment are stolen and numerous encounters with hunters take place. Other encounters include private landowners not wanting to give permission to public land hunters pursuing their game. That’s their right, and, it’s every hunter’s right to enjoy their sport free from what the state Dept. of Natural Resources deems “unreasonable and deliberate interference from those opposed to hunting as a legitimate use of public land and other natural resources.”
The DNR law enforcement division stresses that Michigan law prohibits individuals from obstructing or interfering with the lawful taking of animals. The DNR also supports hunting as a legitimate form of recreation and as a useful tool in the management of the wildlife resource. It’s Michigan conservation officers are committed to protecting hunters from the intentional disruption of the hunting experience.
In many instances, nuisance harassment takes place where people intentionally block access to public and private lands with vehicles, or they walk deliberately in the fields and woods with orange flags banging pots and pans or blowing horns and noisemakers to scare the wild animals away from the hunters. That’s also hunter harassment and should be reported.
Law enforcement and conservation officers encourage anyone experiencing harassment to report the violation to the DNR’s toll free complaint line at 1-800-292-7800, a local conservation officerm or the nearest DNR office facility.
It’s noteworthy that hunter harassment is a misdemeanor offense in Michigan and other states. Law enforcement officers can legally issue a citation for violations which take place in their presence, or may arrest with a warrant obtained on information provided by the harassed hunter.
“Acting in cooperation with each other, the hunter and the conservation officer can be an effective team in ensuring the full protection of Michigan’s hunters,” the DNR said in a press release.
In order for an enforcement effort to be effective, officials noted that the hunter should be prepared, pay attention to details, contact a law enforcement officer and most important, be willing to take the issue to court and provide credible testimony in any court proceedings.
Hunters should note the following points: who, what, where, when, and how when reporting any physical or other deliberate hunter anti-hunter confrontation. The hunter should not, under any circumstances, become involved in a physical confrontation with any individual. Hunters are instead encouraged to inform the harasser of their feelings and request the harassment to stop.
If not, the following are key pieces of information the state says are helpful in prosecuting the harasser:
Time of day and date; nature of the encounter whether verbal or physical, physical description of the harasser including height, weight, eye, hair color, vehicle description and license number, location of harassment and when/if it stopped, and most importantly, witness or bystanders names and contact information.
“The burden of proof in any criminal prosecution is on the accuser. To successfully prosecute any person for harassment of another, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the person intentionally or knowingly committed the violation,” state officials said.
Hunters also are encouraged to watch out for poaching and to report those incidences to the state’s Report All Poaching (RAP) Hotline, 24/7 at: 800-292-7800, or contact the the nearest DNR Operations Service Center, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“It is important that any person who is harassed maintain his or her composure and remember all significant details of the incident,” the DNR added.