VOHRINGER: Hunters must respect private land

By on November 29, 2016
Othmar Vohringer lives in the Nicola Valley. He is an animal behaviourist and outdoor writer for hunting magazines in Canada and the U.S.

To respect private land is part of the hunter ethics creed, but not everybody adheres to it. In conversations with landowners I hear complaints all the time. This is not good because the negative impressions some hunters create will ultimately affect all hunters equally.

At the top of the list of the most common complaints I hear is trespassing without obtaining permission first. According to the British Columbia Trespass Act, it is an offence to trespass onto land to which you have no permission. This could lead to prosecution, fines and paying of damages if any occurred.

Hunters shooting game on private land from the road is another complaint I hear frequently. Under the Wildlife Act, a hunter commits a criminal offence if shooting a firearm from a road at a wild game animal on private land, even if it is during a legal season. This is regarded by the law as an act of poaching.

A hunter shooting from a road at game on private land to which he has no permission is a double offence, which could lead to prosecution and a trial in court. Sentences could range from the loss of hunting privileges for one or more years plus confiscation of firearms and heavy fines, or even jail time.

Even when landowners grant permission to trespass on their lands it leads to complaints about some individuals. On top of the list is property damage. Such damages include driving vehicles across hay and crop fields, cutting fences, cutting down trees for firewood, shooting at signs and discharging firearms to close to buildings and erecting permanent tree stands.

Another complaint regards hunters having permission to invite family members or friends onto the property. Getting permission to hunt on private land is not a free pass to do whatever you want and, unless negotiated otherwise, only you have permission to be on the land, not your family and friends. Every landowner has his own set of rules and stipulations that an ethical hunter will obey. As a hunter on private land you’re only a guest, a privilege that can be revoked at any time without having to give a reason.     

This list is followed by complaints that hunters disregard the conditions the landowner provides with the permission to trespass. Things like not leaving gates the way you found them (open or closed), leaving campfires unattended and leaving bags of garbage behind. In one case a landowner told me of three hunters he gave permission to hunt on his land with the stipulation that a certain easily recognizable buck is off limits to the hunters. The landowner was understandably disappointed and angry when he saw the hunters driving past his house with that very buck in the back of the truck.

While wildlife belongs to all people, and in this case the hunters acted in a perfectly legal manner by taking that buck, they clearly violated the trust and a promise they made as part of getting permission to step onto private land. The result of this breach of trust and promise resulted in an action from the landowner under which now all hunters have to suffer in that he refuses permission to every hunter. “Burned child fears the fire” comes readily to mind here.

Wildlife management is very important, especially on private land where wildlife often causes damage to crops. Hunters could be a great asset for landowners in controlling wildlife populations and the damage they create. Yet it only takes a few irresponsible hunters to put all hunters into a bad light. Hunting on private land is not a right, it is a privilege based on mutual respect, trust and common-sense manners. As a hunter on private land you’re invited as a guest. That means not only do you have to respect the law but also the conditions the landowner attaches to this privilege. You wouldn’t like it if someone trespasses on your land without permission, neither would you appreciate a guest that takes advantage of you and does whatever he likes. That brings another saying to mind; “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.”

It’s simple really. Show some respect for landowners and the law and we all will be better off for it.

Othmar Vohringer lives in the Nicola Valley. He is an animal behaviourist and outdoor writer for hunting magazines in Canada and the U.S.


  1. Michael Beauclair

    November 30, 2016 at 10:26 am

    I totally agree Othmar, Great to see another Conservative member standing up for the rights of Private Property Owners in the Nicola Valley and British Columbia.

    “Socialism, reduced to its simplest legal and practical expression, means the complete discarding of the institution of private property by transforming it into public property, and the division of the resultant public income equally and indiscriminately among the entire population.” George Bernard Shaw

    The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property. Karl Marx

  2. Carol

    December 4, 2016 at 11:57 am

    This article is pretty funny and ironic coming from you considering quite a few of your fellow members from the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club that you are also a member off got charged for deliberately trespassing on Douglas Lake Ranch which is in fact private property in protest of the now gated access to Minnie and Stoney lakes by climbing the fences to gain their access and ignoring all the “No Trespassing” signs that were posted everywhere. The police were called and all the trespassers were charged with trespassing. Your game club was trying to raise money via donations to fight Douglas Lake Ranch in court to grant access once again. Seriously. How can a small game club raise enough money to take on a billionaire giant such as DLR? The truth of the matter is that the money wasn’t being raised to fight DLR over access rights in a court of law. It was going towards the legal defense fund to hire lawyers to represent those game club members and their trespassing charges. Merritt boasts a record amount of lakes in the area but yet they raise a huge stink about only 2 of these lakes which i find amusing because nobody even cared about these 2 lakes until the gates finally got locked up. The only people stocking those 2 lakes and maintaining the roads in there was DLR themselves. Might help to think before you write next time. Readers can copy/paste this link to the CBC news article if they think i am making this up. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/corbett-lake-trespassing-charges-1.3366850

  3. Othmar

    December 5, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    @ Carol. The charges you speak of against individual members of the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club have all been tossed out by the courts. The issue with the two lakes you mention in not that they are on private property but more to the point that public access to those lakes are illegally blocked by DLR. From what I learned there seems to be plenty government and highway department evidence that this is true. It is now up to the courts to sift through that evidence the club has provided and make a decision. Unfortunately, there are as many private land owners who illegally block public access to Crown lands and waters beyond their properties as there are individuals who illegally trespass onto private land.
    My column was about persons illegally trespassing onto private land or abusing the privileges of access permission. I would like to write a column about the topic you touched on but will wait until a court decision has been reached in this case. BTW you’re wrong about how donations have been spent. All donations for the clubs legal fund are used toward the cases legal fees, not as you insinuate to pay legal fees for individual members.

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