With fall in full force, many hunters are going afield in pursuit of their favorite game. Landowners and hunters alike need to remember what is required by law to retrieve any downed game along with trespass laws.
First and foremost, hunters are required to know at all times where they are, including property boundaries even if there are no signs or fences indicating property boundaries. Hunters are required by law to make every reasonable effort to retrieve all downed game. If the downed game crossed property boundaries, hunters must first receive permission from the landowner to enter the property. This includes the hunter's dog. If the landowner does not give the hunter permission to enter their land and retrieve the game, the hunter made every reasonable effort to retrieve the downed game by asking the landowner for permission. There is nothing else a hunter can do to attempt or retrieve the downed game. The hunter is not in violation for failing to retrieve the game if they ask for permission and are denied.
Landowners are not required to post their property with "no trespassing," "no hunting" or other types of sign in order for trespassing violations to be enforced. Remember, the hunter is required to know where they are at all times. Posting signs are obviously a great tool for both the landowners and hunters to know where property boundaries are, but signs are not required. If there are signs, prosecution is much easier for trespassing violations.
If a landowner does not give permission for a hunter to retrieve the game, the landowner does not have the right to retrieve a hunter's downed game and use it for personal use (eat it). The landowner did not legally harvest that game and they cannot possess it legally. The legal title to all wild game belongs to the state of Wisconsin, not an individual or property owner even on private property. Therefore, the game will feed "Mother Nature" and not be consumed by people.
Hunting trespass violations are handled by the St. Croix County Sheriff's Department when occurring outside of cities or villages. DNR conservation wardens can help assist in hunting trespass violations as there are often other violations wardens will need to investigate.
If landowners observe trespass violations, they should not approach those people due to potential verbal or physical confrontations. Instead, landowners should attempt, if they feel comfortable, to obtain information from a distance such as descriptions of people and/or vehicles, license plates or backtag numbers of hunters.
For any questions or to report a violation, call Conservation Warden Paul Sickman at 715-684-2914 ext. 120.