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CASH Courier > 2006 Fall Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier

ARTICLE from the Fall 2006 Issue

Hunters Harass & Threaten Property Owners, and Vandalize Property!
Law Enforcement Backs Them Up!!

By Jan Haagensen, Esq.

My family and I were subjected to years of harassment and criminal assault by local hunters. Persistent trespassers tried to muscle their way onto our property, and hunt without permission. We demanded that the police do their job, i.e., identify and arrest hunters trespassing on our property. We also insisted on our right to report illegal road-hunting-blasting with high-powered rifles from public roads, or shooting out of vehicles.

Criminal behavior on our property over twenty years included arson, fence-cutting, gate-busting, theft, destruction of no-hunting signs, destruction of trees, reckless shooting, poaching, deliberate wounding of protected animals, illegal trapping, bow hunting, and trespassing with dogs.

Most of the hunters we confronted were drunk. Live rounds went through our yard, and into the walls of our neighbor’s house. Yet, the state police were extremely hostile to us, and extremely slow when they finally responded to our frantic calls for help. They rarely identified those who committed these crimes, and never made arrests. We were routinely threatened by the hunters we caught on our ground. The Game Commission claimed they had no jurisdiction over trespassers. They said it was our responsibility to identify armed strangers on our property. No one in my family possessed a gun.

One morning, I saw a truck parked on our private driveway, and hunters entering our woods. I confronted the three men, told them they were on private property, and that I had called the police. The hunters left. We went to check on our other farm. We rightly suspected that hunters would also trespass there.

As we approached, I saw three men walking into our woods. I parked my truck, got out and walked toward them. I yelled “You’re on private property!” The men started to walk away from me toward a neighbor’s fields. When I got close, I recognized one as someone who always gave us trouble during hunting season - a local police officer. I didn’t recognize the other two men, but later learned that one of them was a police officer from another town. The local officer was not in orange, and wasn’t carrying a gun. In other words, HE WASN’T HUNTING. They told me they were on their side of the boundary. I said that I had seen them go a hundred feet over the line on my side, and that they weren’t to go any farther in. We argued a little while; I then walked back to the truck. A state trooper was there talking to my mother. I told him to arrest the men for trespassing. The trooper said he would question them.

I was later cited with a criminal complaint and realized that the trooper had never filed my complaint of defiant trespass. I was charged with two felony counts: making false reports to law enforcement, and hunter harassment. In the affidavit, the trooper identified only one of the men. And he took at face value a statement from my neighbor, who represented that he owned the whole driveway.

Regarding the second incident, the local policeman informed the trooper that he was hunting at the time I encountered him with the other two. This was false; he had admitted under oath at trial that he was not hunting when I found him on my property. (This of course made the charge of “hunter harassment” of him irrelevant.)

The Trooper stated that the property in question was not mine, even though he knew very well that there was no dispute over ownership of the woods. The trooper stated that I had interfered with three men who were hunting. He knew that one was not in orange or licensed to hunt on that day I caught him on my land.

Another morning my mother and I pulled out of our driveway and saw a car parked on the shoulder of a very narrow country road. We saw a hunter standing behind a hay bale, her rifle propped on top of it, facing the road.

I yelled to the hunter that it was illegal for her to shoot from that position, and I was calling the police. The woman broke open her rifle, and unloaded the shells in plain view. Then, her husband came out of the field with a rifle. He came up to me and screamed that he would kill us. He said he knew where I lived, and he’d be back for us that night. I told him the police were coming, and drove back into our driveway. I called the state police on my cell phone. After about thirty minutes, we drove around the block and found the hunters’ car parked on another property, and saw again that they were hunting too close to the road.

When the responding officer finally showed up, I told him about the hunters. He approached them and talked to them in a friendly manner. When I tried to make my statement, he yelled that the hunters could do whatever they wanted, and it was perfectly okay for them to hunt from the road with high-powered rifles. He ignored me when I told him that my mother’s life and mine had been explicitly threatened, and that nobody had any right to shoot from a road that’s traveled by cars and school buses.

The state trooper refused to give me an incident form or the name of a contact person. He refused to take my mother’s statement and never took a full statement from me. He told the hunters that they could hunt wherever they wanted to hunt.

I called my state representative’s office and he directed me to file a complaint with the Bureau of Professional

Another morning, I saw more hunters going into our woods at the top of the hill. I parked in my neighbor’s driveway, which I had his permission to do. I saw the hunters moving away from me, onto bordering property. When I drove out, I passed a state trooper’s car. I told him I had seen hunters on my property. He said he would look into it.

I was subsequently charged by a hunter and another trooper of “harassing” him while he was “lawfully hunting deer.” I was found guilty of this offense, even though his son testified that I was half a mile away from where they were standing. He had previously been convicted of criminal fraud, but my attorney wasn’t allowed to bring this up at trial.

On that same day, as I was driving around to see if anyone was trespassing on my second farm, I saw cars parked and knew that hunters were trying to “drive” deer on my ground. I saw hunters in my woods and told them to get off my property. They moved back toward the road. I followed them off my ground and across my neighbor’s land to the road. When I got there, a large group of hunters with high-powered rifles was milling around.

A state cop and a Game Warden were also there. A truckload of other hunters pulled up; they were standing in the open bed of the pickup with rifles in their hands. The officers never told them that this was illegal. I told both officers that I wanted the hunters arrested for defiant trespass. The officers did nothing to stop the threatening behavior toward me from the heavily-armed group who had just trespassed on my property.

I was subsequently charged with harassment of six hunters. One hunter admitted that they were trespassing on my property that day. Despite this testimony, I was convicted. One of the men, the father of a local officer, who had an extensive criminal record for theft and trespassing; but I was prohibited from bringing up this fact.

I believe the state police and Game Commission officers set me up because a) I insisted that they had a duty to respond when I made complaints against hunters; b) the cops were hunters themselves and wanted to use our ground as a private hunting preserve for themselves and their friends; c) the police and game wardens wanted to use me as an example of what could happen to landowners who tried to stop hunting; and (d) the Game Commission was attempting to legitimize hunting on private property.

I was later charged with misconduct concerning my accusation of trespassing on my property by hunters who were “driving” deer out of my woods; and with making false reports to law enforcement authorities. After I was convicted, the Judge said, “You hate hunting. I would like to put you in jail.”

In any other state in the union, the woman hunter would have been arrested for reckless endangerment or worse, as a potential sniper, for even intending to discharge a rifle by the side of a public road. She confessed her intent to hunt from this dangerous position, but the judge wrote, “The Commonwealth had sufficient evidence to prove the Defendant did in fact harass the victim.” The hunter harassment statute was never meant to protect a potential sniper on a public road. Such shameless behavior by a sitting judge suggests the hopelessness of looking to the system for rationality or fairness.

The judge never even took up the issue of legality of hunting without permission on private property. Instead, he used state law to retaliate against me for complaining about dangerous, illegal activities. This kind of “judicial” response, which displays such contempt for the facts and the law, is very disturbing.

The judge’s opinions imply that citizens don’t have the right to deny armed trespassers access to private land and that an offense against public safety isn’t a crime. They show obliviousness to the constitutionality of free speech. Without the appellate court, the judge acts apart from law and fact, and can ignore testimony given under oath.

CONCLUSION

I am constantly at risk from local hunters who make false accusations and real threats, and from the state police, who protect their friends by refusing to show up or run a competent investigation. The police know that unarmed people are in danger when confronting armed trespassers. Yet they let citizens who are alone and unarmed, handicapped or old, do it on their own.

So far I am the only participant in this dispute who has been injured, financially and otherwise. The state police encourage local criminals to believe they will be protected by the system, and I will be isolated when I ask for help. A civil rights action is warranted, in my name and anyone else’s who could be subjected to this kind of assault by their own government.

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Editor’s note:
I have also been victimized by hunters, police and state environmental agents. We have witnessed others being harassed as well. If you would like to join Jan in this effort to reverse the hunter harassment laws and protect property owners from hunters and the abominable hunter harassment laws, please contact us or Jan!
We can succeed together.
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Pennsylvania is the third biggest hunting state in the country; (only Texas and Alaska top PA). On September 8, jurors found a township orchard owner partially liable for the injuries a woman suffered when she was struck in the head by a bullet fired by a deer hunter on private property. The verdict is prompting landowners to deny sportsmen the right to hunt on their land.

The jury found the hunter 90% liable, and the landowner 10% liable. The hunter paid $5,500 in fines. The attorney for the victim argued that the landowner disregarded his neighbors’ safety by letting people hunt on his property. As suburban sprawl reaches rural areas risks and culture clash occur. www.Mcall.com stated that while hunters have a right to hunt (hopefully it was a statement of fact and not an endorsement), the rest of us have a right to be safe. Wildlife Watch wrote the following letter:  To Mcall.Com - Landowners Should Not Pass the "Buck"

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