Outside Legal Counsel PLC

Hey Hunters, Recreational Trespass Is Real and Illegal

For Immediate Release | Nov 11, 2012

A Michigan 'religious' holiday is fast approaching--Deer Day. Hunters from all over Michigan are sighting in their scopes and scoping out their spots for hunting blinds. However, hunters need to pay attention to property rights and property lines or they might find themselves afoul with the law.

Did you know recreational trespassing is both a criminal and civil wrong? Part 731 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act makes it illegal to undertake any recreational activity or trapping on any posted or fenced-in private land; farm land including all lands contained within the farm; and all wooded areas connected to farm property. Recreational activity has long legally included hunting.

However, landowners may grant verbal or written permission to hunters to use said lands for recreational purposes. But be aware written consent may be amended or revoked orally.

Notwithstanding, Michigan law provides two exceptions: to retrieve a wayward hunting dog and to avoid a natural or artificial hazard or obstruction in a public stream.

Committing recreational trespass is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a fine of not less than $100.00 or more than $500.00, or both, and may include a court order to pay the cost of prosecution. Forfeiture of all equipment at the time of the offense, including hunting rifles, is possible if one previously committed a recreational trespass within the past three years.

Additionally, the landowner may, separate or in addition to the criminal charges, bring a civil lawsuit for $250.00 or actual property damages, whichever is greater, and actual and reasonable attorney fees (which can be very substantial).

Take the time this week to get actual written permission from the landowner of your hunting property. And to be even safer, talk to the neighboring property owner in case your deer does not drop within your hunting area. Be safe!