On The Ridge: Respect your boundaries

Published: 11-29-2023 4:45 PM

Modified: 11-29-2023 4:45 PM

In recent days, I’ve come to believe that posted property in Massachusetts is going to become a larger topic one day than it already is. This revelation was brought on by two incidents that occurred during the last days of archery season for deer which aggravated me at first but, after some reflection, just left me scratching my head and wondering why?

The first was a phone conversation with a State House official, inquiring on behalf of an angry land-owning constituent about the details of what landowners must do to legally post their land. Now, posted property has never affected me much, because I stay off property that’s posted unless I have permission. That comment was put to the test about five years ago when a large tract of land that just happened to be property where I’d hunted for the last 40-plus years was purchased. At the beginning, everything was fine with me hunting there. But after a couple of years, the landowner(s) decided that they wanted to regulate the hunting very carefully, eventually becoming accessible to only the family and a few close employees. Of course, it hurt to lose access to this property, mainly because it was so special to me. But in the end, it was more special to the new owners who purchased it, which I understood and honestly just needed to deal with, because it was their land and they had the right to do whatever they wished with it, which is something I’ve always respected and believed in.

So as I dive into this subject about posted land, I’m not looking to start a war with landowners and hunters. But we as sportsmen and women have a choice to make here. Do we respect the landowner as I mentioned earlier? Do we honor the fact that they can do whatever they wish with their property? Or do we go the other way, and just ignore the posted signs, disrespecting the landowner(s), and just do, or go, wherever we choose?

I’m here to tell you that’s a pretty important choice, because the days of ignoring the legality of that question are over and it’s something that we as sportsmen and women should simply never let happen. It’s also a sure-fire way to lose the legal access to the land we now enjoy. Having said that, hunters also have rights when it comes to property which we’ve legally obtained permission to hunt on.

Which leads me directly into the second incident. On the last day of archery season for deer, I spotted a man, on my trail-cam, walking toward my tree stand carrying a bow and a tree stand of his own. Now, I rarely see anything like this on the cameras I have in this area, but when I do, it’s usually someone just wandering by and then out of the area. But this time, it was clearly different. The next picture showed a red truck next to my stand. More pictures have him walking around the area, and eventually doing other things that aren’t appropriate to mention here. And then, the last picture shows the truck leaving, with exhaust fumes pouring out of the tailpipe.

It appears that this person, after seeing my stand, was intent on leaving as much scent in the area as possible, which is a clear case of someone harassing a hunter, and is completely unethical, if not illegal! So I was a little perplexed when I saw this. When no one who viewed the pictures recognized him, including the landowner, that meant he didn’t have permission to be there harassing a hunter’s stand area in this way. So the question of “why” began to surface among us?

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All that said, there’s still another question to resolve during this 2023 deer hunting season, which is about the growing number of people these days that, it seems anyway, are now trying to hunt on posted land in Shelburne, bordering towns, and beyond that, and what can be done about it? There’s a Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 131, Section 36, that clearly addresses this as follows: “A person shall not fish, hunt, or trap on private land without permission of the owner or tenant thereof, after such owner or tenant has conspicuously posted thereon notices, which bear the name of such owner or tenant and which states that fishing, hunting or trapping on such land, as the case may be, is prohibited.” Only time will tell if this blatant breaking of our hunting laws can be addressed to the point of, at least, controlling it.

For now, out of respect to landowners, we should continue seeking permission before accessing their property to hunt. In the end, among true sportsmen and women, it’s the only right thing to do!

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and sportsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association, and a 2019 inductee into the N.E. Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame. Joe is also on the Quaker Boy Game Calls and Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Pro-Staff. He can be reached at jjontheridge@comcast.net