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Thursday, June 13, 2024

NM Outdoors- Federal judge’s ruling favors hunters, setting precedent for corner crossing

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Last week, a Wyoming judge ruled in federal civil court that four hunters were dismissed from civil liability if they didn’t touch private property or damage the property while corner crossing. Corner crossing is where two section corners of public land touch in a “caddie corner” fashion while the adjacent corners touching are privately owned. This case has evolved from incidents in 2020, and 2021 where four Missouri hunters were hunting elk and deer near Elk Mountain in Southeast Wyoming. The status of the land was public and privately owned with sections being checker-boarded. Instead of crossing private, the hunters used a step ladder to cross at the corners of each public parcel.  The landowner began a heated campaign to harass the hunters and eventually had charges pressed against them. In 2021, a Wyoming district court found the hunters not guilty of criminal trespass. In return, the landowner sued the four hunters in federal civil court for 7 million dollars in damages. The landowner argued though the hunters did not touch his property, they violated his private airspace. The hunter’s argument was that the landowner was in violation of the Unlawful Enclosures Act.  The judge’s ruling was in favor of the hunters citing, “the court finds that where a person corner crosses on foot with the checkerboard from public land to public land without the damaging private property, there is no liability for trespass.” This ruling is a big step for public land hunters but does not mean corner crossing is legal across the country. The judge’s ruling specifically protects hunters from any civil liability, crossing checker-boarded land, in Wyoming.   New Mexico is very similar to Wyoming with large tracts of public and private land intermingled. This ruling could set a major precedent for potential future cases in New Mexico. It is always the hunter’s responsibility to know exactly where he/she is at all times and to follow in accordance with federal, state and local laws. GPS based subscriptions such as onX maps make it very simple to navigate real time, on the go with phones or tablets. For more information pertaining to the case use the address below:


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