In Missouri, more than 93 percent of land is privately owned. This puts the bulk of deer hunting on private land. Before you just ‘jump the fence’, you must identify the landowner and get permission to hunt, fish, or enter their land.
Trespassing laws in Missouri speak to both the landowner and the potential trespasser. Landowners must mark their property lines with signs or purple paint to alert hunters (and others) of where the property line is location. It is the responsibility of the hunter to either pain permission to cross onto the property boundary or to recognize the property line and steer clear.
Missouri Statue 578.520 is titled Private land, and states that permission is needed before anyone may fish, hunt, trap or retrieve harvest wildlife on private land. Yes, this includes harvesting wildlife that you may have shot, and it crossed the property line before falling. According to this statue, any person who knowingly enters or remains on private property for the purpose of hunting, fishing, trapping or retrieving wildlife is in violation of the statue and will not only be subject to the penalty of a Class B misdemeanor, they may be required by the courts to surrender and delivery any hunting license or permit issued by the Dept of Conservation to hunt, fish or trap for at least one year from date of conviction.
Legal consequences to trespassing help to protect everyone during the hunting season. The law ensures multiple hunters are not unknowingly hunting the same area or that private landowners can expect to safety use their own property without the concern of being surprised by an unknown hunter.
If you wish to use private land, you must gain permission from the landowner. Finding whom owns the land can be found at the county courthouse from the assessor’s office (or a plat book).
When contacting the landowner, it is best to not just make a phone call but to take the time to visit the landowner. Landowners appreciate getting to know the face, and the vehicle of whom the person that will be on their property.
Be friendly and allow enough time to chat. A good conversation can help you learn a lot about the surrounding area, deer movements, and the quality of the herd. The landowner’s judgement is based in party on how you look, act, drive, and present yourself. Portray professionalism and trust. Make a good first impression and always be courteous, even if you are told “no”. Be sure to ask if landowner has any rules and their property goals. If the landowner wants a lower deer population to reduce crop damage, be sure to harvest does. If they want bucks to reach an older age class, pass up younger bucks.
If you are granted permission by the landowner to use their property for the season, it is a good idea to offer something in return. You could stop by for an occasional chat, provide a portion of your harvest or pitch in to help around the property.
Never assume you have permission from year to year. Just because you were granted permission once, does not mean that will be forever. You need ask the landowner every season.
As a landowner, if you decide to provide access to others to hunt on your property, you should discuss liability coverage with your insurance company. It is important to spell out exactly how you plan to use the land. A good agent will also be aware of how state laws apply, but sure to discuss this with your agent.
If you find yourself in a predicament regarding liability or personal injury related to the hunting season, Know who to call, Call Tad!