Laws on trespassing, wasting game can put hunter in gray area

HUNTING — Today's Outdoors column on the topic of hunting and trespassing generated a quick response from reader John Huckabay:

One question arises that I have never been able to get a straight answer on.  You note that to enter private land in Washington to recover game is a violation.  I believe that the law is also that it is illegal to waste game.  If I shoot a bird on my property and it falls on a neighbors which law prevails?

Indeed, Huckabay is correct. The laws take that possibility into account, although a hunter who pushes the language too far could still get a ticket.  See line (d) in the following full Washington state trespassing law as it pertains to hunters:

RCW 77.15.435
Unlawful hunting on or retrieving hunted wildlife from the property of another - Defense - Penalty - Forfeiture and disposition of wildlife.
(1) A person is guilty of unlawfully hunting on, or retrieving hunted wildlife from, the property of another if the person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or on the premises of another for the purpose of hunting for wildlife or retrieving hunted wildlife.

     (2) In any prosecution under this section, it is a defense that:

     (a) The premises were at the time open to members of the public for the purpose of hunting, and the actor complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining on the premises;

     (b) The actor reasonably believed that the owner of the premises, or other person empowered to license access thereto, would have licensed him or her to enter or remain on the premises for the purpose of hunting or retrieving hunted wildlife;

     (c) The actor reasonably believed that the premises were not privately owned; or

     (d) The actor, after making all reasonable attempts to contact the owner of the premises, retrieved the hunted wildlife for the sole purpose of avoiding a violation of the prohibition on the waste of fish and wildlife as provided in RCW 77.15.170. The defense in this subsection only applies to the retrieval of hunted wildlife and not to the actual act of hunting itself.

     (3) Unlawfully hunting on or retrieving hunted wildlife from the property of another is a misdemeanor.

     (4) If a person unlawfully hunts and kills wildlife, or retrieves hunted wildlife that he or she has killed, on the property of another, then, upon conviction of unlawfully hunting on, or retrieving hunted wildlife from, the property of another, the department shall revoke all hunting licenses and tags and order a suspension of the person's hunting privileges for two years.

     (5) Any wildlife that is unlawfully hunted on or retrieved from the property of another must be seized by fish and wildlife officers. Forfeiture and disposition of the wildlife is pursuant to RCW 77.15.100.

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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog

Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

By Rich Landers richl@spokesman.com (509) 459-5508

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