Wanna hunt here? Just sign this petition

 

Landowners unhappy with government regulations are protesting this fall -- by locking out hunters.  Fred Hirschy, a Montana rancher, says he's been losing cattle to wolves and is fed up with the lack of response from Montana's wildlife department, reports The Montana Standard. For years Hirschy had allowed moose and deer hunters onto his land in exchange for state payment, but this fall he hung up the No Trespassing sign. Then he told those disgruntled hunters that he'd open his land to hunting again if they'd call Fish, Wildlife and Parks and complain about wolf management. 

It's a growing trend, apparently. The Standard reports numerous incidents across Montana and other Western states of landowners denying hunter access in anger -- over grazing restrictions, shorter hunting seasons, even over a state wildlife department's purchase of a ranch. Some landowners have even asked hunters to sign a petition for a cause before allowing them onto the property.

The landowners say blocking access is an effective tool for getting government to listen to their concerns, but wildlife officials say it can create more problems than are solved:

"When people use hunter access to make a political statement or to gain leverage on a particular issue, sometimes the implications or consequences go far beyond the target that the landowner might have intended," he said.

For example, if a group of hunters has a trip planned and learns it won't have access to a particular ranch days ahead of time, it's left scrambling. The group could quickly make plans in the same area and keep its accommodations, or decide on an entirely different part of the state.

That could hurt hotel owners, restaurants and other businesses that count on hunting season business.

If you've encountered situations like this or have heard of similar cases, post a comment and let us know.  Also see our story on a different but related issue: "Private landowners become lords of the public estate".

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