On more than one occasion, I have heard stories of hunters who were harassed in some fashion by animal rights activists, adjacent landowners, other hunters and, in one instance, by an ex-spouse. While I have been fortunate to avoid such incidents, the law of the Commonwealth has, indeed, addressed this concern….to a certain extent.
Known as the Pennsylvania Hunter Harassment Law, Section 2302 of Title 34 of the Pennsylvania Code provides that it is a summary offense of the second degree to intentionally obstruct or interfere with the lawful taking of wildlife of wildlife or other activities permitted by the Game and Wildlife Code (ie. trapping, dog training, etc.). The law provides that the interference must be intentional or knowing and not a mere accident. Specific activities which are considered as such violations include driving or disrupting wildlife away from the hunter; blocking, impeding or otherwise harassing the hunter; using natural or artificial “visual, aural, olfactory or physical stimuli” to affect the behavior of wildlife in order to hinder or prevent the harvest of wildlife; creating or erecting barriers with the intent to deny ingress or egress to lawful hunting locations; jumping into the line of fire between the game and the hunter; interfering with the conditions or placement of personal or public property intended for the lawful taking of wildlife (ie. treestands, blinds, etc.); entering or remaining upon public or private lands (without the permission of the owner) with the intent to violate this section; or failing to obey the order of any officer who is attempting to enforce this provision.
The law also provides that either the Game Commission or the affected hunter or trapper may bring an action to restrain the conduct of such individuals or even sue to recover damages caused by such individuals. Exceptions to the law include activities such as farming, mining, harvesting timber, recreational activities and other lawful activities permitted on the land so long as the intent to interfere is not present. Of course, if and individual on an ATV continually circles your treestand during regular hunting season, you can be fairly confident the concept of intent to interfere is present.
An individual convicted of violating this section is guilty of a second degree summary offense. Punishment includes a fine between $400 and $800, and punishment of imprisonment of up to one month. To this author, such willful and wanton interference should carry a far more extensive penalty. Of course, other violations of the Code are enforceable as well, such as trespassing.
What is important for any hunter or trapper to remember is that there are laws to protect us. When confronted by these individuals who are interfering with your enjoyment of our sport, contact your local law enforcement officials or game commission officers. Do not confront or antagonize these offenders. While it may spoil your day of hunting, a confrontation can lead to far worse consequences possibly for you as well. Of course, if you have suffered actual financial harm as a result of these violators or have been hampered in your attempt to enjoy your hunting or trapping activities, contact our office to discuss your rights to pursue a civil or equitable remedy.
by Tom Beveridge
Firearms Industry Consulting Group
Prince Law Offices, PC