Imagine that you have traveled several hours to get to your favorite public land hunting spot in southeastern Montana to do some mule deer hunting, only to find out that someone has wrongfully posted several “No Hunting” signs on the fence line along one of those parcels of land? To take this scenario one step further, imagine that the person who is ultimately found to be responsible for this situation is a licensed outfitter in Montana, and worse yet, is not even a Montana resident, but is a resident of WYOMING!
As outrageous as this story may seem, it is absolutely true. Several years ago in Powder River County, a Wyoming resident who ran an outfitting operation in Montana actually posted certain public land here with a number of “no hunting” signs during the fall months. Fortunately, the local MT FWP Game Warden, Lennie Buhmann, discovered the illegal signs, taking them down before many Montana hunters were prevented from hunting . It was later discovered that this outfitter, R.K., had wrongfully posted this area in an effort to keep the public from hunting where he would be guiding paid clients.
Although Montana Game Wardens have a wide variety of powers and authority in cases involving hunters, the Game Wardens are not generally allowed to issue tickets for violations of Montana’s criminal laws found in Title 45, MCA. So, as is sometimes the case, the local Warden requested that the county attorney file charges against R.K. We are using the Defendant’s initials here but you can still see him occasionally on nationally televised hunting programs. After reviewing Montana’s statutes on this subject, it was determined that Sec. 45-8-115, ILLEGAL POSTING OF STATE AND FEDERAL LAND, fit this crime to a “T.”
“Illegal posting of state and federal land. (1) A person commits the offense of illegal posting of state or federal land if, without authorization, the person knowingly posts land that is under the ownership or control of the state or federal government to restrict access or use of state or federal land.
(2) A person convicted of illegal posting of state or federal land shall be fined an amount not to exceed $500 or be imprisoned in the county jail for a term not to exceed 6 months, or both.”
In the above case, the Defendant later appeared in court, decided that he would not contest the charges, and paid a hefty fine. So, justice prevailed, the public was no longer kept away from this property, and one Wyoming outfitter learned a good lesson in Montana!
If anyone encounters a situation like this, they should promptly contact their local Sheriff and County Attorney. Generally speaking, those officials will be authorized to issue criminal charges in these cases, when it is appropriate. If they can’t convict they can at least get the offending signs taken down .