Corner crossing is one of the most controversial topics out there right now. Let’s define corner crossing as it pertains to this conversation before we go any further. Corner crossing is simply where two pieces of public land share a corner and someone from the public steps from one section of public to the other. In theory and in the eyes of many in the public land hunting world it would seem that no trespassing has occurred.
In the eyes of many landowners they believe that their property has been trespassed on when this happens. Their understanding is that they have a certain level of ownership above the ground. A quick Google search on this is clear as mud because the definition varies from state to state, but anywhere from 80-500 feet above the ground seems to be where some of the articles settle.
Which brings us to where we are with a case here in my home state of Wyoming regarding corner crossing. In the fall of 2021 Brad Cape, Phillip Yoemans, John Slowensky and Zach Smith were each cited for trespassing by corner crossing from one section of public land to another. The ranch involved is the Elk Mountain Ranch in southeastern Wyoming.
According to witnesses the men built a ladder-like device that allowed them to cross several stakes without touching the ground or any “piece” of private physical property in the process. So why were they cited for trespassing? Well according to the most recent Wyoming legislative statute criminal trespass is what “can” be cited by local law enforcement such as a sheriff if the case warrants it. A Wyoming game warden cannot cite hunters for this as ruled by the Wyoming Supreme court. Every case is investigated on a case by case basis as the 2004 Wyoming Attorney General’s opinion holds. Yup, it’s more than a little confusing.
The four men are going to fight the citation with financial help in the form of a GoFundme account funded by many public land hunters who want to be able to hunt the public land that tax dollars maintain. Therein lies the crux of the issue…public land that the public doesn’t have access to. Essentially private public property if you will that can only be recreated on by the landowners who border it or with permission from the said landowners. With the renewed and increasing interest in accessing public land in the covid era as well as the tools in GPS form that make it very easy to find property boundaries, this has the potential to be a very long litigation. Expect it to be a challenging issue to navigate for all involved.
While we wait for this ruling there is a simple tool already in play that can alleviate some of this stress. In Wyoming we call it Access Yes which helps fund Hunter Management Areas and Walk in areas. Wyoming Game and Fish runs this program and it is a great tool that opens up access to private and landlocked public land alike. Just about every state has programs like these and they are vital for growing access. Supporting programs like these ensures we maintain the access we have and possibly open more in the future.
Now it’s time for the “what say you” in relation to corner crossing. What do you believe the solution is? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts!