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Corner Hoppers Face Civil Suit

It appears that the Elk Mountain, Wyoming corner-hopping case has taken yet another turn as it heads toward the April 14th court date. The owner of the Elk Mountain Ranch has now filed a civil suit which potentially comes with a fresh criminal charge. The new civil suit declares that the four Pennsylvania bowhunters “committed a civil trespass” and that Iron Bar Holdings, the company that owns the sprawling Elk Mountain Ranch, is pursuing reimbursement “to the fullest extent of the law.” 

The plot twist in this case stems from the claim of private ownership of “airspace” above private property. The current interpretation of the law is ambiguous and with burgeoning recreational use demands across the West the decision of the court in April could very well be a watershed moment in the private property rights vs. public access debate. 

What hangs in the balance of this entire case is the possibility that over 1.5 million acres of landlocked public property could either be “opened-up” or “closed-off”. While our collective attention has been diverted to the events in eastern-Europe at this moment, the corner-hopping case in Wyoming stands poised to change the face of public access forever. We here at Eastmans’ will do our best to keep you posted, er, um, informed. 



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  1. So if a private property owner owns the air space above the ground he calls his own. He should also own the minerals below the ground he owns also, but in most cases he does not. If he puts a pond, lake or water entrapment he should also own that but the EPA has say so over water. The air belongs to everyone we all use it as should public ground paid for by public tax dollars ( it belongs to everyone) not just ranchers that own the land around it!! I know this has been a long battle but integrity to do the right thing at the right time is key to the legacy which we live behind!! My opinion of this is if public to public corner crossing is wrong so is private to private comer crossing land owners are trespassing on my land my tax dollars go to to provide recreational lands for every American to enjoy and use!!

    • Public land is public, expenses covered by the public, benefits for the public. I whole heartedly defend private land rights, but the corner crap is theft of the publics only right to the land that is paid for by the public. Another point, are you saying if I fly a plane over your land Im trespassing. How do I donate to their defense fund? Where is the petition? Ill support these guys any way possible.

      • me too..enough rancher BS. so much greed. i say no grazing public land to the dirt, no more moving all your cattle to public sections of you r lease right before hunting season, no more closing public roads that pass through private to block public, no more forcing people to walk in only to have a ranch truck with a “guide” in it go driving right past.

  2. In US versus Causby the courts decided in a landmark that the owner of land ONLY owns the airspace above his property to the point he is using it !

    All airspace above which he is not using IS Federal Airspace owned by the Nation or “we” the people !

    In flying terms this is classified as Class E airspace – uncontrolled airspace with no or very few limitations on use !

    So if I use Pole Vaulting I should be able to corner cross ? Yes.

    Citizens should have some legal rights to enter public lands we paid for and pay for and own.

    It’s is just as criminal to prohibit access and these clown laws and courts must come up with a solution.

  3. The courts in the western states generally side with the wealthy landowners/ranchers. So I can hazard a guess on the final outcome of this suit. I hope I’m wrong.

  4. In my experience, game and fish officers and ranchers in their districts seem to be best buddies, and stand up for each other when they are blatantly breaking the law by lying cheating and causing law abiding hunters incredible harm. In Colorado, I was accused of trespass when I was on blm land and given a ticket even when the officers own computer showed I was on blm land because a rancher claimed it was his land. The rancher even produced a fake survey supposedly done after the supposed infraction. I had to appear in court 4 times before they dropped the case….always expecting me to give up and pay the ticket due to the hassle. It cost me thousands of dollars while I was completely innocent.

    • Usually that’s what they do, in my experience it doesn’t cost the ranchers a dime to have the G&F slap you with a trespassing charge. It costs you time off work and maybe a lawyer to contest the charge. With the G&F wardens backing up the rancher’s claim, even if it’s bogus.

  5. Shouldn’t airlines be required to pay all the flyover states gratuity too!?

  6. The 4 bowhunters from PA are probably bad ass hunters and killed a few big boys off the public land as they corner hopped……the rancher and most private owners don’t usually care if you corner hop to access public…..until you are successful….then jealousy takes over and then they want to have you arrested for trespassing…..as far as the “airspace” above the land, get real….try to fine me on that one and you may very well take your last breath…..clowns!!!

    • shootbrownelk

      Right Adam. Those boys killed some of the “Rancher’s Elk”. They all think they own the game animals.

  7. How high in altitude do landowners own then? so landing a chopper on public ground that flew over private ground is a criminal or civil suit where the landowner needs to be paid? How much damage did the landowner incur that he needs to be compensated for? Loss of “his ” oxygen? I have kids walk on my grass along the road do I care? NO I rather they did that on occasion than get hit by a car. Landowners need to loosen up a bit over 2 feet of “trepass” -makes for good PR

  8. If the public can’t access the public land, it needs to be off limits the the surrounding land owners also.

    • Gerald Brunckhorst

      Absolutely Danny! The landowners should be required to find legal access just as “all the public” has to. Why are they granted special privileges, reserved for the few?

  9. Danny, I agree with 100%!

  10. Gerald Brunckhorst

    Well – as I see it, should the Elk Mountain Ranch (Iron Bar Holdings) win this civil suit, then it should change how private drones are used “forever” (particularly when mounted with a camera). If small aircraft are limited to a minimum height over private land, and private (recreational) drones are prohibited in that air space while “a member of the public is in control of it” – doesn’t that make it illegal to fly the drone within the so called private or controlled air space over private lands? Will we have to make a narrow elevation band over all private lands just for drones and any recreational radio controlled craft? Just imagine all the other ramifications of this civil suit on all current laws!
    I believe anybody who uses public lands (not only us hunters) needs to be made aware of this civil suit. We are moving from one decision involving several hunters and one private property into the real possibility of airspace rules and laws everywhere. Where does the Federal Aviation Administration and National Airspace Management stand regarding these decisions? Once any airspace is involved, when do we see the strong arm of the existing laws step in?
    I’m seriously wanting the judge to back the Iron Bar Holdings to the original corner hopping or not / misnomer or not decision. If this corner hopping issue is allowed to proceed into civil suit status, all trespassing charges will be capable of proceeding similarly. It’s those hunter’s right to challenge the charges of the crime. If they are found guilty or not, they can continue challenging the laws on the books. Turning this matter into something it is not, is a trick of a well paid attorney, they are attempting to derail the real issue!

  11. The worst part of this problem is the BLM and its outdated maps. Land is traded off by the BLM and is not marked in any way for you to know. “Wyoming Game and Fish says it’s your responsibility to know where you are hunting and whose land you are on”. Pretty hard to do when the Wyoming game officer won’t tell you if your just purchased BLM map is correct or not. His advice “I’d hate to give you a ticket , so know where you are”. This happened to me in the Elk Mountain area Antelope hunting.

  12. The owners of the the said properties have indicated that they are suing civilly for damages? What exactly are the damages that occurred? The four hunters built a crossover ladder to avoid stepping/touching private property, thus avoiding any damage to grass or dirt…Was this property fenced or gated? Or was it just open land? Was the corner pinned or marked by a survey stake? Was this private property surveyed and registered on the books in the State Land Office.

    I understand that we as property owners do have rights. However, in this situation it seems to be an over the hill issue by the owner of said property. If there is no visible damage to the ground what’s the difference? There must be something else that is driving this issue to court by the owners. As someone mentioned above, maybe a trophy elk or two were harvested?

    There are laws on the books that require an owner to provide an easement or right of way on their property to allow the public to gain access to their property. The government should have in place such a law to allow the public to gain access to public lands?

    This issue is B.S.!

  13. The reality is you can’t accurately corner jump unless there is a USGS marker. The GPS systems aren’t accurate enough otherwise.

    I’d be in favor of allowing corner jumping if there is a USGS marker. I think that’s the only possible way it could be legal.

  14. Public land hunter, private land owner

    I was finally able to buy some land after 38 years of strictly public land hunting. It has one checkerboard corner of public and private. It takes public land hunters 3 miles to hike around the private. I offer a trespass fee but nobody takes it. I’ll get a dozen calls from people wanting to pack their elk out through the property and I tell them it’s the same price as the original trespass fee. Nobody takes it and I catch or see tracks of half of them trespassing across at night. Either at the corner or blatantly across the middle. I’m not wealthy and don’t have the means to prosecute these people. For 20 years I was in their shows and hiked around this same piece of property. I went in with the mindset that it was going to be a 3-5 mile packout when I shot one. My vote is for the landowner. Although, truly landlocked public is a different animal. In these cases I’m hopefull that Rocky Mountain elk foundation and others will continue to purchase ranches and open up these areas that are truly land locked to the public. They’ve done a great job and that’s where my support money goes. Paying to help these PA guys you don’t know who you’re helping. They could in fact be criminals that don’t have a lot of regard for private or other rules. Possibly not but you don’t know. With RMEF you know. I’ve hunted many western states all on public land and if you’re willing to hike a little bit I feel there’s more than enough public land to get it done. If you want an easy hike in somewhere pay for a trespass fee. In Montana and Wyoming if this really opened up a bunch of land for public access I feel the hunting pressure is still going to push the animals back in a couple miles so still boots on the ground and putting some miles on will always be the golden ticket. Support RMEF and their access programs.

  15. Sooo…reimbursement for what – other than attorney fees – IF the defendants/respondents lose?

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