Rep. Barry Crago (R-Buffalo) said Tuesday his measure House Bill 103 – Prohibit travel across private land for hunting purposes is not a corner-crossing bill designed to address the controversial practice, which has attracted widespread scrutiny following charges leveled against four hunters.

He would change the language of his proposal to make that clear, Crago told WyoFile.

Crago’s bill is intended to bring uniform enforcement of hunting trespass laws across the state, he said. In some Wyoming counties law officers will ticket game or antler hunters for crossing private ground to hunt on public land beyond. But not everywhere.

“I don’t want to do anything with corner crossing.”

Rep. Barry Crago

“In some parts of the state they will not write a ticket if you just drive across private property” without hunting on that property, Crago said. “It depends on law enforcement, the judge…

“What we’re trying to do is make sure the statute is uniformly [enforced] across the state.”

The Buffalo rancher and attorney doesn’t want to become embroiled in the corner-crossing brouhaha, he said.

“I don’t want to do anything with corner crossing,” Crago said. “I’m not into the whole corner-crossing controversy.”

Corner crossing involves stepping from one piece of public land to another where the public parcels share a four-way corner with two private parcels. Where such ownership patterns exist, it is possible to step over the common corner without setting foot on private land.

Crago’s bill would add new language to Wyoming’s hunter trespass law, not its separate and distinct criminal trespass law. An attorney general’s opinion states WS 23-3-305 (b) may not apply to Game and Fish officers investigating a corner crossing situation.

Would changing that law render the AG’s opinion moot and again allow Game and Fish to cite corner-crossing hunters?

“I understand why people would think that,” Crago said of his bill. “Personally, I don’t think so — if we change the proposed language slightly so we don’t talk about corner crossing.

Crago believes clarifying language “will clear up that we’re not talking about corner crossing,” he said.

Just travelin’ through

Crago’s bill would amend the existing law that states “no person shall enter upon … private property… to hunt, fish, collect antlers … without the permission of the owner.” The amendment would add language to read “no person shall enter upon or travel through” private property.

The subsection of the law — 23-3-305 (b) — that would be changed is an element of the 2004 attorney general opinion that warns Game and Fish officers to not cite hunters for corner crossing. The opinion says “‘Corner-crossing’ from one parcel of public land to another in order to hunt on that other public parcel… may not be violative of Wyo. Stat. Ann. S 23-3-305 (b) because, to be convicted the statute requires a person hunt or intend to hunt on private property without permission.”

Barry Crago (LSO)

One of the complexities of corner crossing is that those who practice it don’t set foot on private property, but pass through the airspace above it.

Corner crossing received new scrutiny and widespread attention after a sheriff’s deputy in Carbon County cited four Missouri hunters last fall for corner crossing near the Elk Mountain Ranch. The citation alleges a violation of criminal trespass laws, not the hunting law Crago seeks to amend.

The 2004 attorney general opinion states that corner crossing “may be a criminal trespass under Wyo. Stat. Ann. S 6-3-303,” which is a different law than the hunting statute.

The Missouri hunters, who say they never set foot on private land and used a fence ladder to cross from one section of BLM land to another, have pleaded not guilty. They have asked that the charges against them be dismissed.

They also allege that the Elk Mountain Ranch manager harassed them while they were hunting on public land, which is illegal.

A trial could help resolve whether passing through the airspace above private property constitutes trespass. Competing legal theories frame the case, according to legal experts.

One holds that the owner of land also owns what’s under the property and above it. The other, the federal Unlawful Inclosure of Public Lands Act, generally prohibits fencing on private property from obstructing any person from peaceably entering public land.

The hunting advocacy group Wyoming Backcountry Hunters and Anglers launched a GoFundMe campaign to help fund the Missouri hunters’ defense. Wyoming BHA believes “the factual circumstances will show that the four hunters did not commit criminal trespass.”

New penalty

In addition to the new “or travel through” language in Crago’s bill, the measure also would amend the penalty for violating the section. Where the existing law appears to only provide for up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail, Crago’s amendment calls also for “forfeiture of any game, antlers or horns taken.”

Antler hunting — the search for shed antlers and skulls of winter-killed big game — has become so lucrative it has emboldened antler hunters to trespass, some sportsmen believe.

A screenshot from OnX Maps of the mixed-ownership acreage traversed by the defendants. (Screenshot/OnX Maps)

Changing the law to require that those who are found guilty of passing through private property must surrender their antler booty could discourage trespass.

It’s not immediately clear how Crago’s amendment would affect other rights, including navigating rivers through private property and angling on waters that flow across private land.

Crago’s bill must receive a two-thirds majority vote for introduction before lawmakers could begin to tinker with its provisions. As of Wednesday, it had not been scheduled for that action, according to the Legislative Service Office’s website.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. Nearly all BLM numbered roads shown on maps have large segments where there are no right of way agreements with private landowners.

  2. What a load of BS. This is just a stall tactic. This bill needs to be stopped. Land owners need to know that the public will no longer let them deny access to the public lands that they do not own or control. This is a fight we have to win or will lose our rights to our public lands and waterways.

  3. Some points of this I fully understand. Other points are just silly. I do see the shed antler craze has emboldened a few to sneak in on private land to harvest antlers.
    I do believe tho, that hunters should at least try to gain permission to enter and cross private lands to gain access to PUBLIC LANDS.
    and landowners should at times be a little more cooperative. If the landowner leases PUBLIC LANDS for grazing, I don’t see where that gives them complete access to those lands all year, aka, hunting season. If they would like to lease these landlocked PUBLIC LANDS for hunting, the STATE should be compensated for that.

  4. Welcome to the Wyoming Good Old Boys Club, Rep. Crago! Of course you are making this maneuver because of Corner Crossing…..who do you think you’re kidding? But, before you made a fool of yourself, do you have the consent of the majority of your constituents regarding this bill, or is it the same ole’ dog n’ pony show where you’re representing only the elite landowners in your district? Maybe a freshman Rep outta’ lay low, confer with your constituents and represent their wishes. We are watching and do vote

  5. In my view, these lands belong to the American public, thus the public should be granted access. If the airspace above argument is taken to its extreme, then every aircraft aloft would have to obtain permission from each and every landowner along its route. Yikes.
    A solution (that will probably never happen) would be for the the state to condemn say a two-foot strip of land at the corner of each checkerboard parcel, thereby providing access to us all. The law is clear. The state has the right to condemn for the public good for a fair market price.

    1. Sarah,
      The United States Supreme Court has held landowners have the right to the “airspace” above their property to the navigable area of flight used by aircraft. See United States vs Causby
      Similarly the State of Wyoming, has Statues that support a landowners right of “airspace” above their property to the “right of flight”.

  6. Has anyone read the bill as written right now for you’d better take a look at the penalty which is not a misdemeanor for that is $750 which raises to $1000? I thought such a fine is a Felony. Adds on 6months also to the issue. Next, read about highways and I’d say county roads for access to hunting might be a hidden twist.

  7. What a load of BS. Crago couldn’t find a higher pile if he looked on his own property. It’s really laughable that these elected ranchers think that us dumb sheep can’t see what’s going on. This has nothing to do with corner crossing? RIIIIGHT. The timing of this bill says otherwise….

  8. hey all you tough wyoming cowboy state reps, you know, the ‘cowboy’ state where the GOP is fiercely independent and just love their personal freedom…….”their” is the key word. for a party that emphasizes personal freedom, you sure create a bunch of laws that take this away from your citizens and fine and even imprison your constituents. If you folks were really “freedom fighters” you’d abolish, not create more laws. The only people you truly represent are the insiders, such as yourselves, your family and closest friends and of course big agriculture, including the “revered” welfare rancher. “Code of the West???”….hmph! Code of the Cronies is better fitting and yes I’m talking directly to you –

    Rep. Barry Crago (R-Buffalo)
    Reps. Eric Barlow (R-Gillette)
    Aaron Clausen (R-Douglas)
    Jamie Flitner (R-Greybull)
    Mike Greear (R-Worland)
    Chip Neiman (R-Hulett)
    Ember Oakley (R-Riverton)
    Tom Walters (R-Casper)
    Sens. Brian Boner (R-Douglas)
    Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower)
    Dave Kinskey (R-Sheridan)

  9. Why gives these ranchers, etc. the right to landlock public lands?? These lands belong to all of us!! The representatives mentioned in this article are only thinking of themselves and Big Ag. The laws need to be changed to support all of us, not just a select few.

  10. This is just another reason to watch carefully what is going on in Cheyenne. This bill is another attempt to take public land. This law would be in direct conflict with the Navigable Waters Act and would certainly stop someone in this state from moving by water across private property that is so far allowed begrudgingly. Other states offer legal access to landlocked public lands. This state needs to do the same. Special interests have access and it is time for the rest of us to be able to do the same. No access for some citizens should be no access for all citizens. These adjoining landowners are attempting to seize land that they DO NOT own.

  11. This is a bill strictly to cater to only one side of the entire trespass issue. Wyoming already has very strict trespass laws. In fact, a landowner doesn’t even need to post or fence his land to have the public guilty of trespass.

    If Rep. Crago and the other sponsors really trying to represent Wyoming citizens, how about sponsoring a bill that finds landowners guilty if they post or otherwise impede legal access to public land. And then enforce it. This needs to go both ways.

    1. Robert, let me add: create a bill that requires landowners to MARK and POST their property lines, ACCURATELY, not some guess. The way it is now is purely a guessing game and all the landowner has to do is call either a game warden or sheriff deputy, CLAIM an individual is trespassing and BANG, a ticket gets issued. The onus has SOLELY been on the one accused and the current statute only supports the LANDOWNER. Heck, many landowners don’t even know their own property lines and corner marking plus there are many WELFARE COWBOYS that will lie. This 1880’s way of thinking and the welfare rancher shills put in place aka REPS and SENATORS to do their bidding in Cheyenne is a crock and a hoax. If these clowns are allowed to operate unchecked, they’ll soon make a statute claiming all public lands in Wyoming are under the ownership of the welfare bunch and excluded the citizens from access.

      1. According to Game and Fish Trespass Statue- It is the recreationist’s responsibility to know where they are at when hunting, fishing, shed hunting, etc.

  12. It’s obvious that these “representatives” are in Cheyenne to strictly do the bidding of Big Ag. The Fed’s just announced the 2022 grazing fees on public lands (BLM & USFS)….it’s $1.35 a MONTH to run either: a Cow & Calf pair – 1 Bull – 1 Horse – 5 Sheep. Along with the nearly free grazing permits, Big Ag also wants to control for themselves the hunting and recreation on “their” public land by making it very hard for the citizens to even access this land. I’ll bet fairly soon these types will also try to come up with some bill to make illegal any kind of access to the BLM, USFS and Wyoming Trust lands. Thanks soooo much to the following Big Ag shills:

    Rep. Barry Crago (R-Buffalo)
    Reps. Eric Barlow (R-Gillette)
    Aaron Clausen (R-Douglas)
    Jamie Flitner (R-Greybull)
    Mike Greear (R-Worland)
    Chip Neiman (R-Hulett)
    Ember Oakley (R-Riverton)
    Tom Walters (R-Casper)
    Sens. Brian Boner (R-Douglas)
    Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower)
    Dave Kinskey (R-Sheridan)

  13. During this financial crisis that we’re all facing in Wyoming, this is the main issue that a few members of the legislature can come up with? Keep creating more laws to penalized and imprison the citizens of this state? What is wrong with this modern breed of representation that we send to Cheyenne? Good grief! Regardless if it’s tied into the corner crossing situation, I’d like to ask the following people to work on something more constructive that actually helps the lives of your constituents vs. trying to find new ways to screw Wyomingites by getting into their pockets and throwing them in jail:

    Rep. Barry Crago (R-Buffalo)
    Reps. Eric Barlow (R-Gillette)
    Aaron Clausen (R-Douglas)
    Jamie Flitner (R-Greybull)
    Mike Greear (R-Worland)
    Chip Neiman (R-Hulett)
    Ember Oakley (R-Riverton)
    Tom Walters (R-Casper)
    Sens. Brian Boner (R-Douglas)
    Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower)
    Dave Kinskey (R-Sheridan)

  14. Well, well, well….looks like a really bad bill designed to stick it to the average citizen. The archaic welfare rancher’s way of doing business in this state needs to die a quick death. Crago’s bill emboldens the welfare rancher and does nothing other than penalize the citizens of Wyoming who don’t make a living off subsidies and the govt. teat. Thanks a bunch, Crago…we can see exactly what you’re trying to pull here.