No trespassing: Hunter keeps property boundaries in his sights
It happens to every hunter and angler: A trip is ruined when an illegal gate, fence or “No Trespassing” sign prevents access to public land.
In most cases, the hunter or angler gives up and goes elsewhere, which is just what the landowner wants and expects.
But sometimes a hunter refuses to back down.
Brandon Siegfried decided not to back down after being harassed by landowners illegally posting public land along Roan Creek near De Beque.
“My buddy and I were turkey hunting up here and a rancher stopped his truck and asked us what we were doing,” Siegfried recounted during a recent tour of Roan Creek. “We told him, and he said there wasn’t any public land around here.”
Siegfried said he showed the rancher the BLM land status map and his GPS with the overlays of public and private land and the rancher backed off.
“He just said, ‘Well, it looks like you guys know what you’re doing. Have a good day’ and drove away,” Siegfried said.
But another rancher verbally abused Siegfried and his friend on a different trip, even though the two were sitting on a public road at the time.
“I’ve had several altercations in the (Roan Creek) area with uneducated ranchers — uneducated concerning their property boundaries,” Siegfried said.
On the surface, it seems most landowners are careful about posting their private land.
Other than the obvious reason — protecting and enclosing domestic livestock — some landowners have had past trouble with trespassers hunting without permission or leaving gates open or damaging equipment.
But Siegfried isn’t interested in accessing private property. On the contrary, he’s a dedicated public-land hunter and makes a huge effort to avoid private land.
It’s just when landowners illegally block access to public land that Siegfried gets roiled.
“I don’t want to trespass, that’s why I’m doing this,” he said. “I want to be able to access public lands.”
The question of access has many turns and convolutions.
Property lines laid out 100 years ago may or may not be accurate according to today’s satellite-enabled survey systems.
Sometimes, a piece of property changes hands and the buyers have only the seller’s word that the fence lines are the true boundaries.
And sometimes it’s just a matter of keeping a piece of hard-to-access public land private.
“I asked one rancher if I could go across his property to reach some public land and he told me no, that he had some family that liked to hunt up there,” Siegfried said.
It may seem quixotic to chase access to isolated parcels of public land, but in this case it’s about using legal means to access those lands.
You need to be able to read a map, both a topographic map and a BLM land status map, and to remember that arguing in the field with an upset landowner achieves nothing.
Siegfried uses maps along with a hand-held GPS that shows overlays of public and private land along with waypoints he’s established to determine his location.
GPS isn’t completely accurate, most systems can get you within 15 meters of a certain spot, which is why Siegfried always keeps up to 50 feet away from private land lines.
But hikers and hunters are increasingly using GPS systems, Google earth mapping and other resources to fine-tune their ability to locate public land.
“As people work with computers and GPS, I think landowners are going to get called more and more on this,” Siegfried said.
His efforts have led to the BLM correcting some land violations in Roan Creek.
This includes removing an illegally placed gate on County Road 232 (Carr Creek), removing two “No Trespassing” signs on Clear Creek that were blocking legal access to the creek and asking a rancher on Roan Creek to remove a fence and pasture blocking access to a well-marked BLM trail.
“We just wanted the trail opened up and an understanding where the BLM is and who has access to it,” Siegfried said. “I’m just glad to see the issues being resolved for the public land users.”
“I have two young boys and when they are old enough to go hunting with me, I want to have some place at to take them that isn’t over-run by other hunters,” he said.