By Jan Haagensen, Esq.
My family and I were subjected to years of harassment and criminal
assault by local hunters. Persistent trespassers tried to muscle their
way onto our property, and hunt without permission. We demanded that the
police do their job, i.e., identify and arrest hunters trespassing on
our property. We also insisted on our right to report illegal
road-hunting-blasting with high-powered rifles from public roads, or
shooting out of vehicles.
Criminal behavior on our property over twenty years included arson,
fence-cutting, gate-busting, theft, destruction of no-hunting signs,
destruction of trees, reckless shooting, poaching, deliberate wounding
of protected animals, illegal trapping, bow hunting, and trespassing
Most of the hunters we confronted were drunk. Live rounds went through
our yard, and into the walls of our neighbor’s house. Yet, the state
police were extremely hostile to us, and extremely slow when they
finally responded to our frantic calls for help. They rarely identified
those who committed these crimes, and never made arrests. We were
routinely threatened by the hunters we caught on our ground. The Game
Commission claimed they had no jurisdiction over trespassers. They said
it was our responsibility to identify armed strangers on our property.
No one in my family possessed a gun.
One morning, I saw a truck parked on our private driveway, and hunters
entering our woods. I confronted the three men, told them they were on
private property, and that I had called the police. The hunters left. We
went to check on our other farm. We rightly suspected that hunters would
also trespass there.
As we approached, I saw three men walking into our woods. I parked my
truck, got out and walked toward them. I yelled “You’re on private
property!” The men started to walk away from me toward a neighbor’s
fields. When I got close, I recognized one as someone who always gave us
trouble during hunting season - a local police officer. I didn’t
recognize the other two men, but later learned that one of them was a
police officer from another town. The local officer was not in orange,
and wasn’t carrying a gun. In other words, HE WASN’T HUNTING. They told
me they were on their side of the boundary. I said that I had seen them
go a hundred feet over the line on my side, and that they weren’t to go
any farther in. We argued a little while; I then walked back to the
truck. A state trooper was there talking to my mother. I told him to
arrest the men for trespassing. The trooper said he would question them.
I was later cited with a criminal complaint and realized that the
trooper had never filed my complaint of defiant trespass. I was charged
with two felony counts: making false reports to law enforcement, and
hunter harassment. In the affidavit, the trooper identified only one of
the men. And he took at face value a statement from my neighbor, who
represented that he owned the whole driveway.
Regarding the second incident, the local policeman informed the trooper
that he was hunting at the time I encountered him with the other two.
This was false; he had admitted under oath at trial that he was not
hunting when I found him on my property. (This of course made the charge
of “hunter harassment” of him irrelevant.)
The Trooper stated that the property in question was not mine, even
though he knew very well that there was no dispute over ownership of the
woods. The trooper stated that I had interfered with three men who were
hunting. He knew that one was not in orange or licensed to hunt on that
day I caught him on my land.
Another morning my mother and I pulled out of our driveway and saw a car
parked on the shoulder of a very narrow country road. We saw a hunter
standing behind a hay bale, her rifle propped on top of it, facing the
I yelled to the hunter that it was illegal for her to shoot from that
position, and I was calling the police. The woman broke open her rifle,
and unloaded the shells in plain view. Then, her husband came out of the
field with a rifle. He came up to me and screamed that he would kill us.
He said he knew where I lived, and he’d be back for us that night. I
told him the police were coming, and drove back into our driveway. I
called the state police on my cell phone. After about thirty minutes, we
drove around the block and found the hunters’ car parked on another
property, and saw again that they were hunting too close to the road.
When the responding officer finally showed up, I told him about the
hunters. He approached them and talked to them in a friendly manner.
When I tried to make my statement, he yelled that the hunters could do
whatever they wanted, and it was perfectly okay for them to hunt from
the road with high-powered rifles. He ignored me when I told him that my
mother’s life and mine had been explicitly threatened, and that nobody
had any right to shoot from a road that’s traveled by cars and school
The state trooper refused to give me an incident form or the name of a
contact person. He refused to take my mother’s statement and never took
a full statement from me. He told the hunters that they could hunt
wherever they wanted to hunt.
I called my state representative’s office and he directed me to file a
complaint with the Bureau of Professional
Another morning, I saw more hunters going into our woods at the top of
the hill. I parked in my neighbor’s driveway, which I had his permission
to do. I saw the hunters moving away from me, onto bordering property.
When I drove out, I passed a state trooper’s car. I told him I had seen
hunters on my property. He said he would look into it.
I was subsequently charged by a hunter and another trooper of
“harassing” him while he was “lawfully hunting deer.” I was found guilty
of this offense, even though his son testified that I was half a mile
away from where they were standing. He had previously been convicted of
criminal fraud, but my attorney wasn’t allowed to bring this up at
On that same day, as I was driving around to see if anyone was
trespassing on my second farm, I saw cars parked and knew that hunters
were trying to “drive” deer on my ground. I saw hunters in my woods and
told them to get off my property. They moved back toward the road. I
followed them off my ground and across my neighbor’s land to the road.
When I got there, a large group of hunters with high-powered rifles was
A state cop and a Game Warden were also there. A truckload of other
hunters pulled up; they were standing in the open bed of the pickup with
rifles in their hands. The officers never told them that this was
illegal. I told both officers that I wanted the hunters arrested for
defiant trespass. The officers did nothing to stop the threatening
behavior toward me from the heavily-armed group who had just trespassed
on my property.
I was subsequently charged with harassment of six hunters. One hunter
admitted that they were trespassing on my property that day. Despite
this testimony, I was convicted. One of the men, the father of a local
officer, who had an extensive criminal record for theft and trespassing;
but I was prohibited from bringing up this fact.
I believe the state police and Game Commission officers set me up
because a) I insisted that they had a duty to respond when I made
complaints against hunters; b) the cops were hunters themselves and
wanted to use our ground as a private hunting preserve for themselves
and their friends; c) the police and game wardens wanted to use me as an
example of what could happen to landowners who tried to stop hunting;
and (d) the Game Commission was attempting to legitimize hunting on
I was later charged with misconduct concerning my accusation of
trespassing on my property by hunters who were “driving” deer out of my
woods; and with making false reports to law enforcement authorities.
After I was convicted, the Judge said, “You hate hunting. I would like
to put you in jail.”
In any other state in the union, the woman hunter would have been
arrested for reckless endangerment or worse, as a potential sniper, for
even intending to discharge a rifle by the side of a public road. She
confessed her intent to hunt from this dangerous position, but the judge
wrote, “The Commonwealth had sufficient evidence to prove the Defendant
did in fact harass the victim.” The hunter harassment statute was never
meant to protect a potential sniper on a public road. Such shameless
behavior by a sitting judge suggests the hopelessness of looking to the
system for rationality or fairness.
The judge never even took up the issue of legality of hunting without
permission on private property. Instead, he used state law to retaliate
against me for complaining about dangerous, illegal activities. This
kind of “judicial” response, which displays such contempt for the facts
and the law, is very disturbing.
The judge’s opinions imply that citizens don’t have the right to deny
armed trespassers access to private land and that an offense against
public safety isn’t a crime. They show obliviousness to the
constitutionality of free speech. Without the appellate court, the judge
acts apart from law and fact, and can ignore testimony given under oath.
I am constantly at risk from local hunters who make false accusations
and real threats, and from the state police, who protect their friends
by refusing to show up or run a competent investigation. The police know
that unarmed people are in danger when confronting armed trespassers.
Yet they let citizens who are alone and unarmed, handicapped or old, do
it on their own.
So far I am the only participant in this dispute who has been injured,
financially and otherwise. The state police encourage local criminals to
believe they will be protected by the system, and I will be isolated
when I ask for help. A civil rights action is warranted, in my name and
anyone else’s who could be subjected to this kind of assault by their
I have also been victimized by hunters, police and state environmental
agents. We have witnessed others being harassed as well. If you would
like to join Jan in this effort to reverse the hunter harassment laws
and protect property owners from hunters and the abominable hunter
harassment laws, please contact us or Jan!
We can succeed together.
Pennsylvania is the third biggest hunting state in the country; (only
Texas and Alaska top PA). On September 8, jurors found a township
orchard owner partially liable for the injuries a woman suffered when
she was struck in the head by a bullet fired by a deer hunter on private
property. The verdict is prompting landowners to deny sportsmen the
right to hunt on their land.
The jury found the hunter 90% liable, and the landowner 10% liable. The
hunter paid $5,500 in fines. The attorney for the victim argued that the
landowner disregarded his neighbors’ safety by letting people hunt on
his property. As suburban sprawl reaches rural areas risks and culture
clash occur. www.Mcall.com stated that while hunters have a right to
hunt (hopefully it was a statement of fact and not an endorsement), the
rest of us have a right to be safe. Wildlife Watch wrote the following
letter: To Mcall.Com - Landowners
Should Not Pass the "Buck"