Charges dismissed in Wyoming corner crossing case
The controversial corner crossing case watched by hunters across the nation has come to a close – and it’s a positive one for the hunters involved. Last week, a six-member Carbon County, Wyoming jury found all four Missouri hunters not guilty of criminal trespass on Elk Mountain Ranch in 2021, according to WyoFile.
This clears Brad Cape, Phillip Yoemans, John Slowensky and Zach Smith from all charges and is a significant win within the corner crossing legal gray arena. The four nonresident hunters were charged with illegal trespassing after they traveled to Wyoming to hunt elk and mule deer on public land. However, to access the BLM-owned property, they had to step over an area where two of the corners were public and the other two were privately owned.
Corner crossing is an issue many western hunters are aware of navigating. It occurs when you step from one corner of public land to another, crossing over corners of private land to do so. According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, “crossing or entering private lands without landowner’s permission may result in a violation of Wyoming’s game and fish or criminal trespass statutes.” However, corner crossing isn’t the same as blatantly walking across private land to public. In fact, in 2004, the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office issued an official opinion that acknowledged the difficulty in determining whether corner crossing violated that game and fish trespass statute.
In February, as a result of the case, HB0103 – Prohibit travel across private land for hunting purposes was filed in an effort to broaden the definition of hunter trespass; however, the bill appears to have not progressed further.
Organizations like Backcountry Hunters & Anglers supported the four hunters, raising over $71,000 for their legal fees via a GoFundMe page.