Judge rules in favor of corner crossing hunters

Photo sourced from GOHUNT Maps

In a decision that hunters across the West were waiting for, a federal judge has ruled in favor of the Missouri hunters charged with corner-crossing in Wyoming. Chief U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled that the four hunters did not trespass "through the airspace above Fred Eshelman’s Elk Mountain Ranch” despite Eshelman’s lawsuit that claimed the violation caused over $7 million in damages, according to WyoFile.

As GOHUNT previously reported, the incident occurred in 2020 and 2021 as the men moved from one piece of public land to another in an area nearly landlocked due to Eshelman’s 22,045-acre ranch. While charges were initially dismissed back in May, Eshelman didn’t drop the issue. Instead, he sued the hunters in September 2022, bringing the case back to the epicenter of the hunting community.

This decision sets precedent for future decisions for public access to 8.3 million acres of public land “corner locked” in the U.S. 

“This is a long overdue and singularly great outcome for the entire American public and anybody who enjoys public lands,” said Ryan Semerad, who represented the hunters during the case.

Skavdahl noted in his 32-page order that the damages Eshelman claimed for the trespassing would be limited to “nominal damages” rather than the $7.75 million he claimed. 

During the trial, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) vocally supported the hunters and argued the corner-crossing was moot. This is the statement released by Land Tawney, BHA president and CEO, regarding the recent decision:

“Today was a win for the people, both in Wyoming and across the country. The court’s ruling confirms that it was legal for the Missouri Four to step from public land to public land over a shared public/private corner. Coupled with recent legislation passed by the Wyoming Legislature, we are happy that common sense and the rule of law prevailed. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers applauds the court’s careful balancing of access to public land and respect of private property rights. We look forward to finding more solutions to access — together.”

While Semerad anticipates an appeal, he said, “For now, all my clients are very, very happy.”


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