Three of the four corner crossing hunters face new charges

Screenshot showing a corner crossing example of two public land parcels with private land near it from GOHUNT Maps.

Three of the four hunters acquitted of corner crossing in Wyoming face new charges for the same crime. This week, Bradley Cape, Phillip Yeomans and Zachary Smith were served with new trespassing charges for an incident in 2020 – just days after they were cleared for the same crime in 2021. According to WyoFile, in the new lawsuit, each Missouri hunter now faces one count of “violating Wyoming’s criminal trespass law or the state’s trespassing-to-hunt statute.”

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. That land was the Elk Mountain Ranch owned by North Carolina resident Fred Eshelman.

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.

The new charges state that three of the men did the same thing in 2020 near the same ranch. Court papers filed by Deputy Carbon County Attorney Mark Nugent “allege the trespass occurred between Sept. 15, 2020 and Oct. 15, 2020.” 

When Cape, Yeomans and Smith were questioned about their potential trespassing, the men “stated that they had been coming to Wyoming for the past few years and were aware of ‘corner crossing laws,’” according to the affidavit. “They admitted that they were crossing at the intersection of private and public lands, but expressed that they did not intend to trespass. They stated repeatedly that their intentions were to ‘corner cross’, but not to trespass.”

So, now these three hunters face an additional lawsuit and the original four also face a civil case brought by Eshelman. 

What do you think? Is justice being served or is this an unprecedented attack?


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