Big Win for Hunters in Corner Crossing Controversy

By Brodie SwisherMay 30, 20239 Comments

If you’ve spent time hunting public lands in western states like Wyoming and Montana, you may be familiar with the ongoing corner crossing controversy that’s been brewing for many years. The issue has continued to draw attention from hunters and landowners with ongoing updates from media outlets like MeatEater and their podcast, Cal’s Week in Review.

But what exactly is the issue? 

Here’s the deal. There are a number of land parcels across the country where 2 private land parcels come together touching at their corners, with public land corners sandwiched in the mix as well. Think about it like a checkerboard. 

Big Win For Hunters In Corner Crossing Controversy
The Elk Mountain Ranch in Wyoming is one of many parcels of land that has the controversial corner crossings. Photo: Mike Vanata / WyoFile

Some landowners claim that any public land hunter stepping from public land to public land, across these private land corners is trespassing. It’s been a battle for decades. 

However, in one of the more recent cases, a federal judge ruled that four Missouri hunters did not trespass when they corner crossed and passed through the airspace above Elk Mountain Ranch, owned by Fred Eshelan.

In fact, according to WyoFile.com, Chief U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl granted the hunters’ request to dismiss most of Eshelman’s lawsuit that claimed the men trespassed and caused more than $7 million in damages. The men corner-crossed in 2020 and 2021 to hunt public land enmeshed in Eshelman’s 22,045-acre ranch.

It’s the news hunters across the country have been waiting to hear…

“Corner crossing on foot in the checkerboard pattern of land ownership without physically contacting private land and without causing damage to private property does not constitute an unlawful trespass.” 

Judge Scott Skavdahl

Big Win For Hunters In Corner Crossing Controversy
One of the Missouri hunters using a ladder to cross a fence placed by private land owners at a corner crossing. Photo: Exhibit/U.S. District Court

Hunters now hope that such a decision could lead to new opportunities to 8.3 million acres of “corner locked” public land in the U.S. 

“This is a long overdue and singularly great outcome for the entire American public and anybody who enjoys public lands,” says Ryan Semarad, attorney for the Missouri hunters. 

Groups like Backcountry Hunters & Anglers have been on the front lines in the battle over corner crossing public lands in recent years. 

“Today was a win for the people, both in Wyoming and across the country,” Land Tawney, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers president and CEO, said in a statement. “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.”

What are your thoughts on the corner crossing issue? Comment below, and let us know how you feel about this hot topic.

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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