Bill Would Increase Penalties For Hunter Harassment

As far as I know, hunter harassment is illegal in all fifty states, but some of the laws lack the teeth to deal with certain situations. A Massachusetts hunter was recently injured when the cables of his treestand were intentionally cut causing him to fall 25 feet.

According to Mass Live, Matthew Pearle fell 25 feet and broke his back after his tree stand was sabotaged. According to South Coast Today, the cables holding Pearle’s tree stand were cut, leaving only a few wires. So the stand appeared normal but broke when he stood on it. 

Matthew Pearle recovering from his tree stand fall

According to The Gun Owners Action League, existing criminal laws are not easily applied to something like vandalizing a tree stand, and GOAL wants to “make sure it’s very clear that this stuff is not to be tolerated.”

At the behest of GOAL Sen. Michael Moore, D-Millbury, sponsored the bill, S.997 with the intent to make the law bite harder.

Under current law, the punishment for harassing a hunter is a fine of up to $500 or 14 days in jail. But according to the retired game warden, John Pajak, disrupting a hunt generally results in a $50 ticket for a first-time offense.

The bill would make vandalism of hunting equipment a criminal charge, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Vandalism resulting in bodily injury could be punished by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

It would also add more teeth to the statute that is already in place, including using drones to disrupt a hunt, verbally or physically threatening a hunter, and falsely posting property. Those offenses, along with types of harassment that are already illegal would be punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Jim Wallace, executive director of GOAL, said since the state’s initial anti-harassment laws were written more than 25 years ago, anti-hunting groups have escalated their harassment, sabotaging equipment, vehicles, and tree stands. “What we want to do is amend the laws to match the escalation, whether it’s destruction or outright violence,” Wallace said.

Hunters need to support bills like this and do what ever they can to see that hunters have the proper protection.