A couple of articles in the latest edition of the Charleston Mercury really got my attention. Ben Moise, a retired Lowcountry game warden, described the infuriating reality of how trespassers who hunt on others’ property basically get a free pass.
Also, Jeff Dennis detailed the utility of rice trunks in managing waterfowl areas.
I know a gentleman who owns some land near Moncks Corner that is managed nearly exclusively for wildlife. He has an older caretaker, a fellow in his 60s whose life should be more about peace and quiet than confrontation.
Well, I’m told that a few weeks ago the caretaker ran into a couple of trespassers. They are said to have jumped in a truck and tried to beat a retreat, but the caretaker made the (ill-advised) decision to chase after them in his vehicle.
There reportedly was a confrontation, law enforcement was called and the case currently is dragging through the court system.
It does seem there is complete frustration with current laws. According to Moise’s article, a first-time conviction for trespass to hunt is nothing more than a slap on the wrist — a fine not to exceed $100 or more than 30 days in jail. It’s unlikely a judge will clog up the already overcrowded jail system with an infraction of this sort.
The fine costs about the same as a comprehensive hunting license. Meanwhile, the property owner has shelled out untold dollars paying taxes and insurance (including liability in case the trespasser ends up shooting somebody) on the land and managing it for wildlife.
A second offense will raise the fine to between $100 and $200 (or up to 30 days in jail) — still nothing, and what’s more, there’s the ongoing annoyance of prosecuting a conviction for such a piddling outcome. A third offense has a little more heft ($500-$1,000 fine or not more than six months in the clink), but the higher amounts are almost never imposed, and the trespasser is still likely to think that — overall — he’s getting a great deal.
Why not trespass? A convenient trip to the country on someone else’s nickel, in effect, and a heck of a lot cheaper than paying for the land and managing it personally.
So there’s obviously something wrong with this picture, and I hope lawmakers will correct it. On a personal note, I’ve come across trespassers myself on some Johns Island family property, and the usual story is that dogs have got loose and they’re just trying to track them down. ...
Interestingly, the dogs are known to grow antlers and can weigh as much as 200 pounds.
The article on the rice trunks got me thinking about the good old days when my grandfather used to plant rice on the North Santee. It was the best tasting grain I’ve ever eaten.
I know my friend Malcolm Rhodes plants it, and Randall Stoney tells me they’re now doing the same at Kensington on the east fork of the Cooper River.
There’s nothing more beautiful than a mature rice crop, not to mention the added benefit of enticing desirable waterfowl.
Hard work — no doubt — but how nice it is that people are trying to bring the king back to life.
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@ comcast.net.