A Libertarian Consideration of Property Rights, and the Louisiana Game Warden

Ken LaRive 1
Photo by Ken LaRive 2015

By TLB Contributor: Ken LaRive

Good Morning. It is a rainy day here in Louisiana, with a cool front moving in. A light coat might be required for old bones like mine, but a good day to write an essay.

Just spent a wonderful Easter weekend with family on the rolling hill outskirts of St. Francisville where we have a family camp. I played with my new grand daughter and a clutch of spirited children who like to fish, ride in my canoe, pound the trails in SUVs, swim in the streams, and the woods echoed with their laughter.

My son in law is the owner of this property, and a good and responsible caretaker. He knows the law, the balance of nature, and has been raised and taught by a family of outdoors-men. This weekend I had the good fortune of doing two turkey hunts, with a total of about two hours each in a ground-blind of his own design. The weather was cool and dry the first day, and a light rain the second, and as we huddled together looking for a flash of movement on distant plots of mint-green winter grass and turnips, we bonded with lighthearted whispers. No, we didn’t shoot anything, though we did practice … but we came away with something far more valuable to me, bonding and great memories.

Over the years I have sat around fires with seasoned hunters, from Giles Island, Ola, to Sabine, and I have listened to fantastic stories of adventure… riveted by men who told of danger and near misses… men who have what I consider an innate and hardwired affinity for hunting, and most all had both love and an appreciative respect for the bounty of the land. Some were seasoned by fathers at an early age, and others were city slickers who grew to love the sport, and that was their commonality, along with an overwhelmingly Libertarian point of view. Most would not identify with that label, of course, as it is a newly revived concept in a world of growing government power and control. But all of them viewed their world with a strict conservative narrative of personal responsibility, duty, and obligation, and I am proud to count myself as one of them, being of Acadian-French-Cajun blood.

At the end of the day, as our children are taking baths and forced to bed by our wives, we men sit around tables and talk of business, complex political nightmares, and the vast and overwhelming changes affecting us all. Sometimes we all laugh together, and other times it grows to be quite serious, like government spying, our shredded constitution and bill of rights, the destruction of civil liberties, war for corporate profit, and much more, and after a couple of beers, (all we are allowed when there are children around), it stimulates a truthful and passionate banter. And without fail, one topic is always touched upon, the trespass of government agents without due process on private land.

“One could be watching us from the trees.”

a young man would say,

“Photographing us, listening to our words with devices … Who knows, they could be looking at us now from space!”

“The dogs would be barking.”

another would say with a laugh,

“But I get your drift. My camera’s have caught them several times crossing the stream that is my boundary line, or jumping my fence from the road looking for law-breakers, and I don’t like that one damned bit. Hey, you have some suspicion, get a court order and come to my front door, I don’t like all of this sneaking around crap.”

“Yea, me too. I have a friend who got caught shooting a deer on his property walking just after dark from his stand. It is all up in the air with lawyers and everything. A man with a badge lurking in the shadows someplace, who heard the shot? What is this crap?” …

… he said looking from right to left. It was too low for a child to hear, but it elicited a sharp look from his wife. Children are protected from many things in our Cajun culture, including cuss-words, and having a Christian moral compass is taught by example. These strong family values is what originally drew my wife and I from New Orleans, vying to be the murder capital of the world, to my ancestral home here in Acadiana’s Lafayette. It was the best choice we could have made, the very best place to raise our family.

But there are pros and cons to this privacy issue…

…and all who have a few years under their belts will agree that at times in our history, without government intervention, whole species may have been lost. All know well the near extinction of the Louisiana Alligator and hundreds more, the complete eradication of the Carolina Parakeet and the Passenger Pigeon are terrible examples of mismanagement or no management at all. These two species filled our skies along with the black bird just a hundred years ago, and since that time there were many near misses… Endangered to the brink of extinction. My father told me he remembered the poisoning of black birds as they raided rice farmers in black clouds, and how they were plowed under for years as fertilizer… not to mention the many species not indigenous to the area, brought in on purpose and some by accident, that have played havoc with the environment.

All of these species were killed by hunters, and farmers too, who thought themselves responsible, but did not have a good idea of the individual breeding patterns, or the habits they had outside of their small microcosm. The large clouds of migratory birds, for instance, had complicated and misunderstood mating habits and rituals that could only be displayed in large flocks, and alligators were easy picking for talented Cajun hunters who could see their eyes shining at night with a new kind of lantern called a spot light. The Red wolf is still trying to make a comeback in the Smoky Mountains, and they were eradicated from Louisiana because of fear, even without one confirmed attack on record. They are not finding much success in reintroduction because they have a problem assimilating with the Coyote who took up their niche, and also succumb to disease they have never developed an immunity for … stifling efforts to reintroduce them. The gray wolf, however, had made an amazing comeback into the Rocky Mountains.

So not all government intervention has a negative side, nor is it easily understood by people who want both privacy and land rights… Libertarians, like myself. Game wardens today have far greater powers to search for violations than most all other law enforcement, and long before the Patriot Act too. Studying this, it seems their jobs of protecting the environment would be virtually impossible without it.

Here in Louisiana, most all hunting and fishing are done on private property, and they have to be able to have access to the game. I’ve met several of these men and respected both them and the job they did, and it is, without a doubt, so very needed… They are compelled to be the protector of all wildlife, and demand us all to do the same… and all of them, to the last man I have met, took their jobs very seriously, and would not accept even a coke from us… There would be no leniency if we broke the law, even if they knew us well, so strong is their conviction.

Research indicates that most all hunting and fishing violations are misdemeanors. If a game warden played by the same rule-of-law as other law enforcement officials they would need to present probable cause that a felony was taking place and secure a warrant from a local judge before entering someone’s land. They have the power to search your home and car too, and without it I’ll bet that every deer-lease would be a year-long activity. Without proper management, deer, and all game for that matter, would have quickly been eradicated.

I’ve heard campfire statements that you would be far worse off if you shot a person than if you killed an endangered animal, but of course that just isn’t true. It will change your life however, with large fines imposed for each offense, possible confiscation of your vehicle and guns, with the real possibility of actual jail time.

One game warden told me this, and he affirmed to me he was an Oath Keeper… written from memory, of course…

“You might want to compare the Sabine with the Rio Grande, where the two sides do not share enforcement duties. Mexican game regulations are tougher than the Texas ones, and the wardens tend to be more capricious. Friends of mine who fish lake Amistad have said that they stay well to the U.S. side of the buoys in the middle of the Lake to avoid being taken in by the Mexican game wardens.

No, Constitutional guarantees are not erased because law enforcement is wearing a game warden badge.”

Another told me this, as he was driving on a sandy flat along the Mississippi River…

“There may be some misunderstanding here of what the rules are.

Generally, you cannot vicariously trample on another person’s Constitutional rights.

That is, if you’re caught by the game warden jacklighting deer, and you happen to be on private property, that’s no problem for the warden, if it’s YOUR private property. If you were on Mrs. Jones’ land, you cannot raise her rights in your defense.

If you were on your land, it may not be a problem, in some cases, though there are stead-fast rules all must abide by, like bating turkey, and shooting and fishing over the legal limit, and of course all endangered animals are protected …. As long as the warden was legally entitled to be where he was – if your land is not posted “No Trespassing,” or if you have an easement, for example – then you have no defense.

If you have a hunting or fishing license, you generally consent to an administrative search designed to ensure you are acting within the bounds of the license.”

One other thing. No matter where you live in America. No matter where you fish, hunt, hike, SUV, or boat, you will always come across those who have no respect for nature. They will throw their trash on the side of a trail, poison a delicate stream with soap, dump oil on a pristine environment, and they should be stopped. I have no qualms about turning them in, though I have yet to do it…. I don’t feel sorry for them at all. Let them get a fine, be barred from that camping site, and the land will survive. Sure, sometimes these rules seem excessive, but it isn’t the men enforcing these rules that are to blame, but the irresponsible citizen who have blindsided the rest of us, and that is one hell of a take for a Libertarian living in a shrinking world. I love America, and the amazing natural diversity and beauty that is a gift from God, and it is our responsibility, to the very last person, to protect it.

God bless America, we are all game wardens, even us Libertarians.

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