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State v. Wouters

Decided: January 18, 1962.


Conford, Freund and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Freund, J.A.D.


[71 NJSuper Page 481] Defendant, Spencer Wouters, was convicted on a trial de novo in the Hunterdon County Court of

trespassing on the land of another person for the purpose of hunting deer in violation of N.J.S.A. 23:7-1. He was originally tried in the Municipal Court of Delaware Township, Hunterdon County, convicted, and fined $25, plus costs of $5. The County Court increased the fine to $50.

The appendix furnished us by appellant was entirely inadequate; however, we have read the entire transcript of the trial de novo and find the essential facts to be as follows. At about 10:00 or 10:30 A.M. on December 31, 1960, the closing date of the special deer hunting season, Wouters and a companion, William Hutton, who was also convicted in the municipal court, were driving in the vicinity of the Brookville or Brook Hollow Road, in Delaware Township, N.J. Both wore hunting clothes, had hunting licenses and were armed with 12-gauge shotguns. They stopped and left their car when they noticed eight or nine deer running through a nearby field. Upon their return they were met by Otto F. Schlett, an employee of Nilsen Detective Agency, who informed them that they had just trespassed on property owned by Miss Jane E. Henderson.

Schlett testified for the State that his agency had been employed by Miss Henderson to prevent trespassing on her property during the deer season. She had instructed him as to the boundary lines of her property. While cruising in the area he received a radio signal from Nilsen personnel inside the Henderson property. Accompanied by one John Walton, he drove to a bend in the Brookville Road adjacent to the Henderson land and saw a parked automobile. He first observed Hutton about 15 feet within the Henderson property walking toward him along an old road. Schlett and Walton identified themselves as state officers (although they were not), and told Hutton he had trespassed on private property that was being patrolled. Soon after, he saw Wouters coming out "from the green stuff right directly under a trespass sign on this property." He also told him he was a trespasser on the Henderson property and informed the two men that their cases would go to the Assistant

District Conservation Officer, Warden William L. Jeschke. At the time, the ground was covered with snow and there were footprints from the defendants' car to where the defendants were first seen coming from the Henderson property. Schlett testified that both men unloaded their shotguns after they had returned to the road. Wouters and Hutton told Schlett that: "They were pursuing deer." On January 5, 1961 Schlett reported the trespass to Jeschke.

On cross-examination Schlett stated that the Henderson property line, indicated by a stone marker, ran approximately eight feet away from the road. He said there were many red and black "No Trespassing" signs posted along the boundary line of the property, about 20 to 25 feet apart.

Walton substantially corroborated Schlett's testimony. He, too, observed Hutton heading out from the Henderson property, followed shortly by Wouters. He did concede, however, he was not too well acquainted with the boundary lines in that area.

Warden Jeschke stated that at about noon on December 31, 1960, Wouters and Hutton came to his home, told him of their meeting with Schlett, and asked what procedure they were to follow if a summons were to be issued. He testified that he "asked them did they actually go on any certain lands, and both said yes." Both also admitted they "were in the act of hunting." He asked "both men * * * why did they enter this land?" They said, "Well, we saw a herd of 8 or 9 deer and we entered those lands in search of a buck, but all we saw was anterless [ sic ] deer." Jeschke testified that the red and black "No Hunting" signs were posted on trees and fences within the property lines. In the particular area where the two defendants were apprehended there was a double row of such signs -- one 8 to 10 feet from the edge of the road, the other 30 to 35 feet from the road. He testified that "they were scattered out all over. There's an awful mess of signs in there."

Miss Henderson testified that she was the owner of 75 acres of land on which the defendants were alleged to have trespassed. In October of 1960, with a survey in hand, she, together with her superintendent, David Laing, walked the boundary lines of her property. She had purchased signs reading "No Trespassing," "No Deer Hunting," "No Trespassing With Dog or Gun." Under her direction these signs were posted on trees or stakes at eye-level and were as close as 20 yards apart in certain areas. At the boundary line where defendants crossed onto the Henderson property, similar signs had also been posted.

Laing corroborated Miss Henderson's testimony in all important respects. He added that the signs were mounted on boards and "nailed with good long nails into the trees along the Brook Hollow Road." He patrolled the Henderson property during hunting season and would replace any signs where needed. He said the ...

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