Legally speaking, you hang one, 5 or 20 tree stands near the line that separates your hunting property from a neighbor’s. You can walk around or drive a UTV on your side of the line as much as yu want to. Heck, can pop up a tent and make deer camp as long as you stay on your side of the fence.

Property law is simple: You stay on your side of the line, and I’ll stay on mine. But step a boot across the boundary line without permission, and that’s obviously trespassing.

Twitter Poll

I always assumed every hunter dislikes or downright despises a   fence-sitter, or a hunter who posts too close to a property line. But every hunter’s code of ethics is different, so I wanted to be open-minded. I got the idea to poll my Twitter followers on the topic. I hoped for maybe a dozen responses; I got more than 100! Property-line hunting is more of a hot-button issue than I thought.

Here is a cross-section of comments from the poll. I was only going to list 5 or 6, but the responses are so thought-provoking that I listed a dozen:

“If you crowd the fence, expect people on the other side to do the same.”

“As long as the deer you shoot are on your side of the line, it doesn’t matter.”

“I set up 80-100 yards from a property line. I want that buffer to avoid a deer I shoot running off and dying on the neighbor’s land.”

“Two occasions we found stands right on the line. Called the neighbor and told him if they trespass or shoot an animal across the line, I will know and I will prosecute. They moved the stands.”

“If a hunter has the proper permission, respects our borders and asks to recover an animal, I have no issues.”

“If archery hunting, that deer is going to run. How far and in what direction? Better to stay back from the line.”

“I suggest a conversation with the neighbors to understand each other’s plans on hunting near the line.”

“If you are close enough to shoot a deer on somebody else’s property, then you’re hunting too close.”

“Hunting etiquette says people ought to keep their stands away from each other. Not only for safety but for the hunt as well. You can scare each other’s deer if you hunt too close.”

“One of our neighbor’s doesn’t hunt and allows no hunting, so we have several stands within 50 yards of that border.”

“I think fence-sitting is ok. The deer don’t know the property lines. Need to be respectful and obey laws, but after that it’s fair game.”

“We hunt right on one line but both farms have talked, and we have an agreement that we can hunt close and trail a deer onto the other’s property. If you don’t have such an agreement stay off the line. Keeping good neighbors is above reproach.”

Guidelines for Hunting the Line

There was one constant in the poll, and it didn’t surprise me. More than 50% of hunters commented that all things considered, they set a stand, and hide it, 100 yards or more off a property line and well inside the land where they have permission.

“Who wants to hunt where you can see another guy’s stand, or even the hunter?” one person Tweeted. “I don’t want to hunt near some guy on the other side, who knows if he’s safe or ethical or even what he’s doing?” another wrote. My favorite, “I don’t want to hunt the same deer as some fence-sitter, I go find better spot on my side where I feel safe and comfortable.”

In most situations, backing a reasonable distance off a property line is good etiquette and sensical for hunters on both sides of the fence. But I can think of a couple of scenarios when hugging a line is perfectly acceptable, and even smart.

First, if the neighboring property is tightly posted. The other landowner doesn’t hunt, and he doesn’t give anybody permission.

Let’s say you get a cam image and know a good 10-pointer is coming off nearby posted land and working along a ridge toward a corn patch on your side. In essence, the posted property across the fence is one big sanctuary for the resident deer.

If the best spot for a stand was a high, flat spot on my side 40 or 50 yards off the line, I wouldn’t hesitate to post up there. I’d be shrewd about it, and position my stand for a broadside or quartering-away shot as a buck comes off the posted land in the afternoon. If I shoot a deer with either bow or rifle, it’s almost 100% that he will run deeper inside my land and pile up. Perfect.

Even if I knew a 160-inch buck was working that ridge, I would not be tempted to sit that stand in the morning, however. If I spot the giant coming back from the corn and walking toward the posted property, a shot would not be ethical. A buck shot through the lungs with either arrow or bullet would almost certainly run 50 yards onto the posted land. Not perfect, you’re in a pickle.

If you ever decide to hunt within 50 yards or so of a private property line, keep these things in mind: stand positioning on a tree, deer patterns, safe shooting lines and where a buck might run if you shoot him . That’s good hunting decorum. If you shoot a doe or buck and it pulls a fishhook and runs bleeding across a property line, you must call or run down the neighbor and get permission before crossing the line and tracking the animal.

If you hunt a private tract that borders a state WMA or natural forest, go ahead and hang your stand close as you dare to the property line. It’s perfectly legal to watch for and even shoot a deer across the line on the public ground. Of course, the closer you set up to the boundary of a public area, the more likely you’ll see a few or a bunch of other hunters.

That’s why my buddy David waits until the November rifle opener to go in and hunt a 50-acre tract he owns that borders a public area in in western Tennessee. In the predawn he creeps toward his tree stand, which is set 70 yards off the property line and positioned facing straight away from the public ground.

When dawn breaks, he looks down into the deep, thick drainage and picks out his open shooting lanes. A little later the rifles start booming behind him, and then he hears the hooves of deer coming and sees them piling into the drainage. Doe, doe, small buck, shooter… Old Dave shoots a buck here most every year, the last one scored 152. Sometimes you can use a property line to your advantage.