STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. (AP) _ It's just like a bunch of out-of-towners to drive all over a farmer's field and get stuck in the mud. Now the farmers are holding a four-wheel-drive, 1974 Ford Bronco for $750 ransom.

''We could have prosecuted them for property damage, littering and trespassing,'' said St. Genevieve County farmer Carl Zerwig. ''You ought to see the ruts and gullies they made. And the beer cans and cardboard cartons.''

The Bronco's owner, John Meyer, comes from Crystal City in Jefferson County, one county to the north along the Mississippi.

''We feel that $750 is way too much for crossing their fields, and the way they went about it, like a bunch of vigilantes,'' said Meyer's brother-in-law, Marty Harman, also of Crystal City. ''They're just trying to keep outsiders out of their county.''

Harman said he and Meyer and two other men were looking for deer to spotlight Dec. 13 when they got stuck in mud at about 2 a.m.

''Spotting deer is not illegal,'' Harman said. ''It can be done if you don't have any weapons. It's kind of a sport. You might see a single deer during the day. But at night, with a spotlight, you can see a herd with 20, 30 or 40 deer.''

Harman said he and the two other men walked to Bloomsdale, about five miles away, to get a tow. When they returned, he said, they were met by Zerwig and some other farmers.

''They were carrying sticks, jumping up and down, hollering and accusing us of poaching,'' Harman said. Harman said he and his friends had been carrying no weapons.

The landowners told them to return that afternoon, but when they did, Harman said, they a deputy sheriff was waiting.

The deputy sheriff advised Harman and Meyer ''to go along with them and take care of the damages, and that if we did what the farmers wanted, they wouldn't press charges,'' Harman said.

The farmers offered to pull the Bronco out for $750, Harman said. Zerwig asked for $250 for damage to his field. Emerald Loida, who owns the field where the vehicle got mired in mud, wants $500.

''They said they would keep the Bronco until they got the cash,'' Harman said. ''We told them we couldn't come up with that money, and they said they would give us until Jan. 1.''

Zerwig and Loida said that the $750 offer was a fair deal.

''It would have cost them a lot more than that for trespassing, and maybe a night in jail,'' Zerwig said.