Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hunters On Your Land

This obviously won't apply to all homesteaders, but it certainly is a reality for us. Hunters want to hunt on our land, and some wander in from the wildlife management area because they have no idea that it is private property. I've been thinking about how to respond to this and talking to locals and friends who are hunters. What is basic etiquette on both sides of the equation.

Some basics for the area first. You have to be 500 feet from a house without permission or 150 feet from the road to be able to discharge a firearm out of the confines of a specifically delineated shooting range. This covers everything that shoots bullets other than black powder rifles which don't count as fire arms in the state of Massachusetts. Whether bow hunting or gun hunting, all hunters in Massachusetts must get a hunting license by animal, and only have a certain number of tags. So that basic information out there, the conclusions I have come to.

Edit: The Lady of the House noted that in MA if you don't post it is legal to hunt on the land unlike in other states where it is the opposite, and you can only hunt if posted.

Can I Hunt On Your Land
If someone asks can I hunt on your land you can say yes, or no without any problems. After all for your own land you will want to limit how many hunters do hunt to preserve the wildlife on your land, or even pass through your land. If they ask in general from what I can tell the standard deal for letting someone hunt on your private land is a haunch of the Deer, or about 1/4th of it. When someone asks you if they can hunt on your land you also lay out any ground rules you have. For us our ground rules are simple.

* We expect the law to be obeyed on our land.
* Let us know before you come up, when you get here, and when you leave.
* No use of baits. If you can't get anything without baiting the area you can't get it on our land.
* You can shoot closer than 500 feet from our house as long as . . .
* Don't shoot the house.
* Don't shoot the dogs, they don't even look like Coyotes. (And they will be wearing reflective orange vests)

So far not a single hunter I've had ask to hunt on our land has had any problems with these ground rules at all, and they seem to be fairly universal.

Hunters Coming In From the Wildlife Management Area
We haven't had any do this yet, but we've found boot tracks in the deep woods off the paths, so I am guessing there are at least a few people who do hunt the area around us. Not many due to the difficulty of the terrain other than our driveway. Without having no hunting and no trespassing signs up ringing our property, which we do not yet, we can't expect people to know not to hunt on our land coming in from that way.

What we can expect is for people to be respectful, and not shoot near the house since they should have done their research so they're not breaking the law. We can also expect that if someone comes on the house that they will either not hunt near it, or come knock on the door to talk to us. In that case, after the surprise of a guy with a shotgun at the door, it seems the thing to do is use your best judgment on what to do, whether it be to politely ask the person to leave or refer to the ground rules for hunting on our land.

I Don't Want Hunting On My Land!
Post signs every 10 feet in a ring around your entire property saying no hunting, trapping, or trespassing.

The Sketchy Folks
Recently a couple of people came up our driveway at night on foot. We knew they were there because the dogs went nuts, and after realizing it was people with guns not animals our house mate came back inside with the dogs, and called the police. By this point they had left, and had not gone up further onto our land based on the tracks in the snow. In case of such a situation, calling the police seems the thing to do. The only thing I can think of to make that less likely is to put a chain across the bottom of the driveway in addition to the No Trespassing sign that is already down there.

Over All
Handling hunting on your land is fairly simple if you want to let it happen, and fairly simple if you don't. No one came up and hunted this year, but we're hoping that someone will come hunting and we'll get a haunch of deer without having to hunt it ourselves since neither of us know how to do so properly!


  1. Ah hunters. I remember my mom dressing me in neon all fall when I went out to play so no one would accidentally shoot me (perhaps thinking I was a large blond squirrel?). There were our neighbors who hunted who threatened to shoot our dogs (a golden and a herding-mutt), and then there was the guy who shot a deer, *then* realized he was in someone's yard, so ran away and let it stumble across the street to die on the non-outdoors-y neighbor's front step. Good times! :)

  2. There are times that I'm glad we don't have neighbors. The neighbors thing is one of them. The thing that's frustrating is that most people who hunt are perfectly good. The few that don't, Really stand out.