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Select State Laws on Hunting and Trespassing

All city, county, and state law enforcement officers can enforce hunter trespass laws. In 40 states, officers may enforce property boundaries through:

  • The state's wildlife and fisheries management agency
  • Game commissions
  • Other governmental regulatory bodies

In 22 states, owners don't have to post. It is against the law for hunters to trespass on private property without the landowner's permission, even if the land is not posted. These property rights limitations exist irrespective of whether it's hunting season or whether one has a hunting license.

Where private landowners must post, some states have laws specifying how to post land. Only a few states have laws that specifically address hunters trespassing. For example, they may allow or prohibit access points for retrieving dogs or wounded animals.

In all other states, hunters may not retrieve dogs or wounded animals on land on which a poacher could not legally hunt. The following are some real property state laws and disclaimers for consideration:


All hunting requires permission of the landowner. There are no requirements for posting by property owners.


Trespassing notices must be

  • Printed legibly in English
  • At least 144 square inches in size
  • Display the name and address of the person under whose authority the property is posted and the name and address of the person authorized to grant permission to enter the property. In the case of an island, the person must place signage along the perimeter at each cardinal point of the island. The sign must explicitly state any specific prohibition that the posting is directed against.

Hunters can enter onto land unless lawfully posted. Signs must be at least eight inches by eleven inches with plainly legible wording in capital and bold-faced lettering at least one inch high. The sign must have the words "no hunting", "no trapping" or "no fishing" either as a single phrase or in any combination.


Trespassing while in possession of a firearm is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

A person who knowingly propels or causes to be propelled any potentially lethal projectile over or across private land without authorization also commits felony trespass. A potentially lethal projectile includes any projectile launched from any firearm, bow, crossbow, or similar tensile device.


The unarmed pursuit of game or fur-bearing animals lawfully injured or killed that come to rest on or escape to the property of another is an exception to the trespass law.


Licensed hunters can trespass to pursue a wounded game bird or animal, except if the owner of the land instructs the hunter to leave, the hunter must leave immediately. Any person who fails to leave such land when instructed is subject to the provisions of the criminal trespass law.


Trespass is allowed to retrieve a dog or livestock, provided the trespasser is not armed. Landowners must post. Trespassing on marshlands to trap or hunt fur-bearing animals without permission is strictly prohibited.


It is unlawful to hunt on private lands in all counties without permission of the landowner or the landowner's lessee.

The property owner must give written permission to hunt on private property in Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George's, St. Mary's, and Washington Counties.

The property owner must give written permission to hunt deer on private property in Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties. The property owner must give written permission to trap on private and public lands in all counties. The landowner is not liable for accidental injury or damage to the hunter, whether the landowner or the landowner's agent or lessee has given permission to hunt.


A person other than a person possessing a firearm may, unless prohibited in writing or orally by the property owner, enter on foot upon the property of another person for the sole purpose of retrieving a hunting dog. The person must not remain on the property beyond the reasonable time necessary to retrieve the dog.


The law allows hunters to trespass unless no trespassing signs are along the boundaries every 1,000 feet or less, or in wooded areas where boundaries are less clear, at intervals of 500 feet or less, or at the primary corners of each parcel of land and at access roads or trails at points of entrance.

The law mandates that the lettering should be at least two inches high and include the name, and it should list the phone number of the landowner or occupant. Lands that are cropped or grazed and show signs of tillage, crops, crop residue, or fencing for livestock containment do not need posting of signs. Hunters must ask permission to enter these lands.

A person on foot may, without permission of the owner, enter the land to retrieve a wounded animal that was lawfully shot. The hunter must leave the land immediately after retrieving the wounded game. A person on foot may, without permission of the owner, enter private land without a firearm to retrieve a hunting dog. After retrieving the dog, the person must immediately leave the premises.

New York

A person may enter and remain upon unimproved and apparently unused land, which is neither fenced nor otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders unless notice against trespass is personally communicated to by the owner.

North Carolina

In Halifax and Warren counties, no arrests for trespassing can be made without the consent of the landowner.

North Dakota

Any hunter may enter upon legally posted land to recover game shot or killed on land where the hunter had a lawful right to hunt.


Requires signs at all entrances and all corners and at 200-yard intervals along property lines.


No person can hunt on the cultivated or enclosed land of another without first getting permission from the owner or lawful occupant or the agent of such owner or occupant. The boundaries of enclosed land may have wire, ditch, hedge, fence, water, or any visible or distinctive lines that show a separation from the surrounding or contiguous territory.

South Carolina

Any person entering upon the lands of another to hunt, fish, trap, or net, gather fruit, wildflowers, cultivated flowers, shrubbery, straw, turf, vegetables, or herbs, or cut timber on the land without the consent of the owner or manager is guilty of a misdemeanor.

South Dakota

In the part of the Black Hills fire protection district lying south of Interstate Highway 90, no person may enter any private land with intent to take or kill any bird or animal after the owner or lessee says not to do so. They can give the notice orally or by posting written or printed notices to that effect at the house or where the buildings are, and at the gates or entering places, and in conspicuous places around the land posted. All such notices must contain the name and address of the owner or lessee posting the lands.


It is against the law to hunt or fish on privately owned lands or waters without the permission of the owner or owner's agent. No person may pursue a wounded wildlife resource across a property line without the consent of the landowner of the property where the wildlife has fled. Under the trespass provisions of the Penal Code, a person on a property without the permission of the landowner is subject to arrest.


The owner or person in charge must give written permission to enter private land that is either cultivated or properly posted and must include the signature of the owner or person in charge. The permission must have the name of the person with permission, the appropriate dates, and a general description of the property.


Notices prohibiting the taking of wild animals must be upon or near the boundaries of lands affected, with notices at each corner and not over 400 feet apart along the boundaries. Notices prohibiting the taking of fish must show the date that the waters were last stocked and must be maintained upon or near the shores of the waters not over 400 feet apart. Signs must be legible, and the owner must maintain the signs at all times and date them each year.


Fox and raccoon hunters, when the chase begins on other lands, may follow their dogs on prohibited lands, and hunters of all other game, when the chase begins on others lands, may go upon prohibited lands to retrieve their dogs, but may not carry firearms or bows and arrows on their persons or hunt any game while thereon. The landowner must give permission for the use of vehicles to retrieve dogs on prohibited lands.

West Virginia

Written permission must be in the possession of anyone who will:

  1. Shoot, hunt, fish, or
  2. Trap upon the fenced, enclosed. or posted grounds or lands of another person.

Written permission is also required to:

  1. Peel trees or timber,
  2. Build fires or do any other act or thing in connection with or auxiliary to
  3. Shooting, hunting, fishing or trapping.

Hunters can be criminally and civilly liable for killing or injuring any:

  1. Domestic animals or fowl,
  2. Destroying or damaging any bars, gates, or fence, or
  3. Leaving open any bars or gates resulting in damage to the owner.

The landowner may arrest any such person found violating this law and take the hunter before a justice of the peace for trial. In such instances, the landowner is vested with all the powers and rights of a game warden.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through:

  • The passage of new legislation
  • Rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions)
  • Ballot initiatives and other means.

We strive to provide the most current information available. Please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Questions About Hunting and Trespassing Laws in Your State? Ask a Lawyer

Disputes over land use can result in legal trouble, expense, and interpersonal conflicts. If you're involved in a land use dispute, it's a good idea to consult with a real estate attorney. They can help clarify your rights and obligations, leading to better and faster resolutions.

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