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Private Land and Public Access

Vermont's tradition of open access is as old as statehood, and the values that support this tradition are fundamental to our strong sense of community.

However, allowing hunting or any public use on your land is, ultimately, a privilege only you can grant. 

Vermont law may make your decision easier. It provides a number of landowner protections that support your control, and it eases most liability concerns.  This is good for you, your neighbors and your land too. Few management tools are as cheap and effective as hunting. 

Landowner Rights

Allowing public access doesn't negate your rights.  You always have the power to:

  • Address any property damage or abuse;
  • Dictate what activities are allowed or prohibited;
  • Request to see the hunting, fishing and/or trapping license of anyone on your property;
  • Request someone leave your property; and
  • Contact law enforcement if you suspect illegal activity.

Open or posted, permission is always required if someone wants to:

  • Trap;
  • Erect a tree stand or ground blind;
  • Park or drive on your land.

In addition, written permission is always required to ride a snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or off-road motorcycle.

Liability Protection

Vermont's landowner liability statutes are designed to encourage public access by protecting you from liability.

Provided that you do not charge a fee, you are generally not liable for any property damage or personal injury to a person who uses your property for recreation.

  • Under 12 V.S.A. §5793, a landowner is not liable for property damage or personal injury for the recreational use of their property, unless the damage or injury is the result of the intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct or gross negligence on the part of the landowner.
  • Landowner liability increases if a fee or some other consideration is required for the use of the property, since a "higher level of care" (responsibility) is owed to recreationists.

Posting Does Not Affect Liability

The landowner is protected whether or not the land is posted.

Easements Do Not Affect Liability

Both the landowner and the party holding the easement are similarly protected, as if there were no easement.

Please be advised that this reference to the landowner liability statutes is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Landowners are encouraged to seek their own legal counsel regarding landowner liability.

Benefits of Hunting and Trapping

Regulated hunting and trapping is one of the most effective and economical tools available to private landowners.

  • Even at moderate populations levels, deer can have a significant impact on native plant species, particularly wild flowers, rare plants and commercially valuable trees.
  • High wildlife populations can increase disease and parasite risks to people, pets and other wildlife.  These include rabies, distemper, mange, tularemia, Lyme disease, and raccoon roundworm.

    Vermont has one of the highest incidence rates of Lyme disease in the United States.

  • Hunting and trapping can help reduce human wildlife conflicts such as vehicle collisions, agricultural crop loss, ornamental and property damage, predation of pets, and other issues such as fouling of ponds by Canada geese.

Hunter Safety

Hunting in Vermont is one of the safest outdoor activities. Since hunter education became mandatory in 1975, the number of yearly hunting-related shootings has dropped over 80 percent.

  • In the past decade, Vermont's 60,000 licensed hunters have averaged just three hunting-related shooting per year.
  • Most shootings are self-inflicted or involve other members of the same hunting party.
  • Accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare. Only a handful have occurred in the last 50 years; none in the last decade.

Even if you have no intention of hunting, consider taking a basic firearm hunter education course (aka hunter ed, hunter safety), particularly if you are new to Vermont.

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