Outdoor Recreation and COVID-19

turkey hunter and angler

UPDATED May 6, 2020:

Given the important role outdoor and wildlife-based recreation play both in Vermont’s economy and in the physical and mental well-being of its residents, Governor Phil Scott today amended his “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order as part of the state’s gradual reopening.

Under the revised order, Vermonters will have broader latitude to pursue outdoor recreation, including additional opportunities for hunting, fishing, foraging, wildlife watching, and wildlife photography, among others.

While the increased access to recreation is welcome, it is important to know that limitations and restrictions needed to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 still apply.

For example, activities must be limited to those which can be enjoyed while adhering to social distancing and hygiene requirements, and which require low or no physical contact with anyone outside of participants’ immediate households. Although the guidance directing Vermonters to recreate within 10 miles of their homes has been lifted, outdoor recreators are still asked to stay as close to home as practical to reduce the risks presented by additional travel. 

In addition, the number of people participating in each discrete activity should be limited to ten or fewer. Non-residents are still directed not to travel to Vermont for recreational activities and are required to self-quarantine for at least 14 days if they do so. Vermonters are asked not to travel to other states to the greatest extent possible. Those engaging in recreational activities with those outside of their households are asked to wear protective masks whenever possible, recognizing that doing so while engaging in certain types of recreation may not be possible.

While some providers of outdoor goods and services have already been open, this amendment to the COVID-19 guidance will allow additional opportunities to businesses and for customers to purchase and access equipment and services from outdoor related companies and organizations. Those businesses are reminded that they must conduct their operations in accordance with Agency of Commerce and Community Development rules, which can be found here.

Vermont turkey hunters are encouraged to continuing using the Fish and Wildlife Department’s online turkey reporting tool. However, some big game check stations may opt to re-open and may be accepting reports of turkeys at the operator`s discretion, and provided they follow the guidelines for businesses in the ACCD guidance. 

  • The online turkey reporting tool can be found here

Most state lands, including Wildlife Management Areas and fishing Access Areas, remain open. In some cases, facilities such as docks may not be in place yet, given COVID-19 related limitations on work and related delays. In others, mud season restrictions may necessitate roads or trails remaining closed in the short term.

Those participating in activities outside are reminded that while trail and land management organizations may decide to open their property, in same cases they may not. As always, those hunting, fishing and enjoying other kinds of outdoor activities should respect the land and waters they recreate on, and if organizations choose to keep their lands closed should respect that and follow their guidelines.

The need for courtesy and respect among users is even more important during this pandemic than it is in normal times. For example, nobody should be gathering or congregating at parking areas, trailheads, access areas or other places before or engaging in recreation. Please give each other plenty of space, whether masks and other protective measures are utilized or not, and please keep dogs on leashes when they are in public places.

Basic safety and health requirements to slow the spread of COVID-19 remain important. These include avoiding touching surfaces which are often touched by others, frequent and thorough washing of hands, and cleaning and disinfecting of equipment which is to be shared. When in public and where others who are not household members may be present, face coverings are expected to be worn whenever possible. 

Those who feel unwell, are in at-risk categories, should not leave home to recreate. In addition, given the strain on emergency and medical services it is more important now than ever that those engaging in outdoor recreation do so safely and carefully. Search and rescue and emergency medical services both put strain on an already stressed system to provide those services.

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Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife
Commissioner Louis Porter

1 National Life Drive
Fish & Wildlife LogoDavis 2
Montpelier, VT 05620-3702

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The mission of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is the conservation of all species of fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the people of Vermont.