It’s almost that time of year again when men and women prep their firearms, put on their camo, and head into the woods for hunting season. Deer hunting especially is a tradition and opportunity to bond with friends and family while enjoying the sport. However, hunters should be aware that Pennsylvania has important private property laws and regulations that, if not properly followed, can result in civil or criminal consequences, including fines or loss of hunting privileges.
Hunting on private property without permission is trespassing – even if the property is unoccupied, and not posted or fenced. In Pennsylvania, you may not hunt private property without the permission of the landowner. Written permission is not required, but you may have a hard time proving your agreement without written permission. It would be a good idea to have proof that you are allowed to hunt on that land in case you are questioned by the game commission or authorities. If you are granted permission, you are in the clear and are not breaking any private property laws.
If you hunt on private property without any knowledge as to whether hunting is permitted there, you may not have committed a crime, but the landowner could still sue you for trespassing. They may also call the game commission or the police and have you removed. Further, the landowner will not be responsible if a trespasser is injured by dangerous conditions on the land.
However, if the owner of a property does not permit hunting on his/her land, and you still hunt despite being aware of this (by posting, fencing, or other warning from the owner), you may also be charged or sued.
Bottom line is that private property is, well, private. You should always ask permission before hunting on someone’s property.