Should permission be required to hunt private land?

John Holyoke, the BDN’s outdoor reporter, has written a thoughtful and provocative column questioning whether Maine hunters should now be required to get permission to hunt on private land.

You can read John’s column here, and I hope you will accept his invitation to send him your thoughts. He’s going to get my thoughts here in my column.

It’s been a long time since I hunted on any private land without the permission of the landowner even if the land is not posted. In fact, I work to develop good relationships with all of those private landowners who allow me to hunt on their property because I believe that is a  very special privilege.

For years I’ve encouraged hunters to do the same thing. You probably know that in most states you cannot hunt on private land without permission. And it’s been a great opportunity for Maine hunters to hunt private land without permission. But times are changing and I think we need to give some thoughtful consideration to whether this needs to change.

After groups of out-of-state hunters hunted my own woodlot in deer drives, I posted it so that local families with kids could hunt the land without worrying about these deer drivers.

When I was a kid we could hunt anyplace. No land was posted. But in recent years, for many reasons, posting of private land has become common. Quite a few landowners have posted their land because they are angry about people who trash it. I can relate to that. Every other week I used to fill a bag with garbage and another with bottles and cans walking the road beside my woodlot. I really hate road slobs.

There are a lot of elements to this. For example, we have no access to moving water – our brooks, streams and rivers. We do have authority to access lakes and ponds over unimproved property.

And there is a major issue concerning the big woodlots in the north woods. If permission is required to hunt on private land, we should consider giving large woodlot owners the opportunity to allow it without permission. There are a variety of ways they could publicize this.

I am concerned that we might lose a lot of hunters who will give up without the ability to easily access private land. There’s also the possibility private landowners – as they do in other states –  might start charging hunters for access.

I don’t think we’re at the place where we need to change our laws yet, but I would like to hear from groups representing private landowners as well as from my friends who own private land whether they think we need to change our laws and require permission to access private land.

Now, please let John Holyoke know what you think about this.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.