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Leonardo Angiulo: What You Need to Know About Hunting Laws

Monday, October 01, 2012


Leonardo Angiulo, GoLocalWorcester Legal Expert

Now that fall is here, people all over Massachusetts are getting ready.  Some people are purchasing their hunting licenses and some people are putting blaze orange vests on their dogs to go hiking.  As you can imagine, there are as many opinions as there are people about how to share the woods.  Fortunately, the legislature has issued certain laws that helps delineate how this should happen.

Not only is there legislation defining how parties shall interact during hunting season but there is also a specific division of police to enforce the laws.  The Massachusetts Environmental Police are a division of the Executive Branch that participates in the education of hunters as well as the regulation of behavior.  For example, when out hunting pheasant you must wear a high visibility orange cap to ensure everyone else in the area will see you.  While this is a smart and inexpensive way to stay safe, it is also a regulation enforced by the Environmental Police.

It's also not a stretch to say that there are many people who feel very strongly against hunting.  Without diving into any debates, let me state that you can legally support or oppose this sport.  What is not legal, however, is actively interfering with lawful participants in hunting and fishing.  Massachusetts General Laws c. 131, §5C specifically creates a cause of action against people who intentionally drive away game from hunters, among other proscribed behaviors. 

Of course, given the fact that hunting is a licensed behavior, the Commonwealth has certain restrictions on what is and is not lawful.  Massachusetts General Laws chapter 131 has a series of sections that answer questions ranging from when hunting season starts and ends to what types of firearms may be used.  Importantly, there are also regulations that should be reviewed.  Code of Massachusetts Regulations found at 321 CMR 3.02 lays out very clearly where and when certain game animals may be taken. 

Not only are there obligations, but there are also consequences for people failing to abide by the law.  For example, failure to report hunting accidents resulting in death or bodily injury may result in the forefeiture of hunting licenses for five years.  On top of license suspensions, certain hunting regulations carry with it the potential for criminal prosecutions resulting in fines and incarceration.  To complicate things, anytime a person uses firearms while hunting they are also subject to another set of licensing requirements.  Within Massachusetts General Laws chapter 140 are the definitions for who can have a firearm as well as what kind. 

Now just because you have a hunting license does not make you immune to these licensing requirements.  Just as importantly, even if you have the right license, chances are you aren't able to go hunting in your back yard.  More likely you will be driving somewhere.  One example of a relevent law is MGL c. 140 §131C(c) which requires people transporting large capacity rifles and shotguns to keep them unloaded in locked containers, or their trunks, while going from place to place.  This, however, is a good example of common sense legislated.  If you are going to be driving somewhere with a firearm its important to take those steps necessary to eliminate the opportunity for dangerous accidents or theft.  

What everyone can agree on is that there are particular laws out there that anyone who enjoys the outdoors should know about.  When you want to hunt, you need to know the law to make sure you enjoy your passion safely and legally.  When you want to be out in the woods during the fall, you should also be aware of them to keep yourself safe.  Just like we all have to share the roads with pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars, it is important to remember that publicly owned open space is a resource that everyone has a right to enjoy. 


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