General Hunting Information
Hunter orange is not required by law in Vermont, but wearing it might save your life. Almost all of Vermont’s hunting-related shootings could have been prevented if the hunters had been wearing hunter orange.
A New York study found that 94 percent of hunters involved in mistaken-for-game accidents were not wearing hunter orange. This is even more startling when you consider that 81% of New York hunters wear hunter orange.
Most states and Canadian provinces require it for hunting upland and big game animals.
Wearing at least a fluorescent orange hat and vest will help other hunters see you. It’s your responsibility to follow the four basic rules of safe hunting:
- Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
- Point your gun in a safe direction.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
- Be sure of your target and beyond.
It is illegal while hunting in Vermont to use, carry, or have in your possession a machine gun of any kind or description or an autoloading rifle with a magazine capacity of over 6 cartridges, except a .22 caliber rifle using rimfire cartridges, or a gun suppressor.
“Gun suppressor” means any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for use in assembling or fabricating a gun suppressor, and any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication.
Wherever a rifle may be used in hunting, a handgun is permitted.
Muzzleloading rifles, shotguns and pistols may be used for hunting whenever modern firearms may be used. See muzzleloader deer season for more information.
Bow and Arrow, Crossbows
Unless otherwise provided, any game which may be taken by shooting may be taken by use of bow and arrow. Airbows are not an authorized means of take under Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board rules.
All arrows, including crossbow arrows, must have an arrowhead of at least 7/8 of an inch wide and at least two cutting sides.
A crossbow may be used as a means of take by any person 50 years of age or older, or anyone with a disability permit during any hunting season that permits the use of a bow and arrow with the following exceptions:
- Any person wishing to hunt turkey or bear with a crossbow or bow and arrow must hold proof of having held an archery license or a certificate of satisfactory completion of a bowhunter education course from Vermont or another state or province of Canada which is approved by the Commissioner.
- At the time of moose permit issuance, archery moose season permit recipients and designated subpermittees must show proof of having held an archery deer license or a certificate of satisfactory completion of a bowhunter education course from Vermont or another state or province of Canada which is approved by the Commissioner. Archery moose season permit recipients and designated subpermittees must also have a Vermont big game hunting license.
- A crossbow may not be transported cocked in a motor vehicle.
It is illegal to intentionally throw or cast the rays of a spotlight, jack, or other artificial light on any highway, or any field, woodland, or forest, in order to spot, locate, take, or attempt to spot, locate or take any wild animal.
A light may be used to illuminate and shoot a raccoon once treed by a dog, or dogs, during the raccoon hunting season. A light may also be used to illuminate a raccoon once treed by a dog, or dogs, during the raccoon training season.
Laser sights are illegal for hunting.
Waterfowl & Other Migratory Birds
See the Syllabus of State and Federal Hunting Regulations for Migratory Birds In Vermont available each year in September.
- Youth Turkey— One-half hour before sunrise to 5:00 p.m.
- Spring—One-half hour before sunrise to 12 noon.
- Fall—One-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
Any hour within hunting season.
Any hour, no lights allowed.
One-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. (See Sunrise/Sunset Tables.)
Motor vehicles, including ATVs (all terrain vehicles) motorcycles, or snowmobiles are not permitted on state lands, except on designated trails on which motor vehicles are explicitly authorized.
It is illegal to operate an ATV or snowmobile on any privately owned land or body of private water unless the operator has written permission of the owner or is a member of a club which has landowner permission. It is illegal to obstruct private driveways, barways, or gateways with a motor vehicle. It is illegal to park or drive a snowmobile, ATV, or motor vehicle of any kind on private land without permission.
Hunting from Motor Vehicle
It is illegal to take any wild animal by shooting with firearm, bow and arrow, or crossbow from any motor vehicle. Motor vehicles include cars, trucks, snowmobiles, ATVs, motorboats, airplanes and any conveyance or trailer towed by these.
A permanently disabled hunter with a proper permit may hunt from a stationary boat, or a motor vehicle that is at least 10 feet from the traveled portion of the road and when he or she has the landowner’s permission to park. Shooting across the road is prohibited. Contact Fish & Wildlife at 802-828-1190.
A person shall not carry or possess while in or on a vehicle propelled by mechanical power or drawn by a vehicle propelled by mechanical power within the right of way of a public highway a rifle or shotgun containing a loaded cartridge or shell in the chamber, mechanism, or in a magazine or clip within a rifle or shotgun, or a muzzleloading rifle or muzzleloading shotgun that has been charged with powder and projectile and the ignition system of which has been enabled by having an affixed or attached percussion cap, primer, battery, or priming powder. Unless it is uncocked, a person shall not possess or transport a crossbow in or on a motor vehicle, motorboat, airplane, snowmobile, ATV, or other motor-propelled craft or any vehicle drawn by a motor-propelled vehicle.
A person shall not take or attempt to take any wild animal by shooting a firearm, muzzleloader, bow and arrow, or crossbow while on the traveled portion of any public highway (class 1, 2, 3, or 4), nor within 25 feet of a class 1, 2, or 3 public highway as designated on a town highway map. It is illegal to shoot a firearm, muzzleloader, bow and arrow, or crossbow over or across the travelled portion of a public highway. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $1,000.
It is unlawful for any person to take or attempt to take wild animals while a person is in an aircraft. Aircraft includes, but is not limited to, planes and helicopters.
It shall be unlawful for any person to take or attempt to take wild animals by use of an unmanned aerial vehicle or drone. “Drone” means any device capable of flying in the air which is remotely, automatically or otherwise piloted without an occupant.
It is unlawful for any person to use an aerial vehicle, drone or unmanned aircraft to:
- Attempt to locate, surveil, or aid or assist in attempting to locate or surveil any wild animal for the purpose of taking or attempting to take a wild animal; or
- Communicate the location of any wild animal to any person on the ground for the purpose of taking or attempting to take a wild animal; or
- Drive, harass, or otherwise assist or aid in the taking or attempting to take a wild animal.
Deer and Moose
Dogs may not be used in taking deer or moose. Dog owners are responsible for keeping their dogs restricted so they cannot take or harass deer or moose at any time of year. Dogs may be shot by wardens and certain other law officers when the dogs are caught harassing deer or moose and the dog owner may be fined and have sporting licenses revoked.
Training Hunting Dogs
A person with a hunting license may train a dog to hunt and pursue the species listed below during the specified times:
- Bear: Permit Required — June 1 to September 15, sunrise to sunset; see additional regulations; non-resident bear hunters can train dogs in Vermont only if their home state has a concurrent training season. See bear hound information, page 31;
- Rabbits, hare and game birds: June 1 to the last Saturday in September, from sunrise to sunset;
- Raccoon: June 1 through the day before the opening day of raccoon hunting season, any time of day or night;
- Fox and bobcat: June 1 to March 15, except during regular deer season.
By Fish & Wildlife permit, a person with a hunting license, may train and condition a hunting dog to hunt and pursue game from the second Monday in March to June 1 from sunrise to sunset inside an area fenced sufficiently to contain the breed of dogs being trained or conditioned. An agent of the commissioner must inspect this fenced area before a permit may be issued. The owner, trainer or handler must accompany dogs being trained or conditioned inside the fence.
A person training a hunting dog may possess a handgun while training, provided that the person shall not take game by any method. A long gun may not be carried while training a dog with game.
Leashed Tracking Dog to Recover Deer, Moose, or Bear
A hunter who believes he or she has legally killed or wounded a deer or bear during hunting season may engage a person who has a Leashed Tracking Dog Certificate issued by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to track and recover the animal during the season or within 24 hours after the season ends. Except as otherwise permitted in bear hunting, no person may use a dog to track dead or wounded deer or bear. A permitted bear houndsman may not pursue any bear for any hunter beyond a half-hour after sunset.
Applications for the Leashed Tracking Dog Certificate cost $25.00. First-time leashed tracking dog certificates, valid for five years, cost $100.00 for residents and $200.00 for nonresidents. Applicants must pass a test. Renewal certificates are $125.00 for residents and $225.00 for nonresidents.
It is illegal to damage or remove another person’s legally erected blind.
A person must have the landowner’s permission to build, erect, maintain, use or occupy a permanent or portable tree stand or ground blind for any purpose on any private land in Vermont. Anyone who builds, erects, or maintains a tree stand or ground blind shall permanently mark the stand or blind with the owner’s name and address. Marking must be legible and placed so it can be read conveniently and easily. This does not apply to a landowner who builds, erects, or maintains a tree stand or ground blind on his or her own land. It is illegal to use someone else’s stand or blind without landowner permission.
State Wildlife Management Areas
Permanent tree stands and ground blinds are prohibited on state Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). Temporary tree stands and ground blinds are allowed without written permission from the department from the third Sunday in August through the third Saturday in December, May 1-31 (dates inclusive), or during any Youth Hunting Day or Youth Hunting Weekend. Blinds used during any other time (for wildlife viewing or photography) may be erected and used with prior written permission from the District Manager of the WMA. For information on placement of blinds on or in waters of the state for the purpose of waterfowl hunting, see Duck Blinds under the Game Bird Hunting section.
Temporary blinds on state WMAs must be constructed according to the following requirements:
- No damage may be done to any living tree in erecting, maintaining, using or accessing the stand or blind except that:
- Dead limbs, trees or shrubs may be removed as needed to erect and use the stand or blind;
- No live limbs, trees or shrubs may be cut for any purpose except those one inch or less in diameter at either ground level or from the main stem or branch of the tree where the stand or blind is located as appropriate (for guidance, a United States quarter is 0.9 inch in diameter);
- No nails, bolts, screws (including access steps), wire, chain or other material that penetrates through a living tree’s bark into the wood below shall be used in erecting, attaching, maintaining or using any stand or blind;
- All tree stands or ground blinds used on wildlife management areas must be clearly, permanently and legibly marked with the owner’s name and address. The marking must be placed in a manner that enables it to be read conveniently and easily.
- Tree stands and ground blinds that do not conform to this regulation are prohibited and may be confiscated and/or destroyed by the department. Building, erecting, maintaining, using or occupying a non-conforming tree stand or ground blind is prohibited. Construction of any tree stand or ground blind does not confer exclusive use of its location to the person who built it. Any person may use that location for purposes consistent with this rule.
Boat owners are required to inspect their boats and remove aquatic plants when entering and leaving waters, and to drain ballast tanks and bilge waters when transporting vessels. Law enforcement officers may issue tickets for violations of Vermont’s aquatic invasive species laws.