About protecting your property
Other states have what’s called “reverse posting,” which means privately owned land is off limits by default.
Allowing public use of private land is a tradition that dates back to New Hampshire’s first settlers.
Back then, when wild land was abundant and people depended on animal meat and fur for survival, the idea of public access to private land for the “public good” made sense.
But today, the New Hampshire landscape is completely changed. There is far less undeveloped land left for wildlife, and only a small percentage of people hunt.
Expecting today’s landowners to forego their property rights and leave their land open to hunting is an outdated notion.
You don’t have to be an animal rights activist not to want people killing animals on your property. Even hunters themselves often post their property because of bad experiences with other hunters.
Following are five good reasons to post your property:
1. Post to protect your privacy
2. Post to keep your family and pets safe
3. Post to avoid lawsuits
If your land is open to the public, it is your duty to guard or warn against any dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity. If a hunter gets injured on your property, you could be liable (per RSA 212:34 Duty of Care).
4. Post to prevent property damage
5. Post to protect wildlife from cruel hunting practices
Lazy, unethical hunting methods — Fair-chase hunting is becoming a thing of the past. New Hampshire is one of only seven states that allows bear hunting with trained dogs, for example.
This low-effort approach, called “hounding,” involves using packs of dogs with radio collars to pursue bears until the exhausted animals seek refuge in a tree, where they are easily shot down by the hunter.
Even more leisurely, New Hampshire allows hunters to shoot bears over piles of bait. During the 2021 hunting season, 60% of the bears hunted in New Hampshire were killed over bait.
Immense suffering — Hunted animals often don’t die quickly. Many must be shot multiple times, and those who escape may endure prolonged, painful deaths.
Hunters are required to track wounded deer, but ending the animal’s suffering is not the goal. Bowhunters, for example, deliberately wait at least 30 minutes and up to 6‑12 hours (if the hit was poor), to give the animal time to die. Half these deer are never recovered.
Orphaned wildlife — When mother animals are killed, orphaned young may starve or fall victim to predators.
Vanishing animals — Despite declining populations of fishers, foxes, and other so-called “furbearers,” New Hampshire caves to the pressure of the hunting minority, allowing all but fishers to be killed in unlimited numbers for the cost of a hunting license — $34.50 in 2022.
How to post your property
Under state law RSA 635:4, the legal manner of posting calls for durable signs describing the physical activity prohibited, such as “No Hunting or Trespassing” placed at least every 300 feet (100 yards) on all sides of the property and at entrances.
Example: In the example below, the property would need 10 signs, one every 300 feet, and another where an old hiking trail crosses the boundary.
Put up “No Hunting” signs no matter how small your property is.
Write your name and address with permanent black marker. (Even without this information, your property will still be legally posted.)
Note: RSA 635:4 has not been updated since 1977 and causes confusion because it states that the words describing the prohibited activity (such as “No Hunting”) must be no less than 2 inches high. As illustrated in the photo above of a typical no trespassing sign, the words do not need to be that large.
Be Safe — Wear Orange!
When to Post
Each year the NH Fish and Game Department decides on a start and end date for hunting each type of animal. General season dates are pictured below, with specific dates varying by location. Normally, longer hunting periods are allowed in areas with more wildlife, but often hunting is allowed even when animal populations are perilously low in order to satisfy hunters.
(Hunted animals not represented in the calendar above include woodcocks, grouses, quails, chukars, partridges, otters, ducks, mergansers, coots, sea ducks, Canada geese, snow geese, brants, and snipes.)
Deer hunting starts late summer and continues into the fall, but some animals can be killed year round. In New Hampshire, it is always hunting season. NH Fish & Game encourages young hunters to kill crows and gray squirrels for practice. If you don’t post your property, you could have hunters on your land at any time, including spring and summer when you and your family are more likely to be outside.
What if my property is in Current Use?
Current Use is a property tax law designed to encourage the preservation of open space by making it affordable for people who own large tracts of land (10 acres or more, with some exceptions for wetlands and agricultural land) to keep it undeveloped.
Current Use landowners pay property tax based not on the land’s full market value (what a developer might pay), but rather on its income-producing capability in its “current use” as farm, forest, wetland, and so on.
It is a common misconception that to be eligible for Current Use property must be open to the public. Opening your land to the public is not required to qualify for Current Use status.
Although towns may offer a 20% “Recreational Discount” on the assessed value of Current Use property if owners allow public access, to qualify for the discount land must be open year-round for all of the following activities, at no fee:
- nature observation
(Towns may allow exclusion of certain activities with special permission.)
For many landowners, the 20% “Recreational Discount” yields only modest savings
Example: A 50-acre farm in the Current Use program is assessed at $10,000.
At an average town tax rate of $25 per $1,000, the resulting property tax bill would be $250 ($25 × 10).
With the 20% Recreational Discount, the property would be assessed at $8,000, with a resulting tax bill of $200 ($25 × 8).
This amounts to a modest savings of $50/yr. in exchange for leaving your property wide open for hunting and other recreational uses.
Setting aside land for wildlife
Landowners wanting to ensure that their land is never developed can sell or donate property or a conservation easement to a land trust, municipality, or a state or federal conservation agency.
One caveat of such arrangements could be giving up control over how the land is used. It might be the policy of the land trust to allow hunting on all the lands it manages, for example. This is true in the case of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, where without exception all donated land is open to hunting.
If you are in a position to donate land, be sure to choose a conservation group that will allow you to attach restrictions, including no hunting.
Wildlife as property owners?
Forward-thinking legal scholars are considering ways in which wildlife could own property.
It may sound far-fetched, but if you consider that the law already allows us to give property to animals — a typical example being a trust fund set up for a pet — giving land to wildlife is not such a crazy idea. (To learn more about this burgeoning area of law, we recommend reading Wildlife as Property Owners by Martha Nussbaum.)
In fact, the concept of wildlife having property rights existed in pre-colonial times. Some indigenous governments recognized an animal’s right to property as equivalent to a human’s. And why shouldn’t it be?
Reporting wildlife crimes
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Law Enforcement Division is responsible for the enforcement of all laws, rules, and regulations pertaining to hunting.
If you have problems with hunters
Contact your local Conservation Officer. Call NH Fish and Game’s Dispatch Office at (603) 271-3361 (8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday – closed from noon until 12:30 p.m.). The Dispatcher can relay a message to your Conservation Officer.
To report poaching
Poaching is illegal hunting, trespassing, littering, theft, or destruction of property. To report poaching, call Operation Game Thief at (800) 344-4262 or fill out the confidential online form at nhfishgame.com/ogt-form.