Retrieving Wild Game on Private Property in Minnesota

As the weather turns cooler and the days grow shorter, many Minnesotans are also gearing up for deer hunting. While hunters must keep up with the constantly changing rules and regulations set out by the Minnesota DNR, landowners must also make themselves aware of an important Minnesota law. Specifically, except in certain situations, hunters do have the right under law to retrieve their quarry from private property without the permission of the landowner.

Attorney Jason Wagner as a young’un with his dad, Steve.

Under Minnesota Statutes Section 97B.001, subd. 5, “a person on foot may, without permission of the owner, occupant, or lessee, enter land that is not posted … to retrieve a wounded animal that was lawfully shot. The hunter must leave the land immediately after retrieving the wounded game.” For hunters, it is critical that they first make sure they are properly licensed and gun safety certified. Second, they must ensure that the land they are about to enter is not posted and that they have not already been denied permission.

There are a few requirements for land to be considered legally “posted”:

  1. Signs reading “no trespassing” or something similar;
  2. The letters are at least two inches high;
  3. The signs are signed by the owner or include the name and telephone number of the owner; and
  4. Signs are at intervals of at least every 1,000 feet (500 feet in wooded areas) or at the corners and access points of the property.

Landowners should also exercise some safety tips during this time of year. It is a good idea to wear blaze orange or other brightly colored clothing when walking in wooded areas or where there may be hunters. Remember, there are a number of public areas that may have both hunters and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts.

Hunters must keep in mind that the discharge of a firearm within 500 feet of a building occupied by people or livestock without the written permission of the owner is prohibited. Hunters given permission to hunt on private lands must also take into consideration that they are doing so at their own risk. Minnesota Statutes Chapter 604A generally relieves landowners who allow hunters onto their land free from liability for injuries or damages sustained while on the land.

Hunting is a great Minnesota tradition that serves an important function of promoting the health and welfare of our wild animal populations. Landowners and hunters both have certain rights under Minnesota law that they should keep in mind. While the law does permit hunters to access unposted land to retrieve wild game without first getting permission, it is always in the best interests of safety and respect for all involved to ask first.

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