It is illegal to hunt, shoot at, chase or kill wild animals on public property within 100 yards from a home, but it’s legit if the hunters have the homeowner’s permission, Attorney General Bob Cooper said in an opinion this month.
The legal opinion stems from a query Republican Sens. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro and Jim Tracy of Shelbyville filed earlier this year asking whether state law applied to people hunting on private property:
“Do the distance and permission requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. 70-4-108(b) apply to individuals hunting on private property?”
State law says:
“It is unlawful to hunt, shoot at, chase, or kill, with or without dogs any wild animal, wild bird or wild fowl on public lands and waters within one hundred yards (100 yds.) of a visible dwelling house, whether or not such dwelling house is on public or private lands, without the owner’s permission.”
According to the legal opinion, law enforcement officers have received calls reporting gunfire near homes and businesses. Officers told them people can hunt on private property and the practice is totally legal.
However, sometimes people reported “being showered with projectiles from birdshot,” and law enforcement have sometimes forced hunters to call it quits in those areas, the opinion said.
The intent of the law “leads this office to conclude that the distance and permission requirements of the provision do not apply to hunting activities that occur on private property,” Cooper’s opinion read.
However, that doesn’t protect hunters who are acting recklessly, the attorney general continued, adding that “officers may enforce statutes prohibiting unlawful conduct such as assault, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment, even when the conduct arises from otherwise lawful hunting activities.”
Ketron said he and Tracy posed the question to the attorney general because they wanted to make sure the law protected gun rights, so long as hunters have permission.
The opinion comes just a few weeks before Tennesseans will go to the polls and decide whether hunting and fishing should be viewed as legal rights and protected under the state Constitution.