Is it legal to live off the land? ( Top 9 Rules )

A lot of people get in trouble with the law while living off the land, some people think that the law doesn’t apply to them if they are in the middle of the wilderness. The problem is that ownership of property is enforced in the entire country, no matter if it is private property or federal property. Most of the land in the US is owned by the government, and if you get caught trespassing you might get fined.

Yes, it is legal to live off the land, although you still have to follow the local laws especially if you are planning to build a shelter. In addition to this, you will need to follow the rules and regulations regarding rainwater harvesting and setting up a septic system.

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The thing is that in remote areas it is very unlikely that anybody would be bothering you, provided that you are not trespassing on private property. Just a couple of years ago you could easily live off the land in remote areas even on private property as long as the property owners didn’t find you. However, today that is a different story, if you are living off the land on somebody else’s property then sooner or later they will find you.

I have a couple of friends who own fairly large plots of land in the Alaskan wilderness, and all they have to do to find somebody camping or living off the land on their private property is to use satellite images or drones. Once they find somebody trespassing, they just contact the local authorities, give them the coordination and in a couple of days, they are gone. If you are not living off the land on your own property then you are trespassing and some would even consider it stealing as you are using their natural resources without their permission.

As most of the lands are owned by the federal government you will have to get a license for both hunting and fishing, if you have these two then you can easily live off the land without getting in trouble with the local authorities. If you want to live off the grid and off the land then you will need some skills to be able to do so, for more information check out my recent article ( Top 22 ) Skills needed to live off the grid.

You have to own the land if you want to live off the land

If you want to live legally off the land then you have to own the land, this way you can basically do almost anything you want. Just keep in mind that in most states it is actually illegal to camp on your own land for more than a couple of weeks. By owning the land you can forage, hunt, trap, and fish without any problems, as long as you do not overdo it. You can also rent a plot of land as this is fairly cheap.

In remote areas, you will have no problem finding dirt cheap land, but most people who want to live off the land don’t even bother with buying a piece of land. Generally speaking, as long as you don’t build anything on federal land you should be fine, and honestly speaking nobody will bother you. There are some states that actually offer free land, for more information check out my recent article ( Top 25 ) Places to live off the grid for free.

Getting permission from the landowner to live off the land

Getting permission from the landowner so you can live off the land is a good idea, but you will have to get that in writing. Sometimes the landowners can change their mind, and if they can not find you on their land they will ask the local authorities to find you and to remove you from the property, and if you do not have written permission then you can argue as long as you want that you had a verbal agreement, as this doesn’t really hold up in court.

Have a fishing license to live off the land

If you want to fish on a piece of land that you do not actually own then you will have to get a fishing license, all states offer fishing licenses, and in coastal regions, you can also get a fishing license for saltwater fishing. Just keep in mind that freshwater and saltwater fishing need two completely different licenses. Getting a fishing license is extremely easy, you can get it from the local authorities, specialized stores, and even online.

Although even if you have a fishing license you still are not allowed to fish on someone else’s property and this under certain circumstances can be considered theft. Fishing without a license and getting caught will cost you a lot of money, so just get one and you don’t have to worry about it.

Have a hunting license to live off the land

You can hunt both on your own property and on federal lands as long as you have a hunting permit. Be extra careful not to wander accidentally on someone else’s property while you are hunting as it can get extremely dangerous. In most remote areas people can not rely on the help of the police so they will have to protect their own property, and sometimes things can get out of hand. My pro tip for you is to always wear a reflective vest even if you are hunting alone.

If you are trespassing on someone else’s land while hunting and you do not have a reflective vest then they will probably think you are poaching. If you are caught hunting without a license then you will most likely be fined, and the fines can get fairly high.

Have a trapping permit to live off the land

A lot of people think that if they have a hunting license they can also trap legally. The problem is that hunting and trapping licenses are two completely different things. Trapping is heavily regulated, and it is vital that you get a license in order to not get in trouble. All states offer trapping licenses and there are several ways of getting them. Trapping without a license and you might end up in serious trouble if the local authorities think that you are a poacher.

You can legally live off the land by growing your own food

Generally speaking, you can grow your own food legally in every state, although some states have strict regulations on what you are allowed to grow. As long as you own the plot of land you should be fine, but this also depends on the zoning laws. In some areas where the land is meant for building homes and not for agriculture, you will have some difficulty growing crops. For the most part, if you own a piece of land that is meant for agricultural use then you will be fine.

You can legally live off the land by raising livestock

Not a lot of people know this but for the most part, you are not allowed to raise livestock even if it is on your own land. The problem is that some areas simply do not allow it, while in other places the plot of land has to be for agricultural use. The good news is that land which is meant for agriculture is a lot cheaper, and you can also build a house on the plot of land so this is a win-win situation.

You can legally forage as long as you have permission

For the most part, foraging is legal, although most states do impose regulations on what and when you are allowed to forage. The problem is that some people think that they can take whatever they want if they are on public land, and if they do not know the different types of plants and fruits they might expose themselves to harm. If you want to live off the land and forage then you will have to inform yourself about what kind of plants are edible when you can harvest them and if there are any kinds of restrictions.

You can legally harvest firewood to live off the land as long as you have a permit

You will need a permit if you want to harvest wood, not complying with the law can mean serious jail time or a massive fine at best. Harvesting wood is heavily regulated in all states, and if you end up chopping down a tree without a permit just so you can build a small shelter then there are consequences of doing so if you get caught. Generally speaking, most people who live off the land tend to use dead wood, as in most areas you can legally harvest deadwood.

In conclusion

As you can see living off the land is legal, although that doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want and where ever you want. You will need several licenses and permits to be able to live off the land legally, the paperwork can take some time but it is well worth it.