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I was geocaching a bit and I've found in many caches the warning not to cache in the night during the winter because of hunting season.

My question is, have such limitations a legal basis, and if so, how restrictive they are (and how can I check what where exactly is limited)?

Now the day is long, but I would like to continue long walking in other seasons, which would mean walking in the dark. Are there any restrictions that apply to:

  • tourist trails
  • other non-blazed forests paths
  • walking outside paths
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2  
In The Netherlands, most forests are closed during the night. I don't know about Germany, sorry. –  gerrit Jul 8 '13 at 13:19
    
@gerrit interesting to know, maybe I'll ask a question about the Netherlands if you'd like to provide more detailed answer - with legal references. –  Lukasz Jul 8 '13 at 19:02

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The relevant law is the Gesetz zur Erhaltung des Waldes und zur Förderung der Forstwirtschaft. In § 14 Betreten des Waldes (entering the forest) it says (bolded by me):

(1) Das Betreten des Waldes zum Zwecke der Erholung ist gestattet. Das Radfahren, das Fahren mit Krankenfahrstühlen und das Reiten im Walde ist nur auf Straßen und Wegen gestattet. Die Benutzung geschieht auf eigene Gefahr. Dies gilt insbesondere für waldtypische Gefahren.

(2) Die Länder regeln die Einzelheiten. Sie können das Betreten des Waldes aus wichtigem Grund, insbesondere des Forstschutzes, der Wald- oder Wildbewirtschaftung, zum Schutz der Waldbesucher oder zur Vermeidung erheblicher Schäden oder zur Wahrung anderer schutzwürdiger Interessen des Waldbesitzers, einschränken und andere Benutzungsarten ganz oder teilweise dem Betreten gleichstellen.

(1) means that it’s allowed to enter the forest for the purpose of recreation. As there are no times mentioned, it should generally be allowed at any time. However …

(2) says that the Länder define the particularities. They may restrict the access for important reasons.

You can find links to the Länder laws at Wikipedia.


For example for NRW it says in § 5 Zeitweilige Beschränkung des Betretungsrechtes (bolded by me):

(2) Zum Schutz der wildlebenden Tiere und aus Gründen der Jagdausübung kann das Betreten zeitweilig für die Zeit zwischen 17 und 8 Uhr auf die Wege beschränkt werden, wenn das Waldgebiet […]

→ In the time from 17:00 to 8:00 it may only be allowed to walk on the paths (for reasons of animal protection and hunts). If this is the case, they have to put up corresponding signs (§ 4.1).

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The warning during hunting season is not so much a legal restriction, but a safety one. Many regions allow night time hunting in season, and the risk to you is that you may be mistaken for a target animal and shot!

Most tourist trails and blaze paths should be appropriately signposted, giving warnings if they go through a hunt area, so the hiker should be well aware of risky locations.

I would be more concerned with general, unprepared or un-maintained paths, as these may not have specific warnings posted.

Legal requirements will vary considerably - in Scotland, for example, there is no trespass offence, but there are restrictions around military installations, and while these don't appear to have differing requirements between night and day I would imagine guards may be even more suspicious of someone close by at night. You also may find it harder to spot warning or 'Keep Out' signs.

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It's not only the danger from hunting, it's also a question of noisy humans, often with very bright headtorches these days, disturbing shy nocturnal animals. This is the reason why late evening climbing/bouldering is heavily frowned upon in some areas of the Frankenjura for example.

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You mean, somewhere in Frankische Schweiz? Could you provide any details about such regulations? It's my region :) –  Lukasz Jul 9 '13 at 19:26
    
I don't know about general regulations, but in the climbing guidebooks it's mentioned that one should not climb at some crags after 6 in the evening. –  AlanL Jul 10 '13 at 21:11

There have been discussions that because of night geocaching activities the forest laws in some Länder (I know it from Hessen) should get night restrictions.

  • There is a general right to walk in the forest, also outside trails and including privately owned forest.

  • This can be restricted for certain reasons (e.g. young forest areas, areas with ongoing logging, nature protection and wildlife "rest" zones, areas with current wildfire danger). All this will be plainly visible. As you asked for proper references: FAQ zur Novelle des Hessischen Forstgesetzes, ForstG HE § 24

  • In Hessen, the Jagdgesetz (hunting law) states that during the night it is forbidden to disturb wildlife by "unauthorized" leaving of the trails. The rumour has it that this is the outcome of the night geocaching discussion.
    As you asked for proper references: § 23 (11)
    So, please step quietly through Hessian forests by night ;-)

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