Hunter orange: The do’s and don’ts

by Tom Goldsmith | June 29, 2016
legal hunter orange

This is the minimum amount of hunter orange you should wear (no matter your quarry) to stay legal when a big game gun season is open.

What legal hunter orange looks like
Ontario’s hunter orange (formerly called blaze orange) regulations came into effect on September 1, 1997. That’s almost twenty years ago, yet each autumn at hunt camps around the province, debates continue about what kind and amount of hunter orange clothing and gear are legally required.


Though not legally required, wearing some hunter orange when heading into or out of a turkey hunting spot is a good idea.

I get it; old habits die hard. A well-worn and faded vest or coat may be thought of as lucky or just plain comfortable, but it might be past its days as a legal hunting garment.

Most of the confusion, infractions, and worst-case-scenario injuries could be avoided if hunters would simply review and comply with the regulations each year so that they are current with the laws. That said, the legal language used in the regulations can be confusing.

“The garment referred to in subsection (1) must be solid and not open mesh clothing with a minimum total area of not less than 400 square inches above the waist and visible from all sides. O. Reg. 665/98, s. 26 (2).”

“Hunter orange” means a daylight fluorescent orange colour with a dominant wave length between 595 and 605 nanometers, excitation purity of not less than 85 per cent and a luminance factor of not less than 40 per cent, but does not include camouflage hunter orange colouring. O. Reg. 665/98, s. 26 (5).”

Here are a few tips on how to stay legal and safe in the field during hunting seasons.

Blaze orange infographic

All licensed bear hunters may remove their hunter orange clothing while in the tree stand. They must put full legal orange clothing back on when off the stand. *With the exception of woodcock, for which hunter orange is mandatory. Wearing hunter orange when going into or out of the hunting area is always recommended.

Check out these must-know rules for muzzleloader hunters here.

Not legal
Despite what your buddies might tell you, or what your local shop sells, the following clothing is not OK to hunt in during a big game gun season in Ontario:
blaze orange

From the ministry
I contacted David Critchlow, provincial enforcement specialist for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry about misinterpretations of the regulations. Critchlow was happy to provide some clarity and plain talk about who must wear what and when. He summarized the law this way. “Essentially, if there is a gun season for moose, deer, or elk [open], all hunters, except people hunting migratory birds other than woodcock, must wear hunter orange.” Critchlow also confirmed that these regulations are in effect even if you are hunting inside a camouflaged ground blind.

Critchlow also confirmed that these regulations are in effect even if you are hunting inside a camouflaged ground blind.

He also pointed out that, “Outside these gun seasons, the only requirement to wear hunter orange is for bear hunters who are not in a tree stand.”

Some upland hunting vests contain a bit of hunter orange. These are not acceptable when a big-game gun season is in progress.

Critchlow went on to offer this sage, common sense advice, “Of course, hunter orange is a good idea for anyone to wear in the bush, whether a hunter or not, during hunting season.”

This article originally appeared in the Ontario OUT of DOORS 2015-2016 Hunting Annual. Subscribe today!




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  • Rob Stewart

    I didn’t realize the backpack was illegal, however I use a blaze orange backpack cover anyway.

  • R cook

    Hunter orange? No brainer, be seen, we should not be vainly hunting without full consideration of visibility. Sadly, hunters think our prey can tell the difference on our colours. Stop the ignorance!

    • Massive

      Some prey can, and some fluros glow, it isn’t the colour it is the casper the ghost effect. And ofcourse some birds can see colour.

  • Jerry Austin

    I was just stopped by a CO and he tried to tell me I needed to wear my orange while driving my truck home just because I had my gun in the truck and there is a controlled deer hunt going on. I disagreed with him and he proceeded to inspect everything in and around my vehicle. I always hunt legal so I had nothing to worry about. I am still glad to have them out there so no serious crimes happen to wildlife.

    • Carl Jones

      It is illegal to hunt from your truck so tell him you were not hunting.

  • Massive

    My beef on this and many other laws is that they shouldn’t have a right to tell us what to do on private property, particularly if posted. On Crown land, no problem, whatever you want.

    My other beef is that fluro laws put the onus not to shoot someone on the potential victim. They create the sense that if it isn’t red go ahead. That is particularly unwarranted given that all users of the woods, in fact the vast majority of citizens, are not covered by these laws.

    But whatever.

  • Carl Jones

    Hunter orange is a joke. How many hunt in every province out side Ontario. How many people are shot in Saskatchewan or BC I leave for Keremes Mule deer hunted no orange required. On another note Cabelas sells hunter orange vests that have elastic under the arms ( sandwich board) which is illegal yet they refuse to believe me when I pointed out the law. All they said is we have sold thousands