Hunter orange: the dos 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.

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.

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:

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!


  1. Rob Stewart wrote: I didn't realize the backpack was illegal, however I use a blaze orange backpack cover anyway.
  2. R cook wrote: 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 wrote: 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.
  3. Jerry Austin wrote: 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 wrote: It is illegal to hunt from your truck so tell him you were not hunting.
      • Rob Stewart wrote: While it's illegal to have a loaded bow or rifle in your truck, "hunting" is defined as " lying in wait for, searching for, being on the trail of, pursuing, chasing or shooting at wildlife, whether or not the wildlife is killed, injured, captured or harassed" If you are driving down backroads glassing fields looking for prey then you are hunting and the CO is correct.
        • Kevin Wilson wrote: Ehhhhh! Wrong!!! Driving to spot is does not meet any of those descriptions of "hunting".
  4. Massive wrote: 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.
  5. Carl Jones wrote: 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
  6. jointeffort wrote: Wearing hunter orange, nice target. If a hunter cannot identify the difference between a man or game being hunted then this is just plain ignorance and stupidity on the part of the person. This person should not be allowed to participate in this sport.
  7. Jason wrote: I had an encounter with a Conservation officer who told me that my CSA approved Toronto Hydro orange jacket that is Ministry of labour compliant for performing work on or near roadways was not compliant. They said it did not appear to meet the nanometer guideline. Fortunately I was in my vehicle and I technically wasn't hunting, but find it strange how one Ministry accepts this as compliant and the other doesn't. FYI they do not carry nanometers to determine on site, Its to the officers discretion on scene. Secondly its annoying how a fluorescent yellow construction jacket is also not compliant..I Don't know of any animal out there that is bright orange or bright yellow with an x on the back and 2 stripes on the front. I understand not wearing a vest entirely wrong when one is required, but to get nit picky about nanometers scrams 'CASH GRAB' Especially when a hunter has made the effort to be in compliance. Second, if we are required to wear a blaze orange touque in addition to the vest, how are hunters suppose to bring to their stand or blind, Gun, Chair, Backpack and any other hunting accessors they choose? its extremely difficult to bring these items to your hunting spot and maintain 360 degree non obstructed visibility at all times during a controlled deer hunt. I understand the importance of being safe while hunting, but all of it sounds good in theory, but not in practice. Most of us are sitting ducks. Ive always had my run ins with officers when in my truck resting.
  8. Mark Spencer wrote: Grouse and Turkey can see colour better than humans. I wear my orange until I spot a likely spot, then stuff in in my OD back pack, sit an wait. Once I've made my shot(s), and or have decided to move on, the orange goes back on, because camouflaged visually or not. there isn't an animal in the bush that won't hear you moving.
    • Jason Bain wrote: More information on hunter orange, and another photo, can be found at the following link (copy and paste into your browser):
  10. Bryan Nichols wrote: If the hunter orange head covering can be covered by a hood,ATV helmet, or other covering as stated in the published information, then why wear a ball cap of hunter orange when your not playing ball? This rings of the same deception as the RCMP sending out information telling me that I have illegal firearms in my possession when they have no knowledge of what is not registered other than restricted or prohibited 12(6). Lets face it. It comes down to the C.O. in the field and what reception he receives from you in the first 30 seconds of your meeting. Are you willing to travel back to your hunting area for a court appearance or just pay the fine?
  11. Jon English wrote: I think the ministry should switch to that super bright hi viz yellow. It is so much more visible.
  12. CLAY STOWELL wrote: Hunter orange is not for the safety of us hunters . Believe it. It is for the C.O. , so that he or she can spot you easily in the cut-over or cut area from afar. Then watch you through his binoculars until you do something he can fine you for.
  13. Andrew Harispuru wrote: Good day Regards to hunting, wearing blazer orange what's the fine for not having or wearing correct orange? $200 Sorry, the 40% upper body coverage? Thanks andrew
    • Meghan Sutherland wrote: Andrew, From Page 28 of the MNRF Hunting Regulations Summary: A hunter orange garment and head cover must be worn. The hunter orange garment must cover a minimum of 2,580 square centimetres (400 square inches) above the waist and be visible from all sides. Open mesh or camouflage hunter orange must not be part of the 2,580 square centimetres (400 square inches). A hunting coat or vest generally meets this requirement. The hunter orange head cover may have: open mesh, a peak or brim colour other than hunter orange, and a crest or logo which does not completely cover the hunter orange on the side where it is affixed. The head cover must not contain camouflage material. Here's some more OOD coverage on Hunter Orange: Here is also a list of fines last updated January 2019: You'll notice the failure to wear requisite coverage of Hunter Orange fine is $300, but fines would also be contingent on the municipality, Conservation Officer, and situation.