Game Laws, statutes which declare what birds and beasts are to be considered game, and impose penalties on those who unlawfully kill or destroy them. The game laws of England had their origin in the ancient forest laws, under which the killing of one of the king's deer was equally penal with murdering one of his subjects. From the Norman conquest to the present day game has constantly been a subject of legislation in England. In 1389 the possession of property was made a specific qualification for the privilege of killing game, and it was enacted that "no manner of artificer, laborer, nor any other layman who hath not lands and tenements to the value of 40 shillings by the year, nor any priest nor other clerk if he be not advanced to the value of 10 pounds by the year," should keep hunting dogs, or use other methods of killing game, upon pain of one year's imprisonment. In 1605 the qualification to kill game was increased to £40 a year in land and £200 in personal property. In 1670 the qualification was limited to persons who had a freehold estate of £100 per annum, or a leasehold for 99 years of £150 annual value. Persons who had not these qualifications were not allowed to have or keep game dogs.
In 1785 an act was passed requiring persons qualified to kill game to take out a certificate to that effect. The property qualification was abolished in 1831, and the certificate itself, which cost £3 13s. 6d. annually, was made a qualification. By statute 23 and 24 Victoria (1860-'61), c. 90, the certificate is abolished, and an excise tax substituted, which is £3 or £2, according to the portion of the year for which the privilege is desired. There are many restrictions upon the right which the payment of the tax gives to kill game. It must not be killed on Sunday, nor on Christmas, nor at the season of the year when the pursuit of each kind is prohibited. Poachers and unauthorized persons who destroy game by night are severely punished. No one may trespass on the land of another in pursuit of game, and the unlawful pursuit and killing or wounding of deer kept in enclosed land is felony, punishable with two years' imprisonment. Lords of manors are authorized to appoint gamekeepers to preserve or kill game within the manors. Gamekeepers are authorized to arrest poachers, and to seize all dogs, nets, and other implements used for killing game by unlicensed persons.
The sale of game in England is also subject to strict regulations.-In the United States, laws have been enacted by several of the states to protect game from pursuit during certain seasons in order to prevent its entire destruction. But apart from these restrictions, any person who chooses is at liberty to kill or capture as best he can any wild animal, bird, or fish, anywhere in the United States, subject to the usual law against trespassing on the grounds of others.