Every year, usually in the fall, thousands if not millions of hunters head for the woods throughout the US in the hopes of bagging their quarry. For example, whitetail deer, elk, and turkey are hunted for sport and food, and animals like beavers and raccoons are trapped for their fur.
Regardless of the hunt, it's crucial to have the proper equipment, such as good clothes and a reliable weapon. But don't forget about the license and hunter training. They're your most essential hunting gear.
Practically every state requires you to have a license or permit to hunt or trap. In addition, every state has some kind of hunter education training or course that you must complete before you can get a license.
Now, the laws are very different from state to state, so it's important that you check the rules in the state where you'll be hunting for all of the details. Most states have a lot of information online or you usually can get a copy of the hunting and trapping rules anywhere licenses and permits are sold.
Here are some basic rules you can expect to see, though.
License or Permit
Basically, this gives you permission to hunt or trap.
- You have to pay for a license, and the amount depends on the state and whether you live in that state ("resident") or live in another state ("non-resident"). For example, if you live in Ohio you can buy an Indiana license and hunt in that state. Non-residents usually pay more for a license than residents. Also, license fees are usually cheaper for hunters under 18 years old and hunters over the age of 65
- The license is good only for certain period of time. In some states it's good for one year from the date you got it. In other states, it's good only for the "hunting season," which may be anywhere from three to six months
- In most states, a hunting license doesn't give you permission to trap. You need to buy a separate trapping license
- You can only hunt or trap animals that are "in season." Not all animals are "in season" at the same time. During certain months, you may be able to hunt whitetail deer, and in other months you may be able to hunt wild turkey, but you might not be able to hunt both animals during the same month
- Children under 18 years old can get a license in most states, but it requires the consent or permission from a parent or legal guardian, and usually the parents or guardians must be with the children while they're hunting
- In some states, such as New Jersey, you can't get a license unless you fill-out a form certifying that you're up-to-date on any child support obligation you may have
Each state has some type of training course for hunters, and some have training courses for trappers, too.
- Education and training courses focus on safety: Proper handling of weapons, knowing when and where it's safe to shoot, what to do in case of an emergency, and the proper gear and clothing to have
- Usually, you can't get a license without first taking a training course
- Most states require an education course for hunters buying their first license regardless of age. Some states will allow applicants to "test out" of the training by completing a short test to show that they understand the ins-and-outs of the hunting rules
- Hunters under a certain age, usually 16 or 18 years old, have to take training in practically every state, and they can't "test out"
- In many states, once you've had training (or tested out) and you've purchased a license, you don't need to take the training courses anymore. Simply take your old license with you when you go to get your new one; it acts as "proof" of your training. In some states, however, youth hunters must take the training course each year they want a license
- Education courses usually are free. In some states you can take the course through the mail, online or at specified locations through out the state. The rules in your state will explain this in detail
Don't Go to Woods without Them
Hunting or trapping without the required license and training is serious. Depending on the rules of the state you're in, it's possible that:
- Your hunting gear, including your weapon, and any animals you've harvested or trapped, will be confiscated
- You'll have to pay fines, which may be hundreds of dollars
- Criminal charges may be filed against you
- You'll be ineligible to get a hunting license in that state for a certain period of time
Hunting and trapping are American traditions. It's how the men and women who settled this nation survived. And that's one of the reasons why these activities are both promoted and regulated by the states. We're supposed to be able to enjoy these activities, while protecting the environment and other hunters, all at the same time. So, make sure you do it right. Get your license and training before you hit the great outdoors.
Questions for Your Attorney
- I'm 25 years old and want to pick-up hunting as a hobby. However, when I was 15 years old, I was caught shoplifting. Can I get a license and hunt even though I have a criminal record?
- I live in State A, and I want to buy land in State B for hunting only. As a landowner in State B, do I have to buy a non-resident hunting license?
- I was denied a license because they said I was behind on child support payments. That's not true, I have all the records, and my ex-wife has even written a letter stating so, but they still won't give one to me. What can I do?