Hunting is the act of pursuing, capturing, and killing game or wild animals for food, as a sport, or for profit.
Usually, hunting takes place on private property all across different states. Hunting on private property without the permission of the owner is against the law. This is because hunting rules and regulations have been established to distinguish lawful hunting activities from illegal poaching and protect landowners from trespass violations on their lands. To gain this access to hunt, a hunting lease agreement is typically used to obtain legal rights (permission) from the property owners to hunt on their lands – where the hunter becomes the lessee.
However, before seeking permission to go hunting on private property, hunters need to familiarize themselves with the laws governing hunting in a particular state. This will often require extensive research and planning before the hunting activity because hunting laws vary from state to state; however, certain laws are common within different states:
- Hunters hunting on private property should seek permission from the landowner, know the property boundary they have permission to hunt on and respect special requests by the landowner.
- Hunters should obtain a license for hunting and carry their paper license or permits while hunting or have proof of purchase if they bought the request over the internet. Hunting laws prohibit hunters from killing certain animal species, for instance, those in danger of extinction. Some states limit the number of animal species a hunter can kill in a season or an area.
For instance, in Kentucky, a hunter is allowed to harvest only one buck in a season, click here to find out more information on the number of species limited in Kentucky.
- Hunters should fill out harvest log details, tag the harvest appropriately and document its transportation. A harvest log is defined as a record of a hunter’s harvests throughout the year or season. Each hunter is required to keep an accurate log on them at all times while hunting in the field during the current hunting season or year. The harvest log records the following information: the species, the date of the hunt, and the sex of the animal taken. Animals subdivided before filling in the log details should have the head or the genitals remain to demonstrate proof of sex.
- Hunting laws also govern the hunting methods employed by hunters and the kind of tools they use to hunts. For instance, it is illegal to hunt animals with fully automatic weapons or use full-metal jacketed bullets. To learn more on different methods that are illegal for hunting click here. Hunting from a motor vehicle or aircraft is prohibited while using artificial light, poison, or edibles to lure animals is also against the law.
- While hunting on private property, hunters should be aware of federal regulations applicable on federal or government lands such as National Recreation Areas, Forest services, etc. as a result, hunting outside the state-specific hunting limitations will require hunters to obtain special permits. Also, some states, as a way to promote hunting, have introduced special programs such as the Antelope Private Lands Use system in New Mexico have been put into place as incentives to promote hunting where property owners who allow hunting in season are awarded use of public lands in return.
- Hunting laws prohibit hunters from hunting from the road or within one kilometer of human residence, with or without permission of the landowner.
What is a Hunting License?
A hunting license also referred to as a hunting permit, is a legal mechanism for authorizing the bearer to kill a particular type of animal in a specified period. Hunting laws require every hunter to have a license to carry out hunting activities. Hunting on private property without a license is considered poaching.
Importance of a hunting license
Hunting licenses are put in place in an effort to conserve and protect wildlife while at the same time awarding hunters opportunities to hunt game within legal guidelines. The importance of a hunting license to hunt on private land includes:
- The hunting license specifies the boundaries of the hunting area. While hunting on private property, hunters are expected to carry out their hunting activities within limits specified in the license.
- The state grants “hunter’s authorization” to hunters through a hunting license. For example, in a state like New Mexico, hunters can apply for private-land-only licenses with special permission from the landowner. Also, in the same state, lessees are required to obtain written permission from the landowner 14 days before commencing to hunt on private property.
- A hunting license helps to protect certain animal species on private land. This is by outlining the specific animals the hunter has been permitted to hunt in a specified season and place and the approved means to be used for hunting the specified species of animal. For example, in Colorado, the state issues limited licenses such that big game licenses are limited to a specific number of animals within a single season. Once the license’s allocations are depleted, hunters have to wait until the next season.
- The hunting license serves as proof of the agreement between the hunter and the landowner and can serve as evidence in case of legal issues.
Who can Obtain a Hunting License?
A hunting license is an essential requirement for any individual who wishes to take part in the sport or to hunt on private property. There are different types of hunting licenses. Hunters need to be aware of the appropriate permit they should acquire before undertaking the hunting sport. Some hunting licenses include:
Hunting license for the property owner
A private-land owner is obliged to obtain two kinds of license: one to authorize them to hunt (hunting license) and the other to acknowledge leasing of private property for hunting (Hunting Lease License). A hunting lease license serves as proof of private-land ownership and can be used to claim for any form of compensation.
Tenants of the property
A group of landowners can form a hunting co-operative and have a written agreement containing their names and the total number of acres owned by each landowner. The landowners obtain a hunting co-operative lease license as legal proof of private land ownership.
Some states allow married couples to acquire a combined hunting license for both of them. However, the married couple should both be listed on the property title deed they are to hunt on. In other states, if a married individual is not listed on the deed, they will have to obtain a separate hunting license to hunt in their own land.
License to hunt a specific animal
Wildlife authorities have developed plans and restrictions on how many animals of a specified species may be hunted. Hunters searching for a specific animal must obtain a hunting license and purchase an additional tag for the specific animal they are hunting. The number of tags each individual hunter can be issued is, however, limited. It should be noted that the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish stipulates that deer and elk hunters are permitted to use e-tags. However, those that use paper document tags are not allowed to switch to e-tags in the future.
License for traveling hunters
Before traveling to another region for a hunting trip, hunters need to gather sufficient information about hunting in the region they are visiting. Traveling hunters should familiarize themselves with the kinds of animals available, laws governing hunting, laws for hunting on private property, and firearms in that region. Traveling hunters should carry their hunting license and inquire whether they need an additional hunting permit in the region they are visiting.
Requirements to Obtain a Hunting License
Generally, every hunter needs a hunting license. Various factors (age, resident status, type of animal in pursuit) determine the licensing a hunter needs. For one to obtain a hunting license, hunters are required to have two main items:
Documentation for the license
Applying for a hunting license requires the submission of paperwork that is used to verify the suitability of the hunter. The following documentation is needed for lessees to be licensed to hunt.
- Valid identification – A state-issued identification card is important as it helps determine the applicant’s state of residency and identity, which will often influence the application fees. Age is also a consideration – most states will permit 12 years or older applicants. Application fees will often be lower for in-residents, hunters over a certain age, veterans, etc. Further information can be obtained here.
- Receipt of payment for any application fees
- Hunter safety card or certificate of completion a hunter education class since hunters are required to undertake a hunter education class before being licensed to hunt. All first-time hunters must pass the hunters course before they are issued a hunting license.
- Hunters who want to renew their hunting license are required to submit a current valid hunting license or proof that they had a valid hunting license in the past year.
- Other documents as directed by the local authority, for example, some states will require hunting license applicants to have a valid firearm permit to be able to hunt on private property.
Outdoor safety course
A good hunter needs to learn several skills through a state-certified outdoor safety course to be eligible for hunting. Upon completion, one is issued a hunter safety card or certificate. Skills hunters are required to be equipped with include:
- Hunter ethics and responsibilities
- Hunting knowledge and skills (on gear and proper techniques to use)
- Use of maps and compass directions
- Hands-on training in firearms and ammunition and bow hunting
- Field safety or Safe sporting practices such as first aid
- Attitude requirements as directed by the state when hunting
- Wildlife identification and conservation practices
- State regulations and hunting laws
- Landowner relations
Outdoor safety courses can be taken through traditional in-room teaching (face-to-face learning) through field testing or internet-based learning such as the use of hunting safety videos, interactive exercises and games, and comprehensive hunter education content. Outdoor safety courses provide the hunter with the knowledge and skills necessary to become a safe and responsible hunter – the method of teaching hunters will depend on the state-issued guidelines. Traditional hunter education courses will ordinarily take 10 hours, that is, a couple of hours for 2-4 nights or an entire weekend. Click here to obtain more information. Hunters hunting under the direct supervision of a Senior citizen born before September 1, 1969, do not need to take the outdoor safety course.
Open and Closed Season
A hunting season is a designated period when it is legal to hunt and kill certain wild animals in specified areas. Hunting seasons will depend on the type of animal, the environment, and animal characteristics like the mating season. Hunting seasons differ from one state to another based on the animal population. An Open Hunting Season is a time when a species may be legally hunted. During this period, hunting, fishing, and possession of game animals that conform to specified restrictions are deemed legal by the local Department of Fish and Wildlife.
An open season can vary from multiple times within a year to several months, several weeks, or even to a specific time of the day. Also, an open season can limit the number of animals of a species that can be killed during that season. For example, in Oklahoma, hunters are permitted to hunt deer from the 1st of October to January 15th with a bow. In the same state, hunting deer using a firearm is only allowed from 21st November to 6th December.
On the other hand, a closed hunting season refers to the time when all form of hunting or possession of game or wild animals is prohibited and therefore termed as poaching which is punishable by law. Closed seasons are primarily put in place to protect animals due to the following reasons; food shortage, low population numbers, extreme temperatures, and preserve endangered species from extinction.
Finding a good land or ranch to hunt is usually the first but not the last step before seeking permission to hunt on private property. When the hunting grounds/property belongs to someone else, seeking permission becomes necessary to avoid cases of trespassing. Once permission is granted, hunters receive a hunting permit; to obtain it, a hunter needs to provide a valid hunter’s license. A hunting permit cannot be transferred among hunters. Below are seven ways to get permission or access to hunt on private property.
Owner of the land
Hunters should conduct thorough research on who owns the land they want to hunt on. Occupants of land or property are not automatically the owners of the property. Ownership can be ascertained through the county records office or any public records that can be used to show ownership. They should familiarize themselves with the history of the land and be aware of the restrictions laid out for the land. Hunters should have a conversation with the actual owner of the land, make clear agreements and outline the land boundaries distinctively. Hunters should also survey the neighboring lands and be aware of activities in the neighborhood.
Bring your dog
The next step is having a face-to-face meeting. Tagging along with a well-behaved and trained dog when seeking permission can be advantageous to the hunter, especially if the landowner is a dog-lover. In unknown territory, it won’t hurt to have a familiar face.
Road tripping hunter
Traveling hunters could have a difficult time trying to gain hunting access during their road trip. Contacting property owners via phone or email and sort out pertinent details regarding access to the hunting grounds before the actual physical meeting is an effective way for traveling hunters to gain access to hunting grounds beforehand. This saves time and effort of traveling long distances only for access requests to be turned down.
Build trust factor
Maintaining good communication with the landowner helps in building up trust. Tagging a child along, making a good first impression, and being polite also helps in building up trust. Additionally, keeping in touch even during a closed season through check-up calls, drop-by to say hello, etc., are efficient ways the hunter can maintain a good connection with the property holder. Frequently coming for hunting over multiple seasons can help in building the relationship too. This way, seeking hunting permission will get easier with time.
Direct access to the owner
Hunters with direct access to property owners get an easier time asking for hunting permission. Hunters could meet up with landowners at the property or off-site places such as town meetings, roadside diners, grocery stores, local hangout places, yard sales (community gatherings), or even make an immediate call to them. With the current Covid-19 pandemic, hunters are advised to avoid physical meetings and contact the owners directly via phone calls.
Who are you?
A proper introduction acts as a plus in securing access to hunting land. Hunters should provide the landowner with sufficient details about them to make them comfortable enough to allow them in their land. When meeting the property owner, always carry some identification and an easy way to share contact information such as a business card to leave to the landowner. A landowner with reservations about a hunter will likely be hesitant to give hunting access.
Get a point man
A Point-man can accompany a hunter to meet the landowner and make a formal introduction on the hunter’s behalf. A property owner will grant hunting permission without hesitation when a well-known community member accompanies the hunter as a goodwill ambassador to seek hunting permission.
Free Hunting Lease Agreement Template
Frequently Asked Questions
How to obtain the hunting license during covid-19
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many states have opted to offer Hunting Education programs online. Registrations for the course and fee payments are done online. Comprehensive content, learning videos, and engaging exercises are made available over the internet for hunting students. After completing the course, qualified hunters apply for a hunting license with the Reserve America’s Fishing & Hunting License webpage or directly apply at the state’s fish, and game department website over the internet and are issued an e-permit.
What are the violations of the hunting agreement?
A breach of a hunting agreement is considered illegal and therefore punishable by law. A landowner has the right to sue a hunter who goes against the agreement. Likewise, a hunter has an equal right to sue a property owner who breaches the set standards. The physical agreement form is provided as evidence in the court of law. Some of the most common hunting violations include; failure to tag wild game, shooting game from a vehicle (any motorized vehicle), shooting animals from the road, failure to document the sex/gender of the animal, failure to wear a fluorescent color (orange or pink) clothing and trespassing into private land without permission.