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Hunting Seasons


Each year, hunting calendars nationwide get marked with giant circles and X’s to mark desired hunting season start and end dates. Vacation time is requested, cars are packed and once that first open season day arrives, the surrounding wildernesses see a flurry of activity.

In this regard, hunting seasons are a critical component of the hunter’s lifestyle. Before you head out on a hunting trip, though, you should first find out which hunting seasons are taking place during your dates. Hunting seasons are regulated by each state’s wildlife department. A number of factors affect the timing of each season, such as:

  • Citizen input.
  • State fish and game department regulations.
  • Independent game councils.
  • Animal breeding periods.

Of these factors, the most important one concerns the breeding patterns of animals. Hunting seasons are timed so that seasons close around the peak breeding periods for each species. This gives each species a chance to replenish the following hunting season, adding to the preservation of the species’ numbers as well as the overall ecosystem.

Types of Hunting Seasons

Each hunter has his or her own preference when it comes to the types of animals they like to hunt, whether they are deer hunters creeping stealthily through the woods or duck hunters roaming near lakes. Each animal’s hunting season varies by state, with the seasons organized either by animal or the type of weapon used to hunt the animal. Since ecosystems are different, depending on what part of the country you are in, the types of animals available for hunting also differ widely between states. Some examples of animals with their own hunting seasons include:

  • Deer.
  • Elk.
  • Bears.
  • Hog.
  • Boar.
  • Caribou.
  • Duck.
  • Turkey.
  • Pheasant.
  • Quail.
  • Waterfowl.

For states that organize hunting seasons by the type of weapon used, typical options include:

  • Archery hunting season.
  • Crossbow hunting season.
  • Muzzleloading gun (primitive firearm) hunting season.
  • General gun hunting season.

Contact the local wildlife department when embarking on your hunting trip to find out more about hunting season dates and restrictions in your area.

Penalties for Hunting Out-of-Season

Hunting violations are a serious crime throughout the country, with a number of associated penalties. The types of acts that constitute a hunting violation differ from state to state. However, all states have penalties for hunting out-of-season, which can include:

  • Between $50 and $2,000 in fines.
  • Between five and 180 days in jail.
  • Possible requirement to pay restitution for animals illegally caught (minimum $1,000).

Aside from being penalized for hunting out-of-season, hunters can also find themselves in legal trouble if they are caught with animals that are restricted in that state (i.e. bears, wild turkeys, deer, etc.). Other hunting violations include: illegal use of hunting weapons (i.e. crossbow, bow arrow, gun) and hunting under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Hunters who are found to have multiple hunting offenses within a certain designated time period will also face steeper fines and jail time. Depending on the hunting violation, penalties can also include the revocation of your hunting license for either a set period of time or for life.

Whenever you plan a hunting trip for yourself and/or your family, make sure to research the hunting seasons of the animals you want to catch to avoid any of the above penalties. Additionally, be sure to adhere to any other hunting rules and regulations to ensure your trip is a successful one.