The good news is there are lots of places you can quickly and easily get your hunting license. But first, it’s important to know why you need a license. Watch the short video below to find out.
Buying a license directly supports the wildlife and outdoors areas in your state, including habitat restoration, fish stocking, wildlife management, and more. By following the law and purchasing a hunting license, you ensure a legacy of hunting for the future.
The first place to look for a license is your state hunting agency website. If you’re not sure what that is, start by searching for “hunting license” with your state name. If you meet all the legal requirements, such as age and completion of a hunter safety course, you’ll be able to pay the fee. In most states, you can now buy your license online and have it mailed to you!
If you’d rather go in person, visit the regional offices for your state wildlife agency. You can find the address through their website or with a quick search. You can also buy a license from agency vendors, such as gun stores, sporting good shops, and even some supermarkets or small businesses.
You’ll pick the type of license you want—including the type of animal you’re interested in hunting—and then you’ll be ready! Your license will have limits on when you can hunt (the “season”) and may have limits on where. If you have any questions, a representative from your state agency is the best person to ask. They’re happy to help you begin your hunt safely!
It’s almost deer season, and you’re getting excited about your upcoming hunt. You dust off your rifle and head over to your local range for some warm-up target practice. You sight the target down-range, confident in your bull’s-eye, pull the trigger and…
Your shot is off. What’s up?
You need to sight-in your rifle. Bullets don’t travel in a straight line; they arc. Because of gravity’s effects, you have to “sight-in,” or adjust your sights to hit a target at a specific range.
As a deer hunter, you might consider sighting-in your rifle to a target about 100 yards away. That’s a good rule of thumb, though you may need to sight-in your rifle for a different range, depending on where you hunt.
To sight-in your rifle, follow these steps:
- Set up on a solid bench rest with the forestock resting on something padded, such as a sandbag. (Don’t rest the gun on its barrel, or it will shoot higher than normal!)
- Use a sight-in target, available from retail outlets or manufacturers.
- Set up a target 25 yards away; fire at least three shots, then check the results. If the holes are grouped relatively close together, but not where you were aiming, your sights need to be adjusted.
- Adjust the sights. Read your sight’s instruction manual to find out how much a certain number of minutes-of-angle or “clicks” in a certain direction will change the rear sight (peep or telescopic) on your firearm. Consult a ballistics chart or an experienced shooter if you need additional help.
- Repeat at 100 yards (or whatever your target range is).
Now that you know how to sight-in your rifle, you can get these added benefits:
Extra practice. Because you have to shoot your target several times while sighting-in, you get more hands-on time with your rifle, making you a better shot.
Added accuracy. When you’re on the hunt, you want to hit your deer exactly right. Being out of alignment may mean the difference between a perfect hit in the heart and a meat-ruining hit in the stomach. If you want to enjoy venison stew and remain an ethical hunter, you need your rifle to be as accurate as possible.
Identifying weak points. If you have a little trouble with your grip or stance, extra time at the local range with experts can help you identify and correct these problems, making your next hunt that much better.
Clear range. After the practice and repetition of sighting-in your rifle, you will know your range like the back of your hand. And that’s great, because it means you’ll know exactly when a deer has crossed into your firing range.
Improved safety. Because it is more accurate, you now know exactly where your bullet will travel, which means you can reduce the chances of an accident.
Bonus confidence. You have a perfectly sighted-in rifle and a ton of practice: Your hunt is going to be outstanding!
The type of hunt you plan on should dictate exactly what you bring with you, but there are, generally speaking, some essentials every hunter should have.
- Licenses (and possibly permits, depending on your state’s laws)
- Required animal tags
- First aid kit
- Maps of the area and/or a GPS
- Communication device
- Sharp knife
- Calls for your target animal
- Backpack to hold your gear
You’ll need to bring along your preferred method of take (aka gun or bow), as well as any accessories and ammunition. (Remember, it is essential that your ammunition match your firearm, and that you inspect your arrows for any damage.)
Dress for the weather and the terrain. This typically will mean camouflage, sturdy boots, gloves, rugged pants, and under-layers. Waterproof or water-resistant clothing is useful in every environment, and moisture-wicking clothing will also help keep you comfortable. For warmth, seek wool or synthetic fibers; cotton will retain moisture and make you colder.
Be sure to wear the correct amount of blaze orange for your season and your area—it will keep you safe from other hunters, who may mistake you for game. It’s proven to be effective, and most game animals can’t even see it!
All of this equipment can be found online, in sporting goods stores, or perhaps as hand-me-downs from a family member or friend.
Here are some specifics you may need, depending on your hunting needs.
Game Care Kit for Field Dressing
- Black pepper to repel insects
- Cheesecloth bags for organs you plan to use as meat
- Cooler and ice
- Disposable plastic gloves
- Fluorescent orange flagging
- Gambrel and pulley system
- Hand towels
- Large bag for caped or trophy head
- Plastic bags for cleanup
- Plastic or cotton gloves
- Salt (noniodized) for hide care
Survival Kit and Equipment
- Base plate compass with signal mirror
- Emergency high-energy food
- Extra boot laces
- Extra pair of glasses
- Extra two-day supply of prescription medicine
- Fire starters—waterproof matches, butane lighter, etc.
- First-aid kit
- Fishing line and hooks
- Flashlight with spare batteries and bulbs
- Folding saw
- Iodide tablets for water purification
- Metal, waterproof carrying case that can double as a cooking pot
- Nylon rope
- One-sided razor blade
- Plastic sheet or large garbage bag
- Signal flares
- Small can of lighter fluid
- Snare wire or twine
- Thermal foil blanket
- Whistle (plastic)
Equipment for Firearm Hunters
- Ear protection
- Eye protection
- A cleaning rod
- Gun case for transport
Equipment for Archery Hunters
- Three-fingered gloves or finger tabs
- Mechanical release
- Broadhead wrench, if appropriate
If You Use an Elevated Stand
- Safety harness
- Climbing line
- Haul line
Hunters Using a Boat
- A personal flotation device
Having the right gear can be the difference between a difficult situation and a perfect hunt, so always plan accordingly!
The type of game available for you will dramatically depend on your state’s environment and regulations. (Be sure you always have a license before you hunt!)
However, there are some general guidelines:
In the Eastern and Midwestern states, the most popular animals to hunt are white-tailed deer, small game (squirrel, rabbit, and more), upland birds (such as pheasant and quail), turkey, waterfowl, and black bears. Recently, elk populations have been established in some states (West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Arkansas), and hunters can enter a lottery to hunt them.
In the Western U.S., there are more big game hunting opportunities. Common hunts include elk, moose, mule deer, or white-tailed deer. While most areas require big game hunting tags be awarded by a lottery or draw system, hunters still have a good chance. Some states even have over-the-counter hunting tags for public access (though generally only for archery equipment). However, small game, turkey, upland birds, predators, and waterfowl are also available for hunting.
As wild boar populations have grown prolifically, they have become more popular hunting targets, particularly in Southwestern states. Some states consider them to be pest animals, removing the limit on the number of animals that can be taken (unlike other big game animals).
Check with your state wildlife department to find out the particulars for your area.