General Hunting Tips

Hunting Basics: What Are the Hunting Seasons?

A bulk elk bugling, what are the hunting seasons concept.

What can you hunt and when? 

As much as you'd probably love to grab your firearm or bow and hit the woods in search of game any time you have a free weekend, hunters must follow state-designated hunting seasons for each species. 

Hunting seasons help promote ethical hunting and proper game management. So, it's crucial to know when you can hunt (depending on what you prefer to hunt)! Keep reading to learn about seasons for hunting deer, turkey, and more. 

Graphic with text, what are the hunting seasons?

What Are Hunting Seasons?

A "hunting season" is a time frame during which it is legal to hunt and kill a particular kind of animal. Because hunting plays a significant role in wildlife management, hunting seasons depend on the type of animal, the environment, and animal characteristics like mating season. 

Wildlife biologists who study animal populations determine hunting seasons on a state-by-state basis. Local laws can also affect the season (for example, some states don't allow hunting on Sundays).

Hunting Seasons Vary By State (But There Are Some Consistencies)

Depending on where you hunt, it's not safe to assume the hunting season for the game you hunt starts and ends on the same days it starts in other states. However, the general timeframes for hunting a specific species are similar across states. 

For example, archery season for deer generally begins in late September through early October, with firearms season following in late October and November. Deer season can continue through February in some states. 

Turkey is frequently hunted in the spring, in April or May, but hunters can also hunt turkeys in some areas in the fall. 

Migratory waterfowl hunting tends to open in late September and early October. Upland birds, such as grouse, are frequently hunted through the fall.

Pest animals – such as wild hogs or some squirrel species – can often be hunted year-round.

Hunting Season Terms to Know

Have you heard the "open season" and "closed season?" Here's what they mean:

  • An "open season" is when a species may be legally hunted. It is typically when the population is at its highest and avoids peak breeding season. 
  • "closed season" is when hunters cannot legally hunt that species. 

A season may be closed for several reasons, including food shortages, extreme temperatures, and low population numbers. So, never assume open season is coming for anything you plan to hunt. Always check with your state agencies or use an app like HuntWise or a website like eRegulations to learn when and where to hunt each season. 

For hunters in Michigan, for example, eRegulations shows current details about licenses, permits, fees, seasons, and limits. 

Remember: hunting during a closed season is illegal and known as "poaching."

Get Hunter Safety Certified Before Hunting Season Begins

Knowing when to hunt is crucial, but it's also essential to know how to hunt safely before hunting season begins! 

As you research when to hunt deer, turkey, or your favorite game this year, make sure you also look into the hunter education requirements for your state or anywhere you plan to hunt. 

The best way to stay safe during your hunt (no matter when you go) is to take a state-approved course through Hunter-Ed. Our online courses cover important safety topics, including firearm safety, basic shooting skills, preparation, and survival skills. To get certified, find the course for your state and start learning!


Originally published September 18, 2015. Content updated September 18, 2023.