Every hunter knows the excitement and anticipation that builds as open season approaches. You begin to look over all your gear, check the sights on your weapon, and start thinking about your strategy for the hunt. But before you can move onto bookmarking your favorite wild game recipes and researching the best taxidermist, making sure that you comply with game hunting regulations is an essential part of the process.
A License to Kill: What You Need to Know
Although it may seem a little counterintuitive that something as ancient as hunting on your own land is heavily regulated, game and sport hunting laws are an important part of protecting natural resources and keeping the sport safe. Most states require hunters to complete some type of hunters education class before they can apply for a hunting license.
While it varies greatly depending on the animal, laws defining open season are not flexible and it is crucial that hunters know when and where they can hunt. Open seasons are often broken down into different land management zones within a state that offer year round opportunities to hunt.
Public and Private Land
There are also different regulations that apply to hunting on public versus private land. Most states also issue tags that limit how many animals you can harvest during a season or in a particular area.
Weapon of Choice
Often hunting licenses are specific to a type of game and there can be different seasons depending on the weapon used.
When I started planning to hunt my first buck, I chose to focus on improving my skills with a crossbow instead of a rifle because my state’s crossbow season lasts almost four months as opposed to the 9-day gun season.
After the Hunt
There are even laws regarding what you have to do after a successful hunt. These can include prohibitions on where deer can be transported and rules requiring you to report your harvest to the state. Knowing these laws will help ensure that your hunt doesn’t end with a visit from a Department of Natural Resources officer.
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Important Hunting Law Changes
Below are some of the noteworthy recent changes to hunting laws across the South.
- The use of drones is now prohibited in Wildlife Management Areas (“WAM”), even if the hunter has a valid Louisiana hunting license.
- You can now buy hunting licenses online. You can also use this website to validate deer and turkey tags!
There are numerous changes to specific WAMs, including:
- Prohibits antlerless deer harvest on Pass-A-Loutre WMA
- Adds a Small Game Emphasis Area to Tunica Hills WMA
- The number of days hunters in Richard K Yancey WMA can hunt either sex of deer with a primitive weapon has been reduced from 7 to 2.
- Hunters will now be permitted to hunt less than 100 yards from a feed pile or feeder.
- People holding a Mississippi hunting license will now be required to report the harvest of any wild turkey beginning with the Spring 2019 turkey season.
- Starting on July 1, 2019 it will be illegal to use any natural scents or lures that contain real deer fluids or other biological materials.
- In an effort to combat Chronic Wasting Disease, it is now prohibited to import deer carcasses from any state, regardless of the state’s CWD status. There are exceptions including finished taxidermy products and meat that has been de-boned.
- Turkey hunters will now be allowed to use crossbows, but they will no longer be permitted to use handguns. The opening date for the spring turkey season was moved to March 16.
- Landowners wishing to warn against trespassers are now permitted to use purple paint.
- For people with an Alabama hunting license in zone C, the unantlered deer season boundary has been reduced.
- Like Mississippi, Alabama hunting laws no longer permit hunters to use natural deer urine or other lures, although synthetic products are still allowed.
Resource: Alabama’s Online Harvest Reporting
- Hunters can now hunt for game using a large caliber air rifle in Deer Management Zones 4, 4B, 5 and 5B.
- Youth that have not completed hunter education to obtain a full Arkansas hunting license must have a mentor who is at least 21 in order to participate in a youth hunt.
- There is now a limited alligator season in Zone 2.
- Private elk hunting permits have been reduced from $35 to $5 and the archery bear quote in Zone 1 has increased from 205 to 250.
Which Hunting Season Is It Now?
Once you start to dig into the vast number of regulations that govern the sport of hunting, it can get a little confusing trying to determine if you are hunting for the right animal, at the right time, on the right land. Fortunately there are many resources online that can help you stay on the right side of the law.
Resource: Hunting laws by state
Hunting maps help ensure you don’t trespass onto private property. There are now numerous apps that display hunting maps with property boundaries and ownership details. Happy Hunting!
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