Before you start your hunt, you need to obtain a hunting license. It is an effort implemented by the government to regulate hunting to protect existing wildlife. This is one of the preliminary step in our deer hunting guide, but it is an extremely important step.  Without getting a proper license, you will be carrying out hunting illegally.

General Background

In the United States, each state is responsible to manage its own wildlife. Hence, you will need to be certified and obtain state hunting licenses by your state conservation department. The rules and regulations on becoming licensed may differ for each state. It is important for you to read through these regulations because they may be updated each year. You should check them online with your state’s Department of Natural Resources or Wildlife Department. Some states even offer a lifetime pass to avoid the hassle of renewing your license each year! However, others do require license renewal.

1. How do you get a hunting license?

Hunting licenses can typically be purchased at retail outlets that handle hunting and fishing equipment. You can also visit your state’s Department of Natural Resources or Wildlife Department’s office to get your license. You will need to bring your state identification card or driver’s license and prepare the license fee. If you cannot go in person, you can purchase your hunting license online through your state’s website. If you wish to hunt on national wildlife refuge, they may require other specific permits and fees. Hunting licenses are non-transferable and do not allow you to trespass on private land.

Hunting licenses are typically split into categories depending on the state. For example, the categories offered in Texas include resident hunting, senior resident hunting and youth hunting. Obtaining a resident hunting license costs $25 and is valid for the individual to hunt any legal bird or animal. A senior resident hunting license costs only $7 and is valid only for residents at the age of 65 or older. They are also allowed to hunt any legal bird or animal. The Youth hunting license also only costs $7 and is valid for both residents or non-residents below the age of 17 at the time of purchase. In Georgia, if you are a resident, a general hunting license will cost you $15 while non-residents are charged $100. To hunt big game such as deer, an additional license will be required which costs $25 for residents and $225 for non-residents. However, seniors are given a discounted rate at only $4 but this excludes big game.

Many states also offer the lifetime hunting license. This means that the hunting license will last you over your lifetime. If you plan to hunt deer for the long term, getting this will save you a lot of cash and the hassle of renewing your license or purchasing an annual license. For Mississippi, the Lifetime Sportsman’s License for age 13 and above costs $1000. The Lifetime Sportsman’s License can be purchased for children below the age of 12 as well for a price of $500. For non-residents, this will cost them $1500 to purchase a lifetime license. In Kansas, residents are only required to pay $502.50 for a lifetime hunting license. For a combination of lifetime hunting and fishing combination license, this will be $962.40 for residents.

There are also special deer hunting licenses offered by certain states.

Deer Bundle License 

There is a license known as deer bundle license specially for hunters in Indiana. This license is valid for all deer seasons except the deer reduction zone season. With this, you are allowed the privilege to harvest up to three deer with just one license. But an antlered deer harvested with this license counts toward an individual’s antlered deer limit for state-wide seasons. Hence, you can either hunt 3 antlerless deer or hunt 1 antlered deer with 2 antlerless deer. It will cost you $65 if you are an Indiana resident, $65 if you are a non-resident youth and $295 if you are a non-resident adult.

Bonus Antlerless License

The purpose for promoting the Bonus Antlerless license in Indiana is because the primary strategy for controlling deer population is by reducing the population of female deer. Hence, this license encourages the increased harvest of doe by only making it valid for antlerless deer. It is also strict to ensure its effectiveness. For example, the Bonus Antlerless License is only valid for the Archery, Firearms, Muzzleloader and Late Antlerless seasons. Antlerless deer that are harvested with licenses such as the archery, crossbow, muzzleloader or deer reduction zone licenses also do not count as bonus antlerless deer. They must be separately harvested under the Bonus Antlerless license. However, antlerless deer harvested using a Deer Bundle license may apply to the Bonus Antlerless country quota depending on which season the deer is harvested in. Other information on the bonus antlerless deer bag limit are found online.

Legacy lifetime Hunting License

In Virginia, a Legacy hunting license is allowed to be issued to a child younger than 2 years of age.  It is valid for the lifetime of the license holder regardless of change in status as a resident or non-resident. The Legacy hunting license is transferable to a lifetime hunting license when the license holder has reached his or her 12th birthday. This will cost no additional charge but proof of completion of a hunter education course must be shown.  The Legacy hunting license will cost $125 for residents and $250 for non-residents. It can be purchased online or in person at a Department of Game and Inland Fisheries headquarters office.

Depending on the weapon you use, you will also need to obtain the specific hunting license for it.

Archery License

Archery hunters hunt typically hunt with the compound bow, recurve bow or crossbow. To hunt with this equipment, a license must be obtained. Again, this will depend on your particular state. In Maryland, an Archery Stamp is required for you to hunt deer during the archery season. As a resident, this will cost you $6 but as a non-resident it will cost $25. Hunters who hunt with archery equipment during the Muzzleloader Season must purchase a Muzzleloader Stamp.

Crossbows are allowed for hunting in every state of the United States except one. That is, Oregon. In other states, there are different terms for the use of crossbows. In Kansas, Texas, South Carolina and other states, crossbows are legal to be used for the archery season. For states like Nevada and Colorado, they are legal in firearm seasons. Wherever it is legal for hunting with a crossbow, you will need to find out whether you must obtain a crossbow license. In Idaho, you are allowed to hunt with a crossbow without other permits besides your hunting license and a tag. In Maine, you will need to purchase a crossbow hunting permit. In Hawaii, crossbows are only legal by special disabled permits.

Firearm License

In Missouri, a “firearms any-deer hunting permit” will cost a resident $17 and a non-resident $225. This only allows you to harvest one antlered or antlerless deer during specific seasons. In Wisconsin, a Gun Deer license should be obtained. This authorizes the harvest of one buck in any deer management unit state-wide. It also allows the harvest of an antlerless deer in a Farmland zone. At the time of purchase, you must choose the deer management unit you want to hunt in, the type of land and the weapon you will use.

2. Deer tag requirement

In addition to your hunting license, you will need to obtain tags to hunt bigger game species. Yes, this includes hunting deer. You will need one tag for each deer harvested. The number of tags issued to one person is usually limited and restricted to a specific zone or hunt area. After being issued a tag, you will have to submit a harvest report card when hunting season is over, even if you did not hunt or harvest any deer.

Hunting with firearm

3. Hunting with a firearm

Those who wish to hunt with a firearm legally would usually be required to take a hunter’s safety course. Most courses are made up of a 4-hour course and a written exam. They are also free of charge. Upon passing your test and receiving the certification, you can then proceed to purchase your permits. You can obtain other necessary information either online from your state conservation department website or at a conservation office.

4. Permission for Land

Apart from obtaining the licenses necessary, make sure to obtain permission in the land you hunt. It is unlawful to hunt on a land without the written permission of the landowner and doing so is punishable. In Virginia, a fine of up to $2500 is given and some cases even 12 months of jail for trespassing a posted property. A posted property is basically where there is a specific notice “posted” not to trespass. Hunting on an unposted property without permission can also land you a fine up to $500 in Virginia. Information on the consequences of trespassing in other states can be found online.



Remember to fulfil all requirements before going for your hunt. If you do not comply, you may get penallized. Penalities for first conviction include being fined up to $2,000 or being imprisoned for up to 1 year for Class 1 misdemeanor.