Federal Hunting Laws – When you hunting on federal land [Updated Jun 2024]

The year is 1885, and the United States Congress has just passed a law that prevents hunters from shooting endangered species. The government passed this law to protect animals such as buffalo. These animals rapidly decreased in population due to hunting for their hides. Hunters who shot these animals would be fined $5000 or sentenced to two years of prison time. The penalty for killing an animal on an Indian reservation was increased to three months in prison and a $1000 fine if convicted.  Therefore, it is essential to learn how federal hunting laws work, especially if you are hunting in the USA. 

Is Hunting Legal In The USA?

Hunting is not legal in the United States. Hunting in the US often includes harassment or baiting of an animal, called ‘hounding.’ An animal won’t be considered ‘harassed’ if a hunter first kills it outside of the exceptions provided by law. Harassment includes if it has tried and failed to get away from an unprovoked attack on it. Dogs are used when going after bears, coyotes, cougars, bobcats, and ursids. Hounding is illegal even within hunting hours during any daytime non-migratory bird season. 

Rules Of Hunting You Must Know

A hunter should always carry the following items on them while they are hunting:
  • A map of the hunting area. It will help them find their way back to where they left their vehicle or if they need to call for help.
  • Hunting licenses and permits. These can be obtained in paper form from state hunting authorities or online. However, some states prohibit downloading these items electronically for safety purposes. 
  • Shotgun shells are a must for a game like ducks, geese, and grouse, as these birds have thick plumage that requires multiple shots at close range from an upland shotgun. 

In What Public Lands Can I Hunt?

You can go to a national forest and hunt for small games, fish, and even big games. If you drive about an hour away, you could go out in the mountains. You need to check the regulations for each state because they have individual licenses for hunting species not allowed in another state. The states are not required to offer overnight camping, but many do- this is called primitive camping instead of a developed campsite with running water and electricity that you would find at a campground or RV park. There are plenty of public lands while mainly providing level ground where shooting lanes can be created using natural features like creeks or hillsides as backstops. Trails funneling towards living areas like brush piles will help target animals.

Which Animals Can I Hunt On America’s Public Lands?

You can hunt the following:
  • deer (most populations)
  • various birds, primarily waterfowl like ducks and geese (wild populations only), small game, rabbits
  • Bears can be hunted in northern states but are not classified as public land animals. You need to apply for a license through the food and agriculture department, totaling over 50 dollars of information required from your part.
Aside from hunting laws, there are still some animals that you cannot hunt on public lands at all, such as certain species of endangered birds and animals. Be sure to research what is available in the area you currently reside in before obtaining firearms or ammunition for hunting purposes.

When Is The Hunting Season In The USA?

This question is about the seasons for hunting, not for a date. Hunting seasons cover wildlife management in the United States (US), which may be defined differently among various state, federal and tribal jurisdictions, US territories, or other administrative divisions. In general, deer hunting season occurs October 15th to December 31st in most of North America and December 8th to April 15th in southern/southwestern states. Hunting seasons can vary from year to year depending on population dynamics but generally fall during these months with possible variations until February 1st or later if weather negatively impacts game populations.

Do I Need Any License To Hunt On Public Lands?

Yes. You’ll need a hunting license, a hunter education course, and as many bullet-proof vests as you have meat eaters in the family. License to hunt on public lands is granted from state to state, and it depends on the county or area that the property falls under for ownership rights. Hunters should be aware of their local gun laws before venturing out into areas with firearms such as a rifle or gun sight requirements for various distances within different types of buildings versus outside.  If planning to keep the animals caught, make sure your freezer can meet legal requests of properly labeling all meats and hanging them until they reach an appropriate temperature for storage. Also, always make sure all game meat is cleaned before eating it.

What Is Your Final Advice For Passionate Hunters?

You must be 16 or older to purchase a hunting license, so it’s best for the youngsters in your family to get involved with work that requires permission. To hunt migratory game birds, someone of any age can wade into freshwater up to their waist as long as they don’t shoot above the high tide mark. For other types of hunts (e.g., elk), you may need someone who is at least 12 years old and has taken hunter safety training. Many states restrict bowhunters from shooting arrows within 50 yards of occupied dwellings without written permission from the owner(s) or occupant(s). At some point, all hunters will want their vehicle for transporting any game harvested. These are the things that you need to keep in mind if you’re going to continue hunting. 


The federal hunting laws have been in place for a long time, but they’re not always easy to understand. If you want to know what’s legal and what isn’t when it comes to how much game you can take home from your trip into the wilderness, read the regulations in your state.  What do you think? Do we need stricter rules for hunters? Should there be certain areas where people cannot hunt at all? Please share your thoughts with us below!

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