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If you’re just starting hunting in 2023 and are already overwhelmed with all the new information considering season dates, regulations, methods, hunting gear, camo, and more – this guide will make things crystal clear for you. It will explain how to find hunting season dates for your state as well as point out things to pay attention to. Enjoy!
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Every year, your state wildlife agency (the Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the New York State Department of Environmental, and so on) releases dates that determine when and how you can hunt a specific game species. Each of these agencies has detailed websites full of valuable information for hunters. Besides season dates, they provide specifics about different aspects of hunting, including baiting requirements, tagging and reporting requirements, licensing requirements, and more. That’s why it’s so important to familiarize yourself with the information provided by your state’s wildlife agency.
Hunting season dates are typically categorized by the game species, location, and method of take – the type of weapon you’re permitted to use during a specific period. These periods may overlap.
- Bow Season: Bow hunting seasons are often longer than firearm seasons as they pose less risk to the public and are considered more challenging.
- Rifle or Shotgun Season: This is the most popular hunting season. During this period, you’ll notice the most hunters in the woods. That’s why some seasoned hunters proficient with other weapons often take advantage of bow and muzzleloader seasons.
- Muzzleloader Season: The main advantage of having a separate muzzleloader season is that it’s less crowded as fewer hunters use these old-style guns. This means less stress on the animals, so you might spot more game. Although muzzleloaders aren’t as advanced, using them can be a fun challenge and a great way to appreciate traditional hunting methods.
Let’s take Texas and see how it all works. The deer season 2023-2024 for bow hunters begins Sept. 30 and lasts till Nov. 3, 2023. During the archery seasons, there are two days of youth-only hunting on Oct. 28 and 29. According to hunting regulations, only licensed hunters under 16 years can take part and use any lawful means, except in several counties where lawful means are restricted to lawful archery equipment only. After the deer bowhunting season ends, the general firearm deer season begins – Nov. 4, 2023 through Jan. 7, 2024 for the north or Jan. 21, 2024 for the south. For muzzleloader hunters, deer season begins Jan. 8 and lasts till 21, 2024. During this period, another youth-only hunting season occurs. Also, in Texas, there’s a special late season when harvest is restricted to antlerless and unbranched antlered deer. For the north, it’s Jan. 8 – 21, 2024, while for the south, the special late deer hunting season begins on Jan. 22 and lasts through Feb. 4.
Now, let’s take Missouri deer hunting season and compare it to Texas. First of all, it doesn’t distinguish between muzzleloader and general firearms periods. The state also has separate seasons for taking antherless deer, youth seasons, and the CWD season. CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) is a fatal disease in deer and elk, so some states like Missouri have CWD management regulations to prevent the spread. There’s also a special alternative methods season, when you can use muzzleloading firearms, handguns, .40 caliber air guns, bows, crossbows, and atlatls.
Deer is the most popular game in the U.S., but when looking for deer hunting season dates, you need to keep in mind that there are two main species of deer: the mule deer and the white-tailed deer.
Navigating deer seasons can seem complicated. Generally, deer season opens in early fall and runs through December or even later. Depending on the geographical location, some states don’t open the deer season until October and even November, which leads to the season lasting through January.
When familiarizing yourself with hunting regulations, pay attention to the hunting hours. For example, in Missouri, you can hunt 1 hour and 30 minutes before sunrise until 1 hour and 30 minutes after sunset, while in New York, big game hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. On the other hand, Texas doesn’t state any hunting hours.
Also, you can’t just hunt any deer that you see. There are designated legal deer that you can harvest. Antlerless deer are often off-limits, and some states have special permits to hunt them. Some states will have any-deer permits, while others don’t. Antler length is also a basis for hunting legal deer.
The migratory patterns, habitats, and species of waterfowl significantly influence the waterfowl hunting season. This can be linked to four international treaties that most people are unaware of, which were created to ensure the sustainability of all protected migratory bird species populations. The United States has these Migratory Bird Conventions with Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Russia.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA) implements these conventions and prohibits activities like killing, capturing, trading, and transporting protected migratory bird species without authorization from the Department of the Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Consequently, hunting seasons for migratory birds remain closed until it is determined that the status of game bird species allows for hunting.
So, the earliest and latest dates allowed for hunting are set by the Migratory Bird Conventions. These framework dates vary for different groups of migratory game birds. For most regular waterfowl seasons, the annual framework dates range from the end of September to the end of January for ducks and mid-February for geese.
Under the MBTA, hunting seasons cannot exceed 107 days. The opening framework dates for the regular duck season cannot be earlier than the Saturday closest to September 24th, and the closing date cannot be after January 31st. This is because hunting ducks after January could impact hen behavior and reduce breeding duck population sizes in the spring, which could then impact subsequent hunting seasons.
The length of hunting seasons for ducks varies from state to state. Seasons tend to be longest in the Pacific Flyway and shortest in the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways. Once the federal frameworks are set, states can select their seasons within these frameworks.
To demonstrate the difference, California duck hunting season is from Oct. 7 at the earliest through Jan. 31 at the latest, plus several days in early February for veterans and active military personnel waterfowl hunting in the Balance of State Zone as well as for falconry hunting. In contrast, Florida duck hunting season is Sep. 16-24, Nov. 18-26, and Dec. 9 – Jan. 28, which is significantly less than California.
First of all, there are several wild turkey subspecies that you can find in America. The main four subspecies include Eastern, Rio Grande, Merriam’s, and Osceola.
The Eastern turkey is the most common subspecies found in the eastern half of the United States. They are the largest subspecies, have the longest beards, and prefer forested areas and open grasslands. The best way to distinguish them is by the chestnut brown tips of their tail feathers and tail coverts.
Rio Grande turkeys are found in the south-central plains of the US and Northeast Mexico, commonly in Texas. They have a unique high-pitched and warbly gobble that sets them apart and are best distinguished by the tan tips of their tail feathers and tail coverts.
Osceola turkeys are exclusive to central and southern Florida. They are one of the harder turkeys to find as they are only found in one state. They closely resemble Eastern turkeys but are leaner and have longer legs. Also, their primary wing feathers have heavy black barring, as opposed to Easterns where the black-white barring is more even.
Merriam’s turkeys inhabit the mountain regions of the western United States, across parts of Arizona and New Mexico, up through the mountain states into Nebraska, the Dakotas, and along the Washington, Oregon, and Idaho borders. They are very similar to the Rio Grande and often overlap regions. These turkeys have more white throughout their tail fan.
There’s also the Gould’s turkey, which is the least studied turkey with a very limited range. You can only find it in Arizona.
Turkey hunting season often occurs during the fall and spring, but mind that not all states have open seasons for both. Tennessee, Ohio, Nebraska, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kansas, and Mississippi either don’t have fall seasons at all or have a very cut-back season.
The spring hunting season usually runs from April to May, although some states start in March. Fall seasons also vary from state to state. Some states open hunting season as early as August until October, while others start in November and last until February.
Let’s explore what dates some states have released for the turkey hunting season 2023-2024. Maine is considered one of the best Eastern wild turkey hunting states because it boasts a vast public land and a long spring season opening on Apr. 29, 2024, and ending on Jun. 24, 2024. If you want to hunt Rio Grande turkey in Texas, the spring turkey season will be from Mar. 16 or 30 through Apr. 28 or May 12, depending on the zone. And if you’d like to challenge yourself, Osceola turkey hunting season in Florida opens on Mar. 2 and runs through Apr. 7 for the counties south of State Road 70. North of State Road 70 will enjoy Osceola hunting season from Mar. 16 through Apr. 21.
U.S. hunting rules, like no shooting animals from a vehicle, generally apply nationwide, but state-specific regulations also exist. To stay within the law, familiarize yourself with your state’s hunting regulations. These can be found in the current year’s regulation booklet, available online or in sports stores. It provides crucial information, such as when to wear blaze orange or how to transport your firearm.
Next, look at the regulations for the specific animal you’re hunting. Understand your daily bag limit, the types of animals legal to hunt, permissible weapons, and ammunition. Pay extra attention to big game tagging and transportation rules. Also, remember to follow wanton waste laws. Leaving behind edible parts of a hunted animal is often illegal.
Once you’re acquainted with your chosen hunting season’s regulations, buy a license from your state wildlife agency online or at sporting stores. If you purchase online, you can usually print it, but some states mail it out, so don’t wait until the last minute to get your license.
Read other posts:
Must-Have Duck Hunting Gear for a Winning Season
Must-Have Deer Hunting Gear for a Successful Season
5 Common Elk Hunting Mistakes to Avoid During Your Expeditions
Top 7 Hunting Places in North America
What states have the earliest deer hunting season?
The states that typically start their deer hunting seasons the earliest are California, South Carolina, Florida, Idaho, and Nebraska.
Why is there a split in duck hunting season?
The split in duck season gives waterfowl a break during their migration period. It also extends the hunting season without increasing the total number of hunting days.
Does Florida have a duck hunting season?
Yes, Florida does have a duck season, and it’s one of the longest in the country, typically running from November through January.
What state has the longest turkey hunting season?
Michigan usually has the longest spring turkey hunting season. In 2023, it was from April 22 through June 7.