Can a Felon Get a Hunting License?

Hunting is a great past-time for many, including felons. Many hunted routinely before their conviction. But how about now after being released?

Can a felon get a hunting license? Let’s find out the answer.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the following:

  • What Is a Hunting License?
  • How to Get a Hunting License
  • Is a Background Check Required?
  • Hunting License vs. Firearm License
  • Getting Your Gun Rights Restored
  • Hunting with a Different Type of Weapon
  • Consequences of Not Having a License
  • Doing the Right Thing

What Is a Hunting License?

As the name implies, a hunting license is a permit to allow for hunting animals. It is required by law to hunt recreationally or commercially.   

Having a hunting license is considered to be a privilege and not a right as are civil rights established under the U.S. Constitution. 

In its early days, the primary reason for a hunting license was not to protect wildlife as is currently the case. States issued a hunting license to protect their land and to prevent outsiders from hunting on it.

Nowadays, there are several reasons why a hunting license is required. It is a form of identification to wildlife officials for those persons who are hunting legally and following the rules.

It also provides essential information regarding regulations for a hunter while hunting such as the number and types or animals that are allowed to be hunted, which helps protect the animal population.

State or wildlife agencies typically issue hunting licenses in the form of either a card or a certificate. 

How to Get a Hunting License

Let’s look at the process required to obtain a hunting license.

The first step is to find out the requirements for the state in which you reside. Each state’s requirements are somewhat different.

Typically, there is a specific minimum age limit, often as young as 12 years old. Then, you must have a valid state-issued ID.

Also, one of the most common requirements to get a hunting license is to complete a hunter education class.

In fact, most states require that you first take a Hunter Safety Education Course before being able to buy a hunting license, though the minimum age differs between states.

The purpose of hunter education is to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to become a safe, responsible hunter.  

Hunter safety education includes classroom instruction by certified hunter safety instructors and online education programs that are approved by wildlife agencies. In most states, you must participate in a hands-on field day with a hunter-education instructor to complete the certification process to get a hunting license. 

Finally, you must take and pass a hunter-education test, which typically includes a final written exam and a hands-on evaluation.

Is a Background Check Required?

So what do you have to do to sign up for the necessary hunter education? One of the biggest questions here is whether a background check is required to take part in this training.

You may be surprised to discover that a background check is not necessary to complete hunter-education training. As long as you meet the age criteria, complete the application, and pay the fee you can take the course.

Only a few states will place any restrictions on a felon in completing this training, preventing them from obtaining a hunting license.

That certainly sounds simple enough. If you pass the exam, you will be allowed to buy a hunting license at the completion of the training when hunting licenses go on sale.

Now that you have the hunting license, you can go hunting, right?

While you may qualify for a hunting license by completing the course, as a felon you have the additional obstacle of not being able to own or use a firearm.

That’s right. You can go all through the process of completing the education requirement and have your hunting license in hand but still not be allowed to hunt.

Just because you can get a hunting license doesn’t mean that you can hunt. The right to hunt is different from the right to own a gun in most states. 

So, what do you do?

Hunting License vs. Firearm License

As you can see, having a hunting license is not the same as having a firearm license. 

If you want to apply for a federal firearm license, you must meet several criteria, including:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Not be restricted from receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition
  • Have not willfully violated the Gun Control Act
  • Have not failed to disclose material or made false statements

Of course, this will not permit felons to get a firearm license. This is one of the rights you lose when you are convicted of a felony.

Getting Your Gun Rights Restored

So, how do you get to be able to use your hunting license?

The first way is to seek to have your firearm rights restored. Well, how do you do that?

You are eligible to get your gun rights back if you have not been convicted of a forcible felony within the past 20 years. Also, at least 20 years must have passed since the end of your incarceration. 

Your criminal history and reputation must show that you will not act in a dangerous manner toward the general public. Restoring your firearms rights must also not be considered contrary to the public interest or federal law.

That would allow you to be able to hunt legally with a firearm.

You can also apply for a federal pardon that would restore your civil rights, including being able to own and use a gun.

Another way is to have your record expunged. You will have to check and see if you are eligible to have your record expunged.

Hunting with a Different Type of Weapon

The other option is that you could get a hunting license but use something other than a rifle or shotgun.

There are opportunities to hunt with such weapons as a crossbow or muzzleloader. Neither of these is considered to be a firearm. 

Most states have separate bow-hunting and firearm-hunting seasons. Only legal hunting equipment can be used during the appropriate season.

Consequences of Not Having a License

The other alternative is to go hunting without a hunting license.

So what if you don’t have a hunting license? Just go anyway. Who would know?

Will there be someone out there in the bushes with you, waiting for you to pull the trigger on your rifle? You never know!

You could be out picking up supplies, ammunition, food, etc. Someone could see you.

Or at least someone would know. Actually, you will know if you are preparing to hunt.

You could be in trouble if you decide to hunt without a license. Hunting without a license is generally considered to be a Class A misdemeanor. If you have violated a law, you may need legal representation.  

Punishment for this violation is usually a fine, which varies according to the state but can easily be the cost of the license along with a fee, often as much as $50.

If you don’t pay the fine, the charge can become a Class B misdemeanor that has a higher fine plus up to 60 days in jail.

If you are a felon, you place yourself at risk for a jail sentence and possibly also a return to prison, especially if you are still on probation.

Doing the Right Thing

If you previously enjoyed hunting, it can be tempting to enjoy a previous activity again. You aren’t necessarily trying to break the law. 

You can go through the process of having your firearm rights restored, seeking a pardon, or having your record expunged.

You are trying to live an honest lifestyle and want to do the right thing.

You aren’t defined by your crime but in how you recover from it. Enjoy hunting the right way. It is a part of learning to live an honest life.

So what do you think about this blog post about whether a felon can get a hunting license? Have you or someone you know got a hunting license? What was that like and what happened? Please tell us in the comments below.


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  • Loosing my right to bare arms for my felon is a soul crushing thing for me.
    I was very responsible with a firearm.
    I think it would hard pressed to find one more respectful and law abiding of hunting regulations.
    More worthy of the game I had harvested.
    I didn’t want a hand gun or asalt rifle.
    I had one high quality shotgun for grouse hunting.
    Something I loved since I could carry a gun.
    At 60 years because if an adiction problem I’ve since delt with and a clean record Pryor I was arrested.
    Please offer me hope of a chance I once again I may persue my love of wing shooting.
    I would never would have done that nonviolent crime if I was not under the influence of a chemical which I was addicted.
    I have suffered so much already from this disease.
    Sincerely G.

  • Get a lawyer and take it back to court, ask for your firearm rights to be restored or ask for an expungement, you may qualify under their new expungement law if you live in NC

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