With its huge expanses of wilderness and diverse wildlife population, Canada is a popular hunting destination. Visitors to the country can come to hunt, but should be aware of the strict regulations. There are nation-wide laws, as well as those specific to each province, that determine where, when, what, and how you can hunt.
Read on to learn about the legal requirements for hunting in Canada, using a hunting outfitter, what guns and animal products you can transport, and which animals are hunted in Canada and when.
What You Need to Legally Hunt in Canada
While it is legal to hunt in Canada, it is very important that you check the regulations for hunting in the specific province you will be visiting, since each has its own rules. It’s also important that you check each time you go hunting, since regulations change often! There are changes made as animal populations increase and decrease, disease outbreaks occur, and so on.
One rule that varies by province is the minimum age for hunting. Most provinces require hunters to be 12 years old or above, although some may have stricter rules and require hunters to be 16. There are also usually steps you have to take, such as ensuring that the minor is always accompanied by an adult, and carrying a copy of the license that the adult is using.
There are some hunting regulations that are true all across Canada. For example, you absolutely cannot use firearms in Canada’s national and provincial parks, game reserves, and nearby areas. Canada also protects migrating birds nation-wide (read more below).
Licenses and Tags for Hunting in Canada
You will need a license for your hunting trip, and you’ll need to get it from the province you’ll be hunting in. They will also issue you tags – permission to harvest specific kinds of animals. Many provinces allow you to get a license by printing out a form from their website, or by visiting a local office.
Some animals have limits on how many of them can be hunted in the province every season, so there will be a “draw,” a lottery system that decides who gets a tag. Draws will vary by province, but there’s frequently a system in place that gives you a better chance in the next year’s draw every time you don’t win the current year’s.
Transporting Trophies, Animal Products, and Bait
If you live in the U.S. or otherwise outside of Canada, you’ll have to be careful about what you bring with you into the country and what you bring back home with you. There are strict regulations for what animal and plant products you can bring through customs in both directions.
If you’re using bait to hunt, it might not be allowed across the Canadian border if it contains plant or animal materials. On your return trip, you’ll probably be allowed to bring back any meat you harvested, but it might depend on a few factors, such as how much you’re transporting, and whether there are currently any disease outbreaks affecting the animals you hunted.
For more detailed and up-to-date information, visit our page on what you can and can’t bring across the U.S. / Canada border.
Hunting Dogs in Canada
Canada does allow you to hunt with dogs, but this is another area where it’s critical that you check the local regulations. There may be restrictions on what type of game you’re allowed to use dogs with (for example, some provinces might allow dogs to help hunt fowl, but not big game like moose).
You’ll typically also need a separate license for your hunting dog in addition to your own hunting license.
If you’re not a Canadian resident, you should be sure to check our page on traveling to Canada with pets to be sure you can successfully bring your dog into the country.
Hunting with Outfitters / Guides
Many people choose to hire a hunting guide or outfitter. Outfitters can help you successfully and ethically track game, and can provide you with clothing and gear so you don’t have to purchase your own. They should also be up to date on the regulations for the province they work in, so they can help you avoid breaking the law.
Tips for how to find a good outfitter:
- Check if they’re registered / licensed with the province they operate in.
- Some provinces will have lists on their websites.
- If there’s a local guide / outfitter association, check whether they’re a member of that too.
- Ask for references.
- A good outfitter should have previous satisfied customers willing to vouch for them.
- Ask them questions.
- They should be easy to communicate with and open to discussing your trip and any questions you have. Be sure to clarify with them what services they offer, whether they follow local regulations, and what your own goals for the trip are.
Weapons / Firearms You Can Use For Hunting in Canada
Canada has fairly strict gun laws, which can catch visitors (particularly from the U.S.) off guard. In general, Canada will allow you to bring and use manual or semi-automatic rifles or shotguns for hunting, as long as they meet requirements. Handguns, assault weapons, and firearms that have been modified are often restricted, if not outright banned. You’ll also need a license from the province to carry and operate a firearm.
You can use a bow and arrow, a crossbow, and air or pellet guns for hunting in Canada as well. However, you should check the specific regulations for the province you’ll be hunting in, and tools they allow for the kind of game you’ll be hunting. For example, Ontario permits air and pellet guns for hunting birds, but not for big game.
What Animals You Can Hunt in Canada – And When
Canada is home to all kinds of animals, from game birds like ducks and Canadian geese, to small game animals like rabbits and bighorn sheep, to big game animals like moose, elk, and whitetail deer.
Below is an overview of the most popular animals to hunt in Canada, but remember to check the local laws of the province you’ll be going to, as they can have specific restrictions.
- Hunting Canada Geese, Ducks, and Other Migratory Birds
- In Canada, migratory birds are protected and you can only hunt them during specific times. Typically, most birds (including ducks and Canada geese) will be available for some months in the September to January range. You will also need a migratory bird hunting permit.
- Check the season and limits on number of birds you can bag in the province you’ll be visiting. You may also want to check the Canadian government’s list of frequently asked questions about hunting migratory birds.
- Hunting Bighorn Sheep in Canada
- Bighorn sheep are usually hunted in winter. Most common provinces include Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia.
- Hunting Wolves and Coyotes in Canada
- Wolves and Coyotes are usually hunted in winter, across most provinces in Canada.
- Hunting Bears in Canada
- Black bears – Generally hunted in autumn in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario.
- Grizzly bears – Very restricted; typically only in season for a single month in spring or summer. Usually hunted in western Canada.
- Polar bears – Illegal for anyone but indigenous peoples to hunt. Sometimes you can join a group of indigenous hunters, usually in the winter or spring in the north / northwest of Canada.
- Hunting Deer in Canada
- All kinds of deer are hunted all across Canada, the most popular being the white-tailed deer. Seasons vary by province, but are usually between August and November.
- Hunting Moose in Canada
- Moose are usually hunted during their “rut,” or mating season, as they tend to wander out into more accessible areas and respond more to calls. This is in mid-September to mid-October. Hunted all across Canada.
- Hunting Elk in Canada
- Elk are usually hunted in September and October, although sometimes in August or November as well.
- Hunting Caribou in Canada
- Caribou hunting season is mid-August to mid-September
- Hunting Bison in Canada
- Bison are usually hunted in February and March, in northern areas such as the Yukon, as well as in Alberta.
- Hunting Seals in Canada
- Seals are typically hunted in winter and spring, in Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Labrador.
Hunting Resources For Each Province:
- Hunting in Alberta Province
- Hunting in British Columbia
- Hunting in Manitoba
- Hunting in New Brunswick
- Hunting in Newfoundland and Labrador
- Hunting in the Northwest Territories
- Hunting in Nova Scotia
- Hunting in Nunavut
- Licenses are not available online and must be purchased in person.
- Hunting in Ontario
- Hunting in Prince Edward Island
- Hunting in Quebec
- Hunting in Saskatchewan
- Hunting in the Yukon