Hunting in Canada
Information on hunting in Canada: permits, the season, restricted areas...
Hunting is permitted in Canada, but strict regulations are imposed at federal and provincial level to protect wildlife. It is a popular pastime and has been an established recreational activity for many years and is considered a way of life. There are numerous opportunities for residents and visitors to hunt.
Permitted Animals for Hunting
- Big game animals: all types of deer, antelope (only in Alberta and Saskatchewan), bison (buffalo), black bear, caribou, elk, grizzly bear, moose, muskox, polar bears (special restrictions apply), seals, wild boar
- Small game animals: bighorned sheep, cougar, coyote, foxes, goat, rabbit, wolves
- Game birds: ducks, geese, grouse, partridge, pheasant, snipe, turkey, waterfowl, woodcock
Hunting takes place all year round in Canada, but a hunting season depends on the type of animal hunted and where the hunting is taking place.
Big game animal season
The big game season takes place from August to December (except bison and polar bear).
- Black bear hunting generally takes place in British Columbia and Alberta in the autumn (sometimes also in the spring). Black Bears can only be hunted in the autumn in Ontario
- Grizzly bear hunting takes place in the west of Canada and is very limited by number and time restrictions (usually only for one month during early summer - May/June)
- All types of deer are hunted throughout Canada, from August to the end of November. Seasons vary depending on the province
- Moose are mainly hunted during the rut of mid-September to mid-October across Canada
- Bison (buffalo) hunting typically takes place in February and March in Alberta, Yukon and more northern parts of Canada
- Polar bear hunting is only allowed by local indigenous people using traditional means, but there are opportunities for non-indigenous hunters to join them on a hunt. Hunts usually take place very late in the winter or early spring (early February to April) in the north of Canada, Northwest Territories and Nunavut
- Seals are generally hunted from November to May in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador
Small game and game birds
- Bighorn sheep are typically hunted during the winter in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia
- Ducks, grouse and small game are usually hunted during all seasons across Canada: ducks and geese are typically hunted at the beginning of the migratory season in September and October. Special provincial restrictions apply to the hunting of migratory birds - restrictions apply to the province and also the municipality
- Waterfowl are typically hunted during autumn and early winter
- Wolves and cougars are generally hunted during the winter across Canada; special licences are required to hunt wolves
- For more information about hunting migratory birds: Click here
A person may not:
- Hunt in provincial parks or National Parks or any other protected habitat
- Hunt big game, moose, deer or black bear when these animals are swimming
- Hunt specially protected birds and other wildlife
- Hunt polar bear unless a person is an indigenous person or accompanied by an indigenous guide
- Hunt newborn harp seals or hooded seals
At a federal level, wildlife such as migratory birds and endangered species are protected by regulations restricting the hunting of these animals. Wildlife habitats deemed nationally significant are also protected.
Environment Canada is responsible for regulating hunting in regards to safeguarding protected animals. These regulations are applicable at both national and provincial level.
- For information on regulations regarding migratory game bird hunting: Click here
The Canadian Wildlife Service, part of Environment Canada, also regulates wildlife matters at a federal level, protecting species at risk, habitats and migratory birds.
- For more information: Click here
Provinces and territories have their own regulations for the hunting of all animals - including birds, game and fish.
Regulations include, for example, hunting seasons and bag limits. Ontario, for example, has an archery season where only archery equipment is permitted in the hunting of deer.
In Ontario, strict rules regulate hunting which is managed sustainably so as not to damage wildlife populations. Gun hunters must pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Course examination and the Ontario Hunter Education Course examination.
Most residents in Ontario also need an Outdoor Card which permits that person to hunt, and a person must also have the applicable licence tags or licences.
- For further information about hunting in Ontario: Click here
- Any Status Indian person does not have to have a licence nor are they restricted to bag limits or seasons
- Habitats such as National Parks and protected species are still protected from hunting regardless of status
- Non-Manitoba citizens are able to hunt big game in Manitoba provided they hunt through a registered hunting outfitter and hold the necessary hunting licence for that area
- For more information about hunting in Manitoba for non-residents: Click here
Newfoundland and Labrador
- Hunting may only take place in specified seasons with the necessary licence and Outdoor Card
- There are also bag limit restrictions and strict firearm regulations
- Hunting is only permitted in daylight hours
- Big game hunting is only permitted with a regulated outfitter
- For more information about hunting in Newfoundland and Labrador: Click here
Other provinces and territories
For hunting regulations in the Canadian provinces and territories, see the links below:
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Getting a Hunting Licence
Getting a hunting licence depends on provincial regulations. For example, in Ontario, a person wishing to hunt must complete a firearms safety course and a hunter education course.
In other provinces and territories it is easier to get a licence: either online or through a regulated hunting outfitter who can obtain a licence on a person's behalf.
Firearms are forbidden in many of Canada's national and provincial parks, game reserves and adjacent areas.
Laws governing firearms
The Firearm Act is federal law which regulates and restricts the possession of firearms across Canada. However, individual provinces or territories may have further restrictions regarding firearms, especially with respect to hunting.
The Firearm Act considers common shotguns and rifles used for hunting as non-restricted.
- All fully automatic weapons, handguns and pepper spray are prohibited in Canada
- A person younger than 18 cannot own or bring a firearm into Canada, but may be able to use a firearm under special circumstances, providing there is adult supervision
- For more information on restricted and non-restricted weapons: Click here
- For details about the Canadian Firearms Programme: Click here
Getting a licence for a firearm
Firearm holders in Canada must have a valid firearms licence allowing them to possess a firearm, as well as a Canadian registration certificate. Owning a firearm without a licence is a criminal offence and carries up to a five-year prison sentence.
There are different types of firearm licences:
- Possession Only (POL)
- Possession and Acquisition (PAL)
- Restricted Firearms Licence
- Minors Firearms Licence
Each firearm licence has different requirements and involves a fee; a licence is usually valid for up to five years.
Getting a licence for a restricted weapon requires passing the Canadian Firearms Safety Exam and the Canadian Restricted Firearms exam.
All these licences are also available for non-Canadian residents.
For more information on firearms licences in Canada: Click here
Bringing a firearm into Canada
Non-residents bringing a firearm into Canada must declare they possess a firearm and obtain a Non-Resident Firearms Declaration certificate. This declaration certificate involves a flat fee and can be done either online or by post.
- For details on how to get a declaration confirming possession of a firearm for non-residents: Click here
Borrowing a firearm
Non-residents are able to borrow a firearm in Canada as long as they are under the direct supervision of the person who holds a licence for the firearm.
However, non-residents need a Canadian firearms licence to borrow restricted weapons and to acquire ammunition.
A Temporary Firearms Borrowing Licence is required for those wishing to borrow a non-restricted gun independently.
It is recommended that those visiting Canada on a regular basis with a firearm should get a Canadian Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL). This is valid for five years and cheaper than getting multiple confirmed declarations of possession of a firearm for multiple entries into Canada
- For more information about using a firearm and licensing requirements for non-Canadian residents: Click here
There are numerous professional hunting outfitters in Canada and many hunting associations, clubs, foundations and suppliers.
- Canadian Shooting Association
- Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Association
- Ontario Association of Anglers and Hunters
- For a more comprehensive list of gun clubs: Click here