Guide to get started hunting in Washington
Hunting is a vital way of life for many people in Washington, and it contributes to important statewide conservation efforts. There are a variety of hunting opportunities for seasoned and first-time hunters alike. Check out the resources below to learn the steps every hunter must take before heading afield and how to report your harvest after a successful hunt.
National Hunting and Fishing Day — Sept. 24
In celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day on Sept. 24, visit our Instagram stories and YouTube channel for how-to videos, adventure planning resources, information about mentored hunts/camps, and more!
Also interested in fishing? Check out our “Fish Washington” blog to learn how to get started fishing in Washington.
Learning to hunt
- Review training requirements: Hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972, must show proof of completing a hunter education program before buying their first Washington hunting license.
- Consider hunter education deferral program: Prospective hunters can apply for a one-year, once-in-a-lifetime deferral of hunter education training.
- Refresh yourself on firearm safety: Learn the 4 basic rules of firearm safety.
- Check out how-to-hunt resources: WDFW works with partner organizations to offer hunting resources, how-to clinics, and mentored hunts intended to teach hunters how to hunt species like turkey, pheasant, and deer. Experienced mentors provide invaluable coaching in workshop settings and/or in the field on real hunts.
- Find a local hunting club: Hunting clubs can be beneficial for new and experienced hunters to establish new friendships with other hunters.
- Know how to report a violation: WDFW encourages any community member who witnesses a fish and wildlife offense to report the violation. Poaching is the illegal taking or possession of game animals and fish, non-game, and protected, threatened, or endangered fish and wildlife species. Poaching steals the opportunity from the rest of us that correctly follow legal regulations. People reporting violations can remain anonymous if they wish.
Preparing for a hunt
- Buy a hunting license: Find the hunting license that’s right for you.
- Review summary of hunting seasons: Review hunting seasons and bag limits.
- Find where to hunt: Explore where to hunt in Washington, including WDFW’s private lands program.
- Plan your hunt: Review hunting regulations data and plan your hunt with this web app, and review the latest Hunting Prospects that are written by local wildlife biologists.
Reporting your harvest
- Report your harvest: Hunter harvest reporting allows WDFW to better manage game species throughout the state and set permit levels for upcoming seasons. This in turn allows for expanded hunting opportunities. Learn more on the Reporting your harvest webpage.
Big game hunting
Review the rules
Review the 2022–23 Big-game hunting regulations.
Tips and techniques
Learn from a pro: Tips and tactics for deer and elk hunting.
Small game and bird hunting
Review the rules
Review the 2022–23 Game bird and small game regulations.
Tips and techniques
- Getting into resident game bird hunting? Pick up pointers in this blog post.
- For a prime on duck hunting prep, gear, tactics, and resources, check out this article on myWDFW.com.
- Get ready for next spring turkey hunting — learn about turkey behavior, hunting strategies, hunting gear, and other tips from avid turkey hunters on the Turkey Takeover series on myWDFW.com.
- Help WDFW monitor summer broods and year-round distribution of birds by reporting your observations.
- Hunters share field-to-table recipes for resident game birds in this blog post, “Serving Upland”.
Hunting supports conservation
Be a steward of public lands
Any time is the right time to honor your public lands, but September holds a special opportunity to show appreciation for this invaluable resource with National Public Lands Day (Sept. 24). Read our blog for more details.
Buy a duck stamp
Anyone can contribute to wildlife habitat conservation by buying a federal duck stamp. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers a variety of methods for you to buy the annual stamp — whether you need one for migratory bird hunting, admittance to a National Wildlife Refuge, as part of your stamp collection, or because you want to support habitat conservation. There is also a Washington state duck stamp available for free with a copy of your Washington migratory bird permit.
See where your money goes
There are roughly 190,000 hunters in Washington who buy around 225,000 licenses each fiscal year, generating $41.5M in revenue for WDFW between 2019–2021. These license sales plus a federal excise tax on hunting equipment and ammunition (Pittman-Robertson) means that hunters contribute approximately 15% of WDFW’s budget.
Learn about game management
WDFW develops management plans for individual species, tracks statewide harvests of game species, and monitors the status of populations around the state. Learn more on our website.
Review special hunt permits and raffles
Special hunt permits, big game auctions, and raffle permit hunts offer a chance to participate in a coveted hunt while directly supporting conservation and management in Washington.
Check out WDFW’s Recreation Strategy
Review the Department’s new 10-year strategy for managing outdoor recreation on over 1 million acres of WDFW-managed lands. The strategy will guide WDFW’s efforts to respond to increasing demand for access, make public lands more welcoming to diverse visitors, and protect critical resources.