Wednesday, September 11, 2013


    It’s mid-September.  In Central Virginia that means that squirrel season has already come into effect and the early archery seasons are just around the corner.  In the spirit of being prepared, you’ve hung treestands, aimed trail cameras, tuned bows, and sharpened arrows; but there’s one last thing standing between you and your concealed spot in a tree come October—a license.

    The VDGIF offers a wide range of license types and add-ons suited to fit any and all hunting preferences and styles, hunter age and residency.  But first you’ve got to have the proper education

Hunter Education

    Legislation was passed in 1988 requiring 12-15-year-old and first-time hunters to complete a certified hunter education course before purchasing a license.  Since its implementation, the total number of hunting-related shooting deaths has decreased 25-percent.

    These courses are designed to teach young or prospective hunters conservation and stewardship of our natural resources, as well as safe hunting practices.

    Several hours of self-study, six to eight class credit hours, and a passing grade on the final test are required to earn a certificate of completion, which then allows students to purchase a valid Virginia hunting license.

    Self-study options include online courses, paper manuals acquired from VDGIF regional offices, and downloadable powerpoints detailing the information needed to pass the test given at the conclusion of the classroom course.  Keep in mind that one of these options is mandatory and recommended in the interest of surmounting the certification process and getting in the woods quickly.

    The classroom portion of the course is perhaps the most grunt work, as classes generally run several hours to minimize the number of days needed to attain the appropriate amount of credit hours.  Classes come at no charge, and can be found in most all towns and counties in the state; but seats fill up fast, and you should sign up as soon as possible.

    For more information about the education requirements for purchasing a license, or to sign up for a hunter’s education course, visit the Department’s website at

The License Barrier

    When you turn 16 and are required to carry a Virginia hunting license, there are several different options available, and the fitting choice varies from individual to individual.

    For several years, the Department has offered Apprentice Licenses, aimed at recruiting new hunters to the woods.  These licenses are one-time purchases, are good for two years, and waive the hunter education requirement provided the “apprentice” hunter is chaperoned visually and verbally by a Virginia license-holding adult over the age of 18.  Apprentice License-holders are still required to purchase bear, deer, and turkey licenses and the relevant stamps and permits, but are not then eligible to purchase a basic Virginia hunting license.

    For those who have passed a hunter education course, or have previously owned valid Virginia hunting licenses, are most suited to the basic Virginia hunting license, unless exempt.

    It’s worth noting that those 65 years of age and older are not required to purchase a hunting license to hunt on private property in their county or city of residence.

    Otherwise, you must be licensed and decorated with the proper permits and stamps.  These include options for small game and big game (bear, deer, turkey).  Dove, rail, snipe, woodcock, and waterfowl hunters are required to have a HIP number, and waterfowlers also need a Federal Duck Stamp.  Hunting on state forest or national forest land also requires a separate permit.  If hunting with archery tackle, a crossbow, or muzzleloader during any specific archery or muzzleloading hunting season, the respective permit is required.  No permit is required if hunting with any of these arms during a general firearms season.

    Lifetime licenses, valid for the duration of your lifetime, are available upon an application providing proof of age and residency.  All applicable permits and stamps are needed to accompany this license.  Applications can be submitted in person or via mail to the Richmond office of the VDGIF.  Contact the Department’s website, or call 1-866-721-6911 for an application.

    Legacy hunting licenses are available for purchase for children younger than two years old, and may be acquired from the Richmond office.

    Licenses for the partially and permanently disabled come at a well-discounted price, and vary by condition.  These too require the adequate permits and stamps.  Check the website for further information.

    In the end, it’s being safe, relaxed, and enjoying the great outdoors that makes hunting enjoyable.  Hunter education is a benefactor for this cause, cutting down on unfortunate accidents that even now continue to occur at an alarming rate; and license fees, though sometimes expensive, benefit the game and habitats that make our sport possible.  Pay your respects to these relatively minimal conditions, and you’re sure to have a more enjoyable adventure afield.

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