Hunting for getting food, furs and other necessities has been a part of human lifestyle for thousands of years. Today few depend on it, but hunting is often practised as a recreational activity giving variation to the cuisine, and for wildlife management. In some countries it is possible also for strangers to hunt together, the classical example being safaris in Africa (although modern safaris are mostly about wildlife watching).
Equipment and methods
Most hunting is done with firearms. See Recreational shooting for regulations on bringing weapons into different countries and related issues. Regulations on allowed weapons often depend on the intended game. Hunting can also be done e.g. by trapping. Hunting with bow and arrows is allowed in some countries, e.g. the United States and Canada.
A dog is often used. Sometimes one is even required, to minimize risk of game suffering. See Travelling with pets for some issues and advice.
Knives might be needed to handle a carcass.
Pursuit of small animals such as insects and clams is described as foraging. While less challenging, it is still usually regulated.
Usually you need three kinds of licences and permits. You need one for the area, time and intended game of your actual hunting trip, often paid to the landowner, park office or similar, or got by reciprocal arrangements between hunting clubs. There may be a general hunting licence, which should guarantee that you understand what you are doing. Many jurisdictions require hunter education courses for all hunters (though in the U.S., many states only require this for hunters born after a specified date that varies from state to state). Then you probably need licences for any arms you are going to use. If you bring the arms to a foreign country, you also need paperwork for getting them over the border, possibly from both countries involved and any intermediate country. See recreational shooting for these latter concerns.
Where hunting tourism is big, there are probably established practices on how to make the paperwork smooth. In any case it is usually easier to get permits and licences if you have similar ones in your home country.
- See also: Animal ethics
In July 2015, an American dentist was excoriated by media for killing a collared lion named Cecil, a protected animal alleged to have been unlawfully lured out of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe at night using bait. Cecil was well-known locally and wore a GPS collar as part of an Oxford University wildlife study. The guides were charged, and ensuing publicity encouraged governments to propose stricter import restrictions and airlines to refuse to transport hunting trophies. Within a few months, dozens of airlines banned hunting trophies, and some countries' governments established limitations or bans on importing lion trophies.
Various restrictions apply to the import and transportation of hunting trophies for specific species; threatened or endangered species in particular are subject to import bans imposed by most national governments in response to the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Export permits may be required to ship polar bear skins; animals poached illegally may also be excluded from cargo by airlines and transportation companies. Hunting of elephants for their ivory, problematic to dwindling populations in the wild, has attracted increasing government attention. In general, the more exotic (or rare) the species, the greater the restrictions are likely to be on transport of parts or trophies.
Individual nations may apply their own Customs restrictions, often arbitrarily; anything from a Newfoundland sealskin purse (where seals are plentiful) to a set of antique Scottish bagpipes (made before the ban on commercial use of ivory pieces) can and has been taken from hapless voyagers by US authorities. Even if the item is lawful, there are often confusing requirements for documentation and limitations on what ports of entry will accept a shipment. Some airlines have restrictions or prohibitions on transporting hunting trophies as well.
Anyone planning to hunt abroad, or even within their country but outside their home state or province, and bring back trophies needs to check this in advance.
In some cases trophies, meat etc. – and equipment, including boots and clothes – can bring animal diseases. E.g. Finnish pig farmers (and authorities) fear that boar hunters might bring in pig plague from neighbouring countries, and many US wildlife authorities are concerned about the spread of chronic wasting disease in their deer populations. There may be formal checks or bans, but you should be careful regardless. Often animal parts that can carry the disease may not be transported across the border (in the case of wasting disease: carcass parts that include neural tissue).
- See also: Hiking in the Nordic countries#Hunting
Hunting has been an essential part of livelihood for a large part of the population into modern times and is nowadays a widespread hobby – nearly 10% of the adult population has a hunting permit. In the countryside it is common to belong to a hunting club. On the other hand, among city-dwellers hunting has become quite controversial. Hunting large carnivores is an especially touchy issue, as on one hand the Finnish populations of wolves and wolverines have been close to extinction (whether regulations now are strict enough depends on whom you talk with), while on the other they are seen as a threat. You will meet people from both camps in wilderness huts and on the trails, so you might want to tread lightly – like they do.
Hunting rights belong to the landowner. The usual arrangement to get to hunt as a foreigner is to be a guest of a hunting club (which has acquired rights to hunting grounds), possibly by reciprocal arrangements, staying at a business with rights to hunting grounds or arranging the hunting through such a business. Hunting permits are also sold for some governmental grounds. Most game have specific hunting seasons in autumn or winter. In addition to the rights to hunt specific game at a specific time on certain land, one needs a general hunting licence, requiring an exam and a yearly payment, unless your foreign licence is accepted. You can read more about it on Nationalparks.fi. Make sure you can distinguish the intended game from any similar protected species and that shooting is safe. In most cases the catch must be reported.
For big game a separate licence is needed, usually acquired by the hunting clubs. Thus hunting big game on your own or as part of a tour is hardly possible, while you might be able to participate in the hunt if you have friends or a host who does. Especially the elk hunt October–December is a social event, as the hunt traditionally is by driving.
Hunting arms are restricted to certain types (small magazine), with requirements varying by game (powerful enough). For hunting big game an easy shooting proficiency test is needed, unless your documentation on a similar test or right to hunt similar game abroad gets an official acceptance. Similarly you need firearm and hunting licences from your home country, as getting one here is too time consuming for a visitor. Check details. Without the licence, you are still allowed to use a weapon under close supervision by somebody who has one. Some game can be hunted by bow and arrows. Traps are tightly regulated.
On importing and carrying arms, see Recreational shooting#Finland. Shooting from or across public roads (grouse also on or from private roads), near your car or near any dwelling (without the owner's permission) is forbidden.
Hunting is allowed in the commons. The largest continuous area in the commons is the entire interior of Iceland. Hunting in other regions require a permit from the landowner and payment fees regularly apply in that case. Hunters are required to return a hunting report each year to the environment agency of Iceland. Also a general hunting permit is required.
Quotas apply to hunting reindeer and the hunter needs to apply for a quota to the environmental agency. Reindeer may only be hunted during the summer. Hunting periods apply to most bird species.
Hunting is popular in Sweden, but regulated by strict laws and local regulations. Foreign citizens are allowed to hunt if accompanied by a local tracker.
A small number of professional shoots for game birds (such as Pheasant and Grouse) are organised, but are considered by many to be an establishment perk with a price tag to match.
Hunting of wildlife is subject to extensive regulation, and as such is not open to the tourist under any circumstances.
"Sport" hunting remains controversial, and can provoke strong reactions.
Hunting and fishing are big business in Canada and they attract many tourists, especially from the US and Japan. Typically the companies that provide services to hunters can also help customers comply with Canadian laws. You need a hunting or fishing license and may also need a gun license. Hunting licences are provincially issued.
While weapons laws are strict, the typical hunter's rifle or shotgun should be relatively easy to import, or to rent. Many Americans who live in the bordering states regularly bring their hunting rifles and shotguns into Canada, but they must be declared to customs when you enter.
As in many other countries, hunting rights on private land belong to the landowner. Some landowners will lease out hunting rights on their land to commercial outfitters. A less expensive alternative is hunting on public lands; however, depending on the level of protection, it may not be allowed. For example, most national parks prohibit hunting (or fishing), but hunting is usually allowed on other types of public lands. Also, some states, mainly in the west, operate programs that allow hunters to access certain privately owned lands, specifically those that a landowner enrolls in the state's program (and is paid by the state for doing so). Lands enrolled in these programs are usually marked with special signage, can only be entered by walking in, and are available only for hunting (no camping, target shooting, etc.) Hunters are responsible for knowing that they're on land that they can hunt. Helpful tools are maps, GPS devices, or specialized subscription apps (two examples of the latter are OnX and Spartan Forge).
Hunting is one major exception to federal laws that prohibit those who are not US citizens, nationals, or permanent residents from possessing firearms or ammunition. People in this category who want to hunt in the US will need a hunting license from a U.S. jurisdiction before attempting to import or rent a firearm (and will also need more specialized paperwork). However, anyone who has ever renounced US citizenship is permanently banned from possessing firearms or ammunition, even if that person later goes through the immigration process to become a citizen again.
Anyone who wishes to hunt must first purchase a hunting license valid for the state they will hunt in, and will usually need a more specific license (colloquially a "tag") for the intended game. Licenses are available at many rural stores or by mail/internet directly from the state. They are usually valid for a set period of time, or a set number of kills. Anyone wishing to hunt migratory waterfowl such as ducks and geese must also purchase a special federal permit popularly known as a "duck stamp". This permit can be purchased at post offices, national wildlife refuges, state wildlife agencies (mail/internet), and many rural and sporting goods stores.
Note that for certain high-demand game such as elk, moose, and bison, one must usually apply in advance (typically via the internet) for a tag for that species, with no guarantee of drawing one. The odds of drawing some especially high-demand tags are so low that it's not unheard of for hunters to apply for decades without receiving one. In some states, especially in the west, you may have to apply for a tag in a specific region where you want to hunt. Some states allow individuals to purchase "preference points" (one per species per year) that will give the buyers a better chance at drawing a tag in a later year. Applicants for a draw, or those buying preference points, will be required to buy a hunting license for that state, even if they do not plan to hunt in that state during that year.
Also keep in mind that states restrict hunting of most game to specific times of the year, and also restrict the use of certain weapons to specific subsets of that season. Using white-tailed deer, the most popular medium-to-large game animal in the US, as an example, states will have separate seasons for archery, muzzle-loading weapons, and modern guns, and many states have crossbow seasons separate from those for other archery equipment. Archery and crossbow seasons for that species tend to last several months in the fall and early winter; gun seasons are much shorter, typically lasting little more than a week. However, archery seasons often overlap all firearms seasons.
Should you be successful in your hunt, you must check your harvested animal with the state's wildlife management agency. Depending on the state and species, you may need to deliver it to a checking station, or report your kill via phone or internet. If you were issued a physical tag for that particular species, you will need to attach it to the carcass. Also, because tags for medium-to-large game are often restricted to a specific sex of animal (e.g. bull moose or cow elk), you will likely need to make sure that proof of sex (at least one testicle for males, the vulva for females) remains on the carcass before checking in the animal. In some but not all states, an antlered head will suffice—unless you take a caribou, the only type of deer in which both sexes normally have antlers.
In short: Research the game laws for the state you plan to hunt in, and for any species you want to take. Note also that in some states, bag limits (the number of a species you can legally take), hunting seasons, and even allowable hunting equipment can vary from one part of a state to another.
This country has no native terrestrial ungulates, so the hunting of wild and feral populations finds favour with conservationists. Many introduced animals have caused huge damage to the native ecology, such as rabbits, foxes, feral cats, and feral dogs. Hunting of rabbits is especially encouraged. Depending on the state or territory, animals eligible for hunting can be classified as game animals, pests, or both. Larger species hunted in Australia include introduced deer; feral goats, pigs, donkeys and horses; feral camels in desert regions; and feral cattle and water buffalo in the tropical north. Hunting of native animals such as kangaroos and emus is tightly regulated, and unlikely to be available to tourists.
Like Australia, this country has no native terrestrial ungulates; in fact, before the arrival of the Māori in the 13th century AD, the only native land mammals of any type were three species of bat. Conservationists here support the hunting of non-native species every bit as much as those across the Tasman Sea. Game animals include several species of deer, pigs, chamois, tahr and goats.