Hunting in the State of Minnesota

Minnesota is more serious about hunting than many of its peers. You can come to this conclusion just by perusing the depth and quality of information their Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has released in this regard. However, this data is so expansive that sometimes it can be difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for. So in that regard, we have created this document.

The primary purpose of this text is to present the most-basic, significant information relating to hunting in the North Star State. Thus you will not only learn about acquiring a license, general hunting regulations and how to register harvest. But more importantly, you will find numerous links embedded in this document, with most of them pointing to DNR websites where additional, official information can be obtained.

Acquiring a Minnesota Hunting License

Minnesota does not have a base hunting license like most other States. Instead, hunters generally apply based on the species of their quarry as well as, in some cases, the means of taking.

Licenses are also split into two main categories, one for residents and one for nonresidents. And as can perhaps be expected, licenses cost significantly more – specifically in the case of adults – for nonresidents. For instance, a bear license is reasonably-priced for residents. Yet the same for nonresidents costs five times more.

Applicants born after 31 December 1979 must first receive DNR Firearms Safety Certification to qualify for a license. Certification is acquired by successfully completing a course. These courses are separated into those for youth (ages 11 to  17) and those for adults (ages 18 and older).  Both youth and adults have the option of taking the courses in-person or online. However, youth who opt to do it online still have to attend a mandatory field day in-person.

Hunters can buy a license to operate in Minnesota in one of the three ways. They can apply directly with an official licensing agent, with a list of these being available on the DNR’s Where to Buy a License webpage. That site also contains a phone number where licenses can be purchased on a 24-hour, 7-day a week basis. Then there is their Online License Sales page, which will facilitate the transaction from your browser. Information that applicants are advised to have on-hand when applying includes their driver’s license and social security numbers.

Where to Hunt in Minnesota

Minnesota is blessed with a relatively large amount of public land. And accordingly, there are vast amounts of public space available to hunters. Foremost amongst those would be Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). There are over 1400 of them, with information on each, including hunting species contained therein, on the DNR’s Wildlife Management Areas webpage. Visiting this page will also give you access to maps of Minnesota’s WMAs, including GPS locations and files that can be opened in Google Earth.

Other public venues hunters will find in Minnesota include State forests and federal forests such as Chippewa National Forest and Superior National Forest. There are also public areas designated primarily for the taking of grouse, such as the DNR’s Hunter Walking Trails and Ruffed Grouse Management Areas.

Yet having the opportunity to utilize all of these public-access areas doesn’t always deter hunters from wanting to enter private lands. And when they decide to do so, they must first get the consent of the landowner. The DNR advises that those who intend to use private lands for hunting start the process of getting official permission months before the beginning of the desired hunting season.

General Hunting Regulations in Minnesota

The regulations listed below are collected from some of the various documents which serve as the sources of this article. To get a complete breakdown of legal hunting procedures in the State of Minnesota, interested parties are advised to download the latest edition of their regulations’ book, which is available through the DNR’s Hunting and Trapping Regulations webpage.

  • The harvested bear must be registered with the DNR within 48 hours of taking.
  • During firearm/muzzleloader deer seasons, all hunters must wear hunter orange or pink as stipulated by the DNR.
  • At certain times, small game hunters must still wear blaze colors even when firearm/muzzleloader deer seasons are closed.
  • Camouflage orange or pink is permissible so long as it is at least 50% solid per square foot
  • A landowner is not liable if a hunter suffers injury to himself or damage to his equipment while utilizing private land he or she was granted free access to.
  • Hunters may enter private land without permission, on foot only, to retrieve wounded game.
  • Hunters must carry a copy of their license while afield or headed to and from the field.
  • Only hunters with a disability permit are allowed to take animals with a bow or firearm from a motor vehicle.
  • Handguns are permissible means of the taking of Minnesota.
  • Electronic-calling devices can be used to hunt crows.

Hunting Seasons in Minnesota

As with most States, most open hunting seasons in Minnesota occur in the Fall. For instance, bear season encompasses the first half of the last third of the year. And prairie chickens can only be hunted for about a week shortly after the start of Fall.

Turkeys meanwhile have the distinction of having two completely separate seasons. Shortly after the beginning of Fall, they can be hunted for approximately a month. The Spring seasons are a bit longer, collectively lasting for about a month-and-a-half. However, individually they only span a week each.

If a hunter is using archery as his or her means of taking, then he or she can pursue deer throughout the entire Fall and into the early Winter. If however, the preferred method is the use of firearm or muzzleloader, the seasons are mostly restricted to installments of a couple of weeks each during the mid to late Fall.

In Minnesota, Elk licenses are granted on a very limited basis and only in a select part of the State due to fragile populations. When they are given, permissible seasons occur in the late Summer and early Fall.

Ruffed grouse are among the premiere game in Minnesota. And thankfully their seasons are relatively-long, from the beginning of Fall and extending a couple of weeks into Winter, and the same goes for the spruce grouse. However, the season for sharp-tailed grouse starts at the same time but ends a month earlier.

Hunters can begin legally pursuing mourning doves during the last couple of weeks of Summer, and their season ends around the same time as sharp-tailed grouse. Ring-necked pheasant hunting times are in effect shortly about a month into Fall and end at the same time as ruffed grouse. Woodcocks and Hungarian Partridges can also be taken from the beginning of Fall. However, the woodcock season ends well before Thanksgiving, while the one for partridges extends all the way to the very end of the year.

Small game animals available in Minnesota include the likes of badgers, bobcats, foxes (red and gray), opossums, otters, rabbits, raccoons, and squirrels. All of their seasons begin during the Fall, though at different times. For instance, rabbits and squirrels can be hunted from the official beginning of Fall, all the way until after Valentine’s Day. However, the seasons for badgers, opossums, foxes, and raccoons start closer to Halloween, though they also end later, at the advent of Spring. Bobcats cannot be hunted until around the Thanksgiving holiday. Yet their season ends shortly after the New Year.

As for waterfowl, ducks, coots, and mergansers, they can be hunted throughout most of the Fall, though exact durations depend on which zone (North, Central or South) a sportsman is utilizing. The same goes for geese, though they also have an early season which takes up the last two weeks of Summer, and their seasons also extend for a short time into the Winter.

In the State of Minnesota, Crows can be taken at any time, even by unlicensed hunters, when they are deemed to be destructive. In contrast, there currently is no open season for animals such as antelopes, caribous, cougars, lynxes, moose, spotted skunks, wolves, and wolverines.

Hunting Guides & Outfitters in Minnesota

Finding the right guide or outfitter to assist you while hunting can prove to be the difference between successfully securing game or coming home empty-handed. So if you’re not familiar with an area or are hitting the field without a mentor, it’s a good idea to at least peruse some of the services hunting professionals located in Minnesota have to offer. The following hunting guides and outfitters in Minnesota can help you in that regard:

Hunting Lodges in Minnesota

It goes without saying that if you’re going on a multi-day expedition, then you’ll be in need of a place to sleep. Camping is, of course, an option but not always necessary or fruitful, especially when there’s a hunting lodge located near the action. Below is a list of a few of the hunting lodges that the Gopher State has to offer.

Autumn Antlers
Address: 1280 180th Street, Long Prairie 56347
Telephone: 320-492-6509 (Denny Niess)

Hughley Guide Services
Address: 18339 407th Street, Onamia 56359
Telephone: 320-362-4998 (Dave Hughley)

Lakewood Lodge
Address: 53026 County Road 35, Deer River 56636
Telephone: 218-659-2604 (Steve or Danielle Casselman)

October Ridge Resort
Address: 66211 County Road 31, Northhome 56661
Telephone: 888-654-2541

Ten Point Lodge
Address: 10312 State Highway 44, Caledonia 55921
Telephone: 507-724-2491

Wiscoy Valley Hunts
Address: 31400 Cone Dale Drive, Houston 55943
Telephone: 507-896-3620

Reporting Hunting Harvests

If a hunter is successful in harvesting a bear, deer or turkey, his or her success must be reported to the DNR. This can be for all three species by visiting the DNR’s Online License Sales page where if a user does not already have an account he or she will have to create one. But there are other options also.

Deer can be registered over the phone using the phone number published on the DNR’s Mandatory Deer Harvest Registration page. There, visitors will also find a link that points to a list of game registration stations found throughout the State. The drop-down list displays the names of such establishments (classified by county), and clicking on a name will bring up a Google Map of its location. Hunters can register the big game by visiting one of these offices.

When registering a bear online, a hunter must still pick up a tooth envelope from a bear registration station and submit a tooth sample to the DNR. A list of bear registration stations can be found via the DNR’s Bear Hunting webpage. Doing the complete process at a bear registration station is also an option. The taking of a bear can also be documented over-the-phone via an automated system at the telephone number provided on the DNR’s Bear Hunting Regulations page. Bear hunters will also need to record the deer permit area in which in the animal was taken to be added to the registration information.


Hunters won’t go wrong choosing Minnesota as the destination of their next expedition, especially if they are interested in deer or grouse. Furthermore, the State also grants hunters access to bears. And their Department of Natural Resources is ever-ready to accommodate parties interested in taking advantage of these and other gaming opportunities that this unique State has to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. I want to hunt but haven’t had the time to take a DNR Firearms Safety course. Is there any way I can still hunt with a firearm in Minnesota?

A. Yes. You can apply for apprentice hunter validation which will allow you to hunt so long as you’re accompanied by a mentor who is a licensed adult. However, this option can only be used for two hunting license years.

Q. What exactly are Hunter Walking Trails?

A. Hunter Walking Trails are designed to facilitate hunter access to grouse and woodcocks. They also serve as developed connectors between some public hunting lands.

Q. What qualifies an applicant for a hunting license as a resident of Minnesota?

A. In general, a person is considered a resident if he or she has legally resided in Minnesota for at least 60 consecutive days before applying for a license. Residents who are at least 21 years of age are required to possess a driver’s license or ID card issued by the State of Minnesota as validation of residency. Also, nonresidents under the age of 21 who have a parent that is a legal resident also qualify as residents. Certain licenses are also available at resident prices to fulltime students from outside the State studying in Minnesota. And of course military personnel stationed in the State are eligible for hunting licenses at resident rates.

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