May 13, 2020
COVID-19 has rocked the world, and in recent weeks, the effect of the virus has trickled into the hunting community. Multiple states across the country have stopped license sales to non-residents, closed public-access areas and even terminated resident spring seasons. Others are requiring traveling hunters to self-quarantine for 14 days before stepping into the woods; all but eliminating any chance of non-resident hunting. While time in the outdoors seems like the perfect recipe for social distancing, new Executive Orders are popping up regularly.
To come is the MRI (most recent information) for all 50 states when it comes to spring hunting. As previously mentioned, new updates happen regularly and often without warning, and hunters are encouraged to visit state game and fish websites regularly.
Most outdoor facilities, including Alabama State Parks and associated facilities remain open. Shooting and archery ranges as well as Wildlife Management Areas and Special Opportunity Areas remain open for hunting in the Yellowhammer State.
On May 30, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed non-resident general hunting for brown and black bear. This closure will run through May 31. Resident bear hunters are required to abide by all issued health mandates including social distancing.
All rifle and pistol ranges are closed to the public until further notice. The state remains open to all hunting opportunities for residents and non-residents, and the activity is encouraged.
Hunting for residents and non-residents continues as normal in the Natural State. However, the Buffalo National River Wildlife Management Area is closed until further notice.
While the state is closing popular public use areas like CDPH visitor centers and license counters, spring hunting is planned to continue as normal.
State parks remain open, but visitor centers, service centers and offices have been closed. For spring turkey hunters, the state has made the provision that when carcass tags are not available for licenses purchased after March 23, hunters may substitute them with a receipt/conformation email. See state regulations for full details.
Governor Lamont asked all Connecticut residents to practice social distancing when taking to the woods. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has closed its offices to the public.
State parks and wildlife areas are open, and entry fees have been waved until April 30. Out-of-state visitors, including hunters, must self-quarantine for 14 days before going hunting during a spring season.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission encourages all hunters to check the state’s OPEN/CLOSED STATUS on its website to for wildlife area closures. All FWC offices and shooting ranges remained closed until May 1.
The Wildlife Resources Division in Georgia is open for business and spring hunting for residents and non-residents continues as normal.
The 2020 rifle axis season within the Lana’i Cooperative Game Management Area has been cancelled. All other hunting remains open.
The sale of non-resident Idaho turkey, mountain lion, wolf and several other permits have been suspended until further notice. Even so, some sales will still be permitted to non-residents who already bought a black bear tag prior to April 4, in certain situations where an outfitted trip agreement was made, or to residents who have moved into the state but haven’t yet established residency or obtained a driver’s license in the required amount of time. The purchase of fall hunting licenses is allowed.
Spring hunting is limited to private-land hunting only. All state-managed parks, fish and wildlife areas and other recreational areas are closed.
All DNR properties including state parks, forests, fish and wildlife areas and the like are open. Entry fees have been temporarily suspended, and spring hunting will go on as normal.
No changes are planned to Iowa’s spring season, and state parks, forests and WMA’s remain open.
Sales of non-resident turkey tags have been suspended, although non-residents who already have their tags may still hunt turkeys in Kansas this spring. But non-residents who purchased their permit before the suspension are required to self-quarantine for 14 days if they are from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York or Washington. Kansas officials say that the quarantine must be completed prior to hunting and/or checking into a state park cabin.
Spring 2020 seasons will be held, but non-resident hunters must self-quarantine immediately for 14 days upon arrival. Public lands remain open.
According to the governor’s Stay at Home order, outdoor activity remains permissible as long as people stay six feet from each other and do not gather in groups larger than 10 people. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has issued a reminder of those requirements after LDWF agents have had to disband numerous gatherings that have exceeded the social distancing limit set by Gov. John Bel Edwards. “We want people to enjoy the outdoors, but we want them to do it with social distancing in mind,” said Col. Sammy Martin, head of the LDWF Enforcement Division.” Also, all in-person education classes (boater and hunter safety) are canceled for May. However, students can still take education online classes.
While MDIFW offices and facilities are closed to the public, 2020 spring seasons will happen in Maine.
Maryland has limited spring hunting adventures to those seeking food for their family. Those that do take to the woods for sustenance must practice social distancing.
Department of Fish and Game offices and fish hatcheries are closed to the public until further notice. Wildlife Management Areas remain open, and spring hunting seasons will continue.
The state said on May 11, 2020 that eligible online hunter education students will be able to hunt this spring despite the postponement of field day classes (which normally are required). The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is providing temporary hunter education safety certificates to select online students who have not been able to attend a field day due to cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To receive a temporary hunter education safety certificate, online students must meet one of the following criteria: (1) completed the online hunter education safety training since March 15, 2019, but not yet completed the field day; (2) started the online program on or after Jan. 1, 2020, and still in process of completing the course; and (3) begin the online program between now and the end of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order.
There are no changes to upcoming spring hunting seasons. Normal regulations apply to all.
While MDFWP Wildlife Management Areas remain open for hunting, state parks are closed to the public.
Public lands and spring hunting is open in the Show Me State. Travel is restricted to groups of 10 people or fewer.
While the State of Emergency continues in Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock has announced a phased reopening of his state that includes a soft reopening of outfitting and guiding services as of Monday, April 27. That soft reopening means that guides and outfitters can restart operations as long as they adhere to social distancing and sanitation requirements brought about by the state's COVID-19 guidelines.
Non-resident turkey and bear hunters should note that 14-day quarantine restrictions remain for all out-of-state people entering Montana. Those restrictions will remain in place until Phase III of Montana's reopening takes place. So far, no implementation dates for Phase II and Phase III have been announced.
Hunters with planned trips to Montana are advised to frequently check the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website for updates along with remaining in close contact with their respective outfitter.
Nebraska has suspended the sales of non-resident turkey licenses. Those that purchased a non-resident license before March 30, can still hunt, however, no additional licenses can be purchased.
The state currently has no suspensions to any spring 2020 hunting seasons.
The state’s game and fish department has not made any changes to spring seasons, and all normal hunt rules and regulations remain in effect.
All state wildlife management areas are open, and spring seasons will continue.
Spring hunting seasons in New Mexico will happen, however, hunters are encouraged to read all state Executive Orders, which can be found on the NMDGF home page. Do note that the agency has closed numerous Wildlife Management Areas and Open Gate properties to fishing due to crowding and danger of spreading COVID-19. So far, hunting is not included in those closures, but stay abreast for changes.
Spring turkey remains open in New York to residents and non-residents, and public lands are accessible. Many travel restrictions are in effect. Know before you go.
Currently, there have been no changes to North Carolina hunting seasons. Individuals using shared or outdoor spaces must maintain social distancing of at least six feet.
All game and fish department offices are closed to public access until April 20, but hunting seasons remain open.
As of April 6, Ohio has stopped the sale of all non-resident hunting and fishing licenses until further notice. Those that already purchased a license may hunt but must self-quarantine in the state for 14 days before stepping afield. Resident hunting will continue as normal.
A statewide quarantine for 14 days exists for those entering the state from someplace where significant community spread of COVID-19 has been identified. At the time of this writing, those states are listed as California, Connecticut, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey and Washington. Wildlife offices remain closed to visitors until further notice, but license sales continue online for residents and non-residents alike.
As of Tuesday, May 5, 2020, non-residents may once again fish and hunt in Oregon. The state says that non-residents who purchased a hunting license (annual or non-resident 3-day for gamebirds) and/or tag for spring turkey will be eligible to receive a refund for their hunting license and/or tag — regardless of when it was purchased — so long as they have not hunted at all. Request for refunds may be made here. Non-residents can also continue to apply for fall controlled hunts. The deadline to apply for all fall controlled hunts remains May 15 for both residents and non-residents.
All Hunter-Trapper Ed classes have been postponed, but hunting remains open to resident and non-resident hunters.
As of April 3, Rhode Island’s state parks and beaches closed. Spring hunting is open; however, people are encouraged not to get in their car and drive to recreate.
No current statutes are in place regarding spring hunting in South Carolina.
All systems are a go, and no new restrictions have been put in place by the SDGFP.
The state’s turkey season, which stared on April 4, will continue. Governor Lee has closed in-person services at all TWRA offices.
An Executive Order deems hunting an “essential activity.” That means that hunting spring turkey, wild hogs, and exotic game animals continues unless local regulations stipulate otherwise. Texas State Parks had been closed, but now have been reopened to the public by the order of Gov. Greg Abbott.
The DNR notes that hunters should check with Utah’s county health departments and law enforcement agencies for current rules and restrictions before planning a trip. In addition, the state’s two public shooting ranges are currently closed until further notice.
The first state with constitutional language that protects its citizen’s right to hunt, Vermont’s spring seasons will happen as scheduled.
No regulations have been put on hunting in Virginia. Wildlife Management Areas and DGIF lakes and rivers are open.
As the state continues to slowly reopen, Washington has announced that the state’s special hunt permit application deadline has been extended to May 21. While local hunting for spring turkey and spring bear opened again on May 5 after the COVID-19 lockdown, the state says that its spring turkey season will not be extended and will expire on May 31 as originally scheduled. But the state’s spring bear special permit seasons will be extended until June 30. Washington officials remind spring bear hunters who would normally travel outside their local areas to hunt that they may wait to see how travel guidance evolves, or seek a permit refund and reclaim their points (if they are unable to hunt while meeting local hunting recommendations). Bear hunting permit hunters are responsible for securing access, which the state notes may not be available for all or for the added season dates.
According to the WV DNR website, spring turkey season is scheduled to start on April 20. The youth season will begin on April 18. The state’s Executive Order allows, for the time being, engaging in “outdoor activity.”
All spring hunting seasons are a go in Wisconsin for resident and non-resident hunters.
As of Friday, May 8, 2020, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has allowed his 14-day quarantine order for non-residents entering the state for non-work purposes and residents returning home after traveling out of state to expire. The 14-day quarantine previously in effect had affected the plans of some wanting to enter the state, people like spring bear hunters and turkey hunters. The state also resumed the sale of short-term fishing licenses should a hunter want to do any angling while in the state.
This article will be updated as new information becomes available.