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California Hunting License

California hunting licenses are required for both residents and non-residents to hunt in any state-sanctioned hunting areas. Hunters found to be hunting without proper licensing may be charged with poaching and are subject to the associated penalties and fines. Therefore, before gathering up the necessary hunting gear and heading out for a hunting trip, hunters must first buy a hunting license through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. All hunters must keep their hunting licenses on them at all times during hunting trips. Various options are available to both residents and non residents of California looking for a license to hunt. License categories are based on a number of factors such as the applicant’s residency status, age, the type of animals being hunted and the length of the hunting license’s validity. The three main categories of hunting licenses in California include residential hunting licenses, non resident hunting licenses and lifetime hunting licenses. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife offers a number of options for residents and non residents to buy hunting licenses. Depending on convenience, hunters can complete hunting license applications online, over the phone or in person at a local department office. However, prior to buying a hunting license in CA, applicants must complete the required hunter education course. Hunter education courses teach prospective hunters necessary information on proper firearm use, wildlife conservation and survival methods. To find out more about the hunting license application process, read the following sections:

  • Types of California hunting licenses
  • Buying California hunting licenses
  • Hunter education in California
  • Replacing California hunting licenses


What types of hunting licenses are available in California?

All hunters must have a California hunting license to hunt in any one of the state’s many sanctioned hunting areas. Depending on the applicant’s residency status, age, desired hunting license type and the length of the license’s validity, applicants will have to choose from a residential hunting license, non resident hunting license or lifetime hunting license. A number of specific hunting permits are available for hunters who plan to conduct specialized hunts for certain animal species.

Hunting licenses are issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and require hunters to complete the hunting license application process, which includes paying the appropriate fee for each license to hunt.

How do I purchase hunting licenses in California?

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife offers hunters a few methods for purchasing CA hunting licenses, including online, over the phone or in person. To buy hunting licenses online, complete an online hunting license application and pay the required fee. Online hunting license applicants must prove their identity with a GO ID or a valid driver’s license. Additionally, online applicants must provide their date of birth, address, phone number, physical description and other identifying information. To buy hunting licenses by phone, call the wildlife department’s Telephone License Sales department. To buy fishing licenses in person, visit a local CA Department of Fish and Wildlife license sales office or independent licensing agent.

Hunting permit applicants must submit one of the following certified documents during the hunting license application process:

  • Expired California hunting license from the previous year
  • Expired two-day non-resident hunting license purchased after the 1999-2000 licensing year
  • California hunter education course certificate of completion
  • Out-of-state hunter education course certificate of completion (must be approved by the wildlife department)
  • Hunting license from out of state, issued during the previous two years (must be approved by the wildlife department)

Prior to purchasing a California hunting license or hunting tag, applicants must pass all of the wildlife department’s hunter education requirements. Proof that the applicant has completed the hunter education requirement must be submitted during the hunting license application process. Online hunting license sales services also include options to purchase other licensing materials such as fishing licenses, guide permits, big game tag drawing entries and duplicate licenses.

Am I required to take any hunting classes to purchase a California hunting license?

Hunter education courses are required for all hunters who have not previously taken a hunting license class or purchased a hunting license in California. While there is no age requirement for taking a hunter education course, young children are discouraged from registering to complete the program, as it is quite demanding. Hunters can fulfill the hunter education course requirements by either taking a 10-hour classroom course or completing an online course. Additionally, the online course requires students to complete a four-hour follow-up course once the online portion is complete.

Upon course completion, applicants will receive a hunter education certificate which must be presented to wildlife officials during the hunting license application process in order for the applicant to buy hunting licenses.

Hunter education courses focus on a few important aspects of hunting in an effort to heighten the safety and conservation efforts of hunters in the California area, including: firearm safety/handling, hunting ethics, wildlife management/conservation, wildlife identification, archery, black powder, game care and first aid/survival tips.

The 10-hour California license to hunt classroom course is free to the public. The online option requires a fee for the voucher, which is necessary to register for the four-hour follow-up course.

How can I replace a California hunting license?

To replace a California hunting license, complete the duplicate hunting license application process online through the California Online License Sales Service system. Duplicate hunting licenses can also be purchased in person through a wildlife department sales office or an authorized independent licensing agent. A list of department branches and approved licensing agents is available online.

Duplicate hunting licenses are valid until the same expiration date as on the original license. Once a hunting license has expired, hunters must complete a new hunting license application to obtain a new permit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. All throughout the United States, hunters safety classes must be completed in order for applicants to obtain their desired hunting permits and stamps. Failure to take this specific course will result in the rejection of your hunting license request, thus requiring you to start over.
Depending on your state of residence, you may be able to buy hunting licenses in a variety of ways, including online (through your state department’s portal), by mail, by phone or in person. Choose the option that is most convenient for you. Make sure to also have any type of official documentation and payment for fees on hand.
No. Different states have different limits and regulations on hunting licensure. Certain animals may be considered “prohibited species,” whereas other animals may be legal to hunt, so long as you have the necessary hunting permit/stamp. Keep in mind that if you do hunt for any type of prohibited species, you will be subject to serious consequences.
Yes. States typically offer various short-term hunters license options, such as one-day and one-week passes, to those who do not meet residency requirements. In order to receive issuance of a short-term hunting license, make sure to get in touch with your state/hunting wildlife department to find out the available methods you have to apply.
In the event your hunting credentials are lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed, contact your state hunting/wildlife department to order a hunting license replacement. You may have to make an in-person visit to a local office to complete the process. At the time of your replacement request, you may be asked to present your state driving license or another type of identification.
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