Hunting in Minnesota

Hunting in Minnesota has a long and cultured tradition that benefits the hunters, the state’s economy, and wildlife sustainability.

Like Iowa, the state of Minnesota is particularly famous for its thriving deer population with trophy-quality appearance. That is coupled with expansive public lands for hunters to enjoy plenty of opportunities to pursue their desired animals.

Are you up for an adventure in the wilderness of Minnesota? Let’s explore the thrilling opportunities that await you when hunting in Minnesota!

Hunting Season

In Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is responsible for establishing hunting seasons.

The DNR plays a crucial role in balancing wildlife conservation efforts with hunting opportunities for sportsmen and sportswomen.

White-tailed DeerArchery: Mid-September to late December
Firearms: Early to late November
Muzzleloader: Late November to mid-December
Early Antlerless: Mid-October for three days
Black BearEarly September to mid-October
(Lottery-based hunting)
Late August to mid-October
Wild TurkeyThroughout October
Upland HuntingGrouse:
Mourning Dove:
Waterfowl HuntingEarly Teal: Early September for a week
Ducks, Coots, Mergansers: Late September to late November
Geese: Early September to late December

By carefully managing hunting seasons, the Minnesota DNR can maintain a balance between providing recreational opportunities and ensuring the long-term sustainability of wildlife populations.

This integrated approach supports both conservation and the state’s strong hunting heritage.

Minnesota is a popular hunting destination, offering diverse opportunities for hunters of all skill levels.

Deer hunting and waterfowl hunting are two of the most popular types of hunting in the state, attracting thousands of hunting enthusiasts each year.

Deer Hunting

White-tailed deer hunting is a long-standing tradition in Minnesota and one of the state’s most popular hunting activities.

The state boasts a healthy and well-managed deer population, providing ample opportunities for hunters to find their quarry.

In fact, the state is proud of its constant high ranking in deer harvest numbers and trophy-quality bucks.

For safety and visibility purposes, hunters must wear blaze orange clothing during firearms and muzzleloader seasons. Clothing can be a hat, jacket, or vest.

Waterfowl Hunting

Minnesota is also renowned for its waterfowl hunting opportunities, attracting hunters from across the country.

Minnesota is situated along the Mississippi Flyway, a major migratory route for waterfowl in North America. This location results in diverse migratory waterfowl populations passing through the state each year, making waterfowl hunting abundant for the state hunters.

In Minnesota, to hunt waterfowl, you need a state hunting license, a federal bird hunting stamp, and a state waterfowl stamp. If you’re between 18 and 64 years old, you also need a Small Game License.

When it comes to hunting waterfowl, it’s essential to use nontoxic shots like steel, tungsten, or bismuth. This is because lead shot is not allowed for waterfowl hunting.

Lottery-Based Hunting

Elk hunting

Elk hunting opportunities in Minnesota are limited compared to other states, as the state’s elk population is smaller and mostly concentrated in the northwestern region. But, Minnesota does offer a controlled number of elk hunting permits through a lottery system.

And for those lucky enough to secure a permit, elk hunting in Minnesota offers a challenging and rewarding experience.

Interested hunters must submit an application for the elk hunting lottery during the application period, typically in the summer months (June or July). There is an application fee, which is non-refundable.

Minnesota Top Hunting Spot

Minnesota is the ultimate destination for those seeking exceptional hunting grounds that cater to diverse game species and terrains.

Explore below some of the most coveted hunting spots in the state.

Superior National Forest

Superior National Forest, located in northeastern Minnesota, is a vast and diverse area spanning over 3 million acres.

The forest is known for its stunning landscapes, including the famous Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), pristine lakes, and dense forests.

In terms of deer hunting opportunities, the forest’s diverse habitats support populations of white-tailed deer, making it a popular destination for deer hunters.

The mix of hardwoods, conifers, and open meadows provides ideal conditions for deer to thrive.

Carlos Avery WMA

Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a popular 23,000-acre hunting destination located near the Twin Cities in east-central Minnesota.

Aside from bountiful deer hunting opportunities, this hunting area also opens hunters to exciting turkey hunting experiences.

The WMA supports a thriving wild turkey population, attracting turkey hunters every spring and fall. The diverse landscape and abundant food sources make it an ideal habitat for wild turkeys.

Mille Lacs WMA

The Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a highly sought-after hunting spot in central Minnesota, situated about 100 miles north of the Twin Cities.

The Wildlife Management Area (WMA) encompasses vast wetlands, grasslands, and forests that serve as the natural habitat for numerous game species. It is an ideal hunting ground for everyone.

Access to Mille Lacs WMA is relatively easy, with multiple access points, parking areas, and trails throughout the area. A map of the WMA can help familiarize yourself with the area and ensure you are hunting within the designated boundaries.

Hunting License

Minnesota requires all first-time hunters born after 1979 to complete a firearms safety course before purchasing a hunting license.

The Minnesota DNR offers hunting licenses for residents, nonresidents, youth, and senior hunters. This way, the hunting experience in the state is inclusive for every hunting enthusiast.

Minnesota offers a variety of licenses based on the game species you plan to hunt. Here is the rundown of the hunting licenses in the state:

Regular Hunting

License TypeResidentNonresident
Small Game Hunting$22.003-day: $72.00
7-day: $102.00
Individual Deer
(Firearm or Archery)

Special hunting

Youth HuntingDeer Hunting: $16.00
Turkey Hunting: $6.00
Bear Hunting: $5.00
Senior HuntingSmall Game Hunting: $13.50
Deer Hunting: $19.00
Turkey Hunting: $13.50
Bear Hunting: $19.00

Hunter Access Programs

Hunter Access Programs are initiatives designed to improve hunting opportunities by providing hunters with access to private and public lands for hunting.

Minnesota has Hunter Access Programs that aim to promote wildlife preservation and ethical hunting practices by bringing together landowners, hunters, and wildlife agencies.

  1. Walk-In Access (WIA) Program
  2. Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)
  3. Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs)
  4. Private Landowner Assistance Programs

Apprentice Hunter Validation

The Apprentice Hunter Validation program in Minnesota is designed to provide an opportunity for new hunters to try hunting before completing a firearms safety or hunter education course.

The program allows inexperienced hunters to learn about hunting under the guidance of a licensed and experienced mentor.

To participate in the Apprentice Hunter Validation program, the new hunter must:

  1. Be at least 12 years old.
  2. Buy an Apprentice Hunter Validation from Minnesota DNR’s e-licensing system or an authorized agent.
  3. Be accompanied by a licensed adult mentor who knows the game and is at least 18 years old. The mentor must supervise closely.
  4. Follow all state hunting laws, regulations, and season dates for the game species being hunted.

Hunter r3 Program

The Hunter Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation (R3) Program program focuses on recruiting new hunters, retaining current hunters, and reactivating lapsed hunters. The program includes educational events, workshops, and resources to help individuals learn about hunting, develop their skills, and connect with other hunters.

The R3 program aims to ensure the continuation of hunting traditions and support wildlife conservation efforts.