Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Canada

How to Start Hunting in Alberta

Okay, so you have decided to start hunting. Harvesting your own meat is something that interests you but you don’t know where to start – hopefully I can help.

It is not as complicated as it may seem, especially if you are just looking to start small! Alberta has a few simple steps that you must follow in order to start hunting legally.

1. You will need to apply for a Wildlife Identification Number or WIN. This can be done in person at places like Cabelas, Bass Pro Shops or Canadian Tire, or you can apply online at Alberta RELM . You will need a piece of Alberta Government ID to apply, such as a Drivers License.

2. Each person who wishes to hunt will also need to take the Hunter Education Course. This is an online module based course that teaches basic hunter safety and wildlife identification. It is offered at AHEIA Hunter Education and costs $95.

3. Once you have completed both of these steps, now is the time to choose which type of weapon you plan to start hunting with.

A Rifle – in order to hunt with a rifle, you must either possess a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) or hunt in the presence of a license holder. If you choose to apply for your own PAL License you must take a Firearms Safety course and pass an exam. The course is offered on weekends at many locations in Alberta and usually costs around $200 for a non-restricted (rifles, shotguns, etc.) license. Then you will have to submit your passed exam result with references to the RCMP firearms office with an application fee of $80. Once the review process is complete you will receive your PAL card in the mail. This process varies from individual to individual. Mine took around 3 months.

A Bow – This is a great option for those who are not comfortable with firearms and great for younger hunters who cannot legally own/hunt with firearms without another license holder who is over 18 years of age. A bow also opens up additional seasons and time to hunt, but requires a great deal of practice and is a very steep learning curve. In order to hunt with a bow in Alberta, you must also purchase a bow hunting permit ($9.66) along with any licenses you wish to purchase.

Once you have a WIN number and have passed the hunter safety course you will need to log into Alberta RELM and create an online account (unless you purchased your WIN card online). Next, you will need to fill out your profile information. It is important that the details you fill in match your government ID. You will enter your status as either a resident or non-resident and then your confirmation code for you hunters safety course.

4. Now it is time to decide what species you plan on hunting!

A great entry point is Game Birds. Alberta treats Grouse and Ptarmigan as Upland Game birds and can be hunted in many WMUs (Wildlife Management Units). The license is very affordable at only $16.59. Grouse are tasty birds that provide new hunters with the ability to get out in the wild and use either a bow, small caliber rifle, or a small gauge shotgun. I personally always carry an arrow or two in my quiver with game bird heads for some opportunistic meat gathering!!!

Next are the many options for general season tags for all the big game species! You will learn that Alberta is a wonderful place where a hunter can purchase a tag for Black Bear, Elk, Moose, Mule Deer, Whitetail Deer and even Bighorn Sheep each and every year. My recommendation would be to begin with the two deer species. This will give you a good introduction to hunting, dressing, and processing before moving onto those really large animals like Moose.

This year I purchased a General Whitetail and Mule Deer Licenses ($41.95 each) and a General Elk Tag (also $41.95). Any special licenses  or draw tags typically have a lesser cost due to the waiting period.

5. Where will you be hunting? Alberta has a wealth of publicly accessible lands for hunting and other recreation. You can find these lands using the online tools, Alberta Rec Access Mapping, or by purchasing the Ihunter App for your smartphone and purchasing the public lands layer. I highly recommend the Ihunter App. It will show you all the crown lands, and then when you purchase the Crown Lease Land Layer you can access grazing lease, and other agricultural lease contact information. This is a program where Ranchers and Farmers can lease crown land and then manage access to suit the property.

Some important dates that you will need to know are:

  • March 16 – Spring Black Bear Licenses are available for purchase.
  • June – Big Game draws open up.
  • July – Draw results are released.
  • August 1 – Big Game Licenses are available for purchase.
  • Sept 1 – Most archery only seasons open.
  • Sept 17 – General Season opens in many mountain WMUs.
  • Nov 6 – General Season opens in the prairie WMUs.

These dates are subject to change each year. You can find these dates online at Alberta Key Dates.

This years season is already underway but it is never too early to start completing all these steps so you can be fully prepared for next years hunting season!

If you have any further questions about the processes please reach out! I went through this learning process in the last 4 years and I would love to help make your journey smoother!


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