WESTERN HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES FOR MILITARY MEMBERS
When you start looking at hunting laws from around the world it’s pretty apparent that those of us here in the United States have arguably the most freedoms and opportunities available. This not only stems from the sheer amount of animals we can pursue, but also from the plethora of over-the-counter (OTC) tags and the massive expanses of public land. One area in particular that receives very little acknowledgment is the hunting opportunities for the men and women who protect these rights for us: the members of the United States Armed Forces.
Many of the western states offer opportunities for disabled veterans, but some even offer greatly reduced tags and special residency acknowledgments for current service members. In the following article, we will cover some of the most popular western hunting destinations and take an in-depth look at what opportunities are available for the brave men and women who we owe everything to. While we are only analyzing hunting benefits for active and present duty members, it should be noted that many of the listed states also offer fishing and recreational perks as well.
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Alaska resident National Guard and military Reserves license
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game offers a free annual hunting and fishing license for residents actively serving in:
- Alaska’s National Guard
- U.S. Army Reserves
- U.S. Air Force Reserves
- U.S. Navy Reserves
- U.S. Marine Corps Reserves
- U.S. Coast Guard Reserves
Nonresident military license
Nonresidents who are members of the U.S. military or U.S. Coast Guard, are active duty and permanently stationed in Alaska are privileged to special licensing prices on annual hunting and fishing licenses.
- U.S. military and U.S. Coast Guard, and their dependents, on active duty and permanently stationed in Alaska less than 12 months can purchase a special military license at the same price as resident rates. Note: If hunting brown/grizzly bear, mountain goat, or bighorn sheep in this category, hunters must be in the company of a registered guide or resident relative who is within the second degree of kindred. Locking tags must be obtained for brown/grizzly bears and muskox at a reduced rate. Bighorn sheep and mountain goat tags are free of charge.
- U.S. military and U.S. Coast Guard, and their dependents, on active duty and permanently stationed in Alaska greater than 12 months can purchase a resident license. They do not need to give up their residency privileges in another state. No guides are required.
Alaska resident disabled veteran license
Resident disabled veterans in Alaska are given a complimentary hunting and fishing license. In order to qualify for this, the individual must be certified as 50% disabled or more and must meet the residency requirements of the state. Additionally, applicants must be physically present in the State of Alaska to apply.
Military members and their spouses who are currently listed as active duty can purchase licenses as a resident of Arizona if they are permanently or temporarily stationed in Arizona for no less than 30 days prior to the date of the purchase or application. It is important to note here, though, that Arizona does not recognize dual residency when dealing with the purchasing of hunting or fishing licenses so anyone interested in participating in this program cannot hold resident licenses in any other state.
Disabled veteran requirements
Disabled veterans can apply for disabled licenses by presenting certification from the Veteran’s Administration (VA) documenting 100% disability due to service in addition to residing in Arizona for a period of no less than one year.
Any person on active military duty with the U.S. Armed Forces or auxiliary branch may purchase licenses as a resident providing the conditions are met immediately prior to the person submitting their application for a license or permit.
Disabled veteran reduced fee hunting license
This option is available for any resident or nonresident who is an honorably discharged veteran with a 50% or greater service connected disability.
Recovering service member reduced fee hunting license
This license option is available to any recovering service member. A recovering service member is defined as a member of the armed forces, including a member of the National Guard or a reserve, who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy and is in an outpatient status while recovering from a serious injury or illness related to the member's military service.
Residency status for the state of Colorado is available to members of the military and their dependents who are under permanent orders within the state.
Preference point perks
Along with residency perks, active duty members who are stationed in Colorado, stationed in Colorado and deployed, or who are Colorado residents can purchase leftover licenses prior to the public sale of said licenses. Additionally, active duty members who are stationed in Colorado and currently deployed outside of the U.S. can apply for preference points to use in future draws. The application period for this is generally available in July and must be postmarked by the first Tuesday in January. For members who are deployed after drawing a tag or purchasing a license, they can apply for a full refund or request that preference points are returned.
Disabled veteran requirements
Military veterans who are disabled and residents of Colorado can apply for a lifetime fishing and small game combo license. This is available to veterans who can provide proof of a 60% service connected disability as rated by the VA. Purple Heart recipients are also eligible for application.
Wounded Warrior/Safe Harbor programs
Colorado also sets aside a number of hunting licenses each year (100 of each: female deer, elk and antelope and 100 total of male deer, elk and antelope) to be made available to members of the Wounded Warrior or Safe Harbor programs. A list of requirements include:
- Must be a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and a Colorado resident or stationed in Colorado.
- Must be returning from a post-Sept. 11, 2001 overseas contingency operation.
- Must be assigned to a military medical treatment facility at the time of application.
- Must be a member of the U.S. Armed Services Wounded Warrior or Safe Harbor Program.
Any active duty full-time military member and their spouses/dependents under the age of 18 are eligible to purchase resident licenses/permits after living in Idaho continuously for a period of 30 days. Military members wishing to use this program will need to submit an affidavit and, once accepted, will have to purchase their desired licenses/tags within a 30 day period before the form expires.
Furlough license fees
Any military members claiming Idaho residency who are on a military furlough can purchase a combination hunting and fishing license for $17.50 (standard fee is $33.50).
Active duty raincheck
Any military members currently serving in an active military conflict are eligible for a raincheck or refund on any tags, licenses or permits that they will be unable to use.
Disabled Veterans Special Big Game Tag Program
The Disabled Veterans Special Big Game Tag program allows qualified nonprofit organizations to apply for special big game hunt tags on behalf of a disabled veteran. This program is not limited to organizations based in the state of Idaho. Each year the Idaho Department of Fish and Game makes five tags available for disabled veterans for any deer, elk, antelope, mountain lion or moose hunt. Participating in this program nullifies any prerequisite licensing requirements. Participation is also based on a first come, first served and once-in-a-lifetime basis.
Resident disabled American veteran (DAV) reduced fees
Idaho residents who are disabled veterans may be eligible for special pricing on hunting licenses and tags.
- DAV License: $5
- Deer: $10.75
- Elk: $16.50
- Bear: $6.75
- Turkey: $10.75
Nonresident DAV reduced fees
Nonresidents who are disabled veterans may be eligible for special pricing on hunting licenses and permits.
- DAV hunting and three-day fishing license: $31.75
- Deer: $23.75
- Elk: $39.75
- Bear: $23.75
- Turkey: $19.75
Disabled veteran requirements
In order to qualify for DAV reduced pricing, veterans must supply a copy of their official VA disability percentage letter, which must certify a service-related disability rating of 40% or greater.
Disabled veteran hunting and fishing licenses
The Kansas Legislature annually appropriates limited funding to pay for hunting and fishing licenses to be issued for free to qualifying disabled veterans. Any Kansas resident who is an honorably-discharged military veteran with certified service-related disabilities of 30% or more qualifies and must apply each year for the license. Licenses are issued on a first-come, first-served basis until funding is exhausted. Additionally, anyone who buys a hunting or fishing license online can check a box during checkout and add a donation to their purchase to help fund additional DAV licenses beyond the legislature appropriated funding amounts.
Nonresidents stationed in Kansas
Active duty nonresident military personnel stationed in Kansas may hunt or fur harvest with a resident hunting or fur harvesting license if they carry evidence identifying them as active duty military personnel.
Kansas residents stationed outside of the state
Active duty members who were Kansas residents immediately prior to enlistment – and their immediate family members living with them – may purchase a resident license, regardless of duty station.
Any military members and their family members who are currently stationed and active duty in Montana may purchase tags and licenses as a resident after residing in the state for a period of 30 days.
Discounted license opportunities
Montana residents that are members of the National Guard, federal reserve or active duty who participated in a contingency operation outside of the state for two months after September 11, 2001 and have been released from active duty or discharged are eligible for a free conservation license or a sportsman without bear license for a fee of $2. The only stipulation to this clause is that the program is only available if you receive the license in the year you return from military service or the year after.
Half price licenses
Veterans with certain combat-related disabilities may be eligible for half-priced licenses for deer and antelope. Montana sets aside up to 50 licenses annually for this. Any interested persons must contact the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks License Bureau at (406) 444-2663.
Disabled veteran or active duty license donation
Anyone—resident or nonresident—can purchase or draw a hunting license, tag or permit and donate them to a disabled veteran or disabled active duty service member. The donator cannot choose the individual or organization the donation will go to. Participating veterans and service members must be a Purple Heart recipient and have a disability rating of 70% or greater.
Resident veterans over the age of 64 are eligible for a veteran annual small game hunt/fish/fur harvest permit, which is available for $5. This permit includes all state stamps. A copy of a DD214 or a Veteran Indicator on the applicant’s Nebraska Driver’s License must be presented in person at the time of application.
Deployed military permit
A resident of the state who is or has been deployed out of the state with a branch of the U.S. military within the last 12 months is eligible to receive an annual small game hunt/fish/fur harvest permit on a one-time basis for $5 upon returning to the state. This permit includes all state stamps. A copy of deployment paperwork must be presented in person at the time of application.
Disabled veteran permit
Disabled veterans who are legal residents of Nebraska, have been deemed 50% or more service related or 100% disabled non-service connected and receive a pension from the VA are eligible for a disabled veteran’s lifetime annual small game hunt/fish/fur harvest permit at no fee. This permit includes all state stamps.
Any service members on permanent duty in Nevada as well as their spouse and dependents under the age of 21 will be granted residency immediately and can purchase tags and licenses accordingly.
Serviceman’s hunting license
Nevada residents who are currently permanently stationed outside of the state may purchase a Nevada hunting license for $9.
Disabled veteran specialty combination license
Any disabled veterans who have resided in Nevada for a period of six months or longer and are certified from the VA with a service-connected disability of 50% or more are eligible for a combination license for free.
Disabled veterans requirements
Disabled veterans can apply for special allowances by presenting a certified letter from the VA certifying service-connected disabilities of 50% or greater.
50% discount for resident active duty and veterans
New Mexico residents who are currently active duty or veterans are eligible to purchase all licenses, permits and stamps at a 50% discount.
Military only draw hunts on Fort Bliss
Special draws are available only to active duty service members stationed at Fort Bliss.
Resident pricing for nonresidents for Fort Bliss
Any active duty nonresident service member currently stationed at Fort Bliss will receive resident pricing on any draw hunts on the Fort Bliss military reservation.
Returning Iraq/Afghanistan resident veterans only oryx hunts
Once-in-a-lifetime draw hunts have been established for oryx in the White Sand missile area. This drawing is only available to veterans who served active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.
One time free game hunting and fishing license
New Mexico residents who are National Guard or a member of the Armed Forces and were called to active duty on or after April 3, 2003 are eligible for a one time free hunting and fishing combination license for the year following their deactivation and return to the state.
Nonresident disabled active duty and veteran licenses for rehabilitation enrollees
Nonresident active duty or veterans who are involved in a rehabilitation program that involves hunting are eligible to purchase tags for deer, elk, javelina, turkey, oryx or antelope at resident costs. The program must be sponsored by the federal government or be a nonprofit organization authorized by the federal government and it must be under the direction of a military or federal VA rehabilitation center.
Resident disabled veteran game hunting and fishing
Resident veterans who have a service-related disability of less than 100% are eligible to purchase a discounted hunting and fishing license for $10.
Disabled veteran requirements
Resident veterans with a disability rating of 100% due to service-connected injuries are granted a free lifetime hunting and fishing license.
Resident license price eligibility
Military personnel in the state on duty or leave are eligible to purchase non lottery licenses, such as fishing, small game or furbearer at resident prices.
Military deer gun licenses
North Dakota residents who are stationed out of state may receive a deer gun license without being subject to the license lottery. To qualify for this perk, a hunter must:
- Maintain North Dakota as your state of residence.
- You must be stationed outside of North Dakota.
- Fill out and send in a deer application with the following items: A check or money order for $30, a copy of your orders showing where you are stationed and a copy of a valid North Dakota driver's license or North Dakota non driver photo ID.
North Dakota residents who were on federal active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces under Title 10, stationed outside of the state during the previous year’s deer gun season, received the expeditionary medal or campaign badge and submitted an application and appropriate license fee by the deer gun application deadline are eligible for one whitetail deer gun license in the unit of their choice without having to participate in the lottery. Applications received after the deer gun deadline will be issued licenses based on availability.
Discounted licenses for active duty members
For Oregon residents who are currently active duty, hunting licenses can be purchased at half price. Nonresident active service members are able to purchase hunting, fishing and shellfish licenses at resident costs.
Controlled deer and elk tags for active members of Armed Forces on leave in Oregon
Oregon residents who are stationed out-of-state, but have returned to Oregon on leave can purchase controlled hunt tags for deer and elk. Each district can issue up to 20 each of deer, elk and bear tags. These tags are distributed on a first come, first served basis.
Disabled veterans license
Qualifying disabled veterans are eligible to receive a free combination and shellfish license. Additionally, qualifying persons are also eligible to purchase an elk tag for $25. To qualify for the disabled veteran’s license, individuals will have had to live in the state permanently for at least six months and have a disability rating of at least 25% due to service-connected injuries.
Disabled veteran and prisoner of war (POW) reduced fee hunting and fishing licenses
Any South Dakota resident who meets the following criteria may apply for a reduced priced hunting and fishing license:
- Can provide a copy of a letter from the VA indicating they have received the “K” award or they receive a veteran’s allotment for a 40% or greater disability, which is deemed a service-connected injury and will meet eligibility as established in state law SDCL 41-6-10.2. A current benefits letter from the VA will have the required information.
- Can provide a copy of a letter from the Social Security Administration indicating that they are receiving a 40% Social Security disability and verification that they have served on active duty in the Armed Forces or as a member of the Armed Forces Reserve or National Guard.
- Can provide a copy of the discharge papers verifying POW status
Special exclusions for residency eligibility
South Dakota offers several loopholes for members and their family members to claim residency in the state for the purpose of hunting and fishing. To meet the requirements, people must meet one of the following:
- Any person active in the active U.S. Military, or that person’s spouse, who is continuously stationed in the state.
- Any person who is a patient in any war veteran’s hospital within the state.
- Any person who is an employee of the VA or any veteran’s hospital in the state.
- Any person residing on restricted military reservations in the state.
Military general fishing and hunting license
Any resident who is on active duty in the U.S. Armed forces and is stationed at a location outside the state may fish and hunt small game without payment of a fee for the applicable hunting and fishing license.
Military big game licenses — active duty
Any person in the U.S. Armed Services who is absent from this state on active duty during the entire time for submitting applications and is otherwise qualified and a resident of South Dakota may apply for and will receive deer, turkey and antelope licenses. In addition, any spouse or dependant who was also absent from the state during the same timeframe is eligible for the same benefits.
Service members who are on permanent duty in Utah are granted residency for the purpose of purchasing licenses. This includes their dependents as well.
The Utah Division of Wildlife does not currently offer any DAV programs though they do extend some special inclusions for any residents with a recognized disability.
An active duty military member can receive resident rates even if they have a driver's license or identification card from another state. The member must provide documentation of their military ID and deployment papers showing they are stationed in Washington.
Washington allows active duty military members and spouses to have resident hunting and fishing licenses even if they have resident licenses in their home state.
Spouse and dependant perks
Active duty military spouses and dependents under age 18 can purchase licenses at resident rates. They must provide their military ID and their spouses/dependents deployment papers.
National and State Guard hunting licenses
Members of the Washington National or State Guard are eligible to receive a free annual hunting license package that will include deer, elk, bear and mountain lion licenses as well as a small game license and migratory bird permit. This program is available to Washington residents who are active, full-time members of the National and State Guard, or who will participate in drill training with these military units on a part-time basis.
Disabled veteran requirements
Disabled veterans — both resident and nonresident — are eligible for reduced tags if they meet any of the following criteria:
- Resident veterans with at least 30% service-connected disability as verified by VA letter.
- Resident veterans 65 years of age or older with a service-connected disability as verified by VA letter.
- Nonresident veterans with at least 30% service-connected disability as verified by VA letter.
- Nonresident veterans 65 years of age or older with a service-connected disability as verified by VA letter.
Any service member and their dependents who are permanently deployed to Wyoming for a period of 90 days are eligible to claim residency for the purpose of purchasing hunting tags, licenses and permits.
Active duty resident in combat zones license
Any Wyoming residents who are serving on active duty in a combat zone will be issued resident general elk, resident general deer, resident game bird/small game and resident daily fishing licenses when home on military leave.
Disabled veteran/U.S. Military Purple Heart medal recipient
Any veterans who have received a Purple Heart medal or are rated as 100% disability will be awarded a free lifetime game bird, small game and fishing license.
Donate a license
The holder of any valid big game license in Wyoming may choose to donate the license or permit back to the department for re-issuance to a disabled veteran. Qualifying veterans must be sponsored by a nonprofit charitable organization that provides hunting opportunities. The application for the donation can be found here. For a list of currently donated licenses, you can also visit this page.