Understanding licensing requirements is an essential skill for all Alberta resident hunters. But let’s be honest: if you’re an Albertan new to hunting, licences can be confusing. Here are the basic concepts to boost your confidence next time you read the Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations. And if you don’t know, just ask! Contact your Fish and Wildlife District Office or the toll-free information centre at 1-877-944-0313.
Think of wildlife certificates as the first building block in the licensing system. You must purchase a Wildlife Certificate before the licensing system allows you to purchase any other licence. Purchase your Wildlife Certificate at a licence issuer, or online by creating an account at www.AlbertaRELM.com.
Look to the Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations to determine the licences you need for the big game species you want to hunt. If the species and Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) only require a general licence, you can purchase that directly. But for many big game species and WMUs, you must enter a draw or lottery for a limited number of special licences (limited-entry draws restrict the number of licences given out for a species in a specific location). Draw applications are in June, with results available in July for the fall season. Only if you are successfully drawn can you purchase the special licence.
To purchase general or special licences online at www.AlbertaRELM.com, you must have a pre-numbered Government of Alberta paper tag and wire. You need the number on the paper tag when you purchase the licence. You can call 1-888-944-5494 to have online tags mailed to you, or you can pick up tags up at Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge locations found here.
The only other licence consideration when hunting big game animals is whether you intend to hunt with a bow and arrow. If you want to harvest an animal with archery tackle, you need a Bowhunting Permit.
Learn more about draws in our article, Understanding Hunting Draws.
The Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations outlines the licences required for different game birds. As an Alberta resident you must get a Resident Game Bird licence to hunt grouse, ptarmigan, partridge, ring-necked pheasant and Merriam’s turkey. Note that if you want to hunt pheasant, you require an additional Resident Pheasant licence. Both the Resident Game Bird and Resident Pheasant licences can be purchased directly (no draw required). Merriam’s turkey, on the other hand, is awarded only through a limited-entry draw. If you are successful in the draw, you can then purchase the Merriam’s Turkey Special Licence and the required Resident Game Bird licence.
Everything we’ve listed so far are provincial licences, but hunters interested in harvesting migratory waterfowl need a Federal Migratory Game Bird Permit and a Conservation Stamp too. You can purchase these at a post office, certain licence issuers or online at www.permis-permits.ec.gc.ca.
Alberta is one of the few jurisdictions that require the Resident Game Bird licence for spring snow goose seasons. With the timing of the seasons, you may be required to have licences for two different fiscal years. Double check before you go!
Purchasing hunting licences in Alberta is part of wildlife management, and also a major funding source for conservation. So buy lots and go often!
Do you need a special licence for the species and WMU you want to hunt? If so, you need to enter into the draw system. We walk you though the process in the next article in our Start Harvesting series: Understanding Hunting Draws. If you don’t need to enter a draw, next up is Finding a Hunting Mentor.