I Want to Hunt - How Do I Start?

Let’s start at the very beginning—going back to school and doing the paperwork. Don’t let this deter you, as these steps will teach you a lot and give you confidence in your new ambition. As a resident of Alberta, here are the first four things you need to do: 

Step 1: Take the Hunter Education Course

The Alberta Hunter Education Course is a provincial requirement for all first-time hunters in Alberta. The course covers hunting ethics, wildlife identification, firearms, and field techniques. Alberta Hunter Education Instructors Association (AHEIA) currently offers the course online. The instructors have years, if not decades, of experience and the hands-on training is invaluable—especially if firearms and hunting are completely new to you.

Find out more at aheia.com or call the AHEIA office in Edmonton (780-466-6682) or Calgary (403-252-8474).

Step 2: Take the Canadian Firearms Safety Course

The Canadian Firearms Safety Course is a federal requirement for you to apply for a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL). The course teaches the safe use, transportation and storage of firearms and ammunition. Once you pass the written and practical exams, you can apply for your PAL.

Find out more at aheia.com or call the AHEIA office in Edmonton (780-466-6682) or Calgary (403-252-8474).

Step 3: Apply for a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL)

A Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) is a federal requirement for you to possess a firearm and obtain ammunition. You submit your application to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). An application form is usually provided to you at the end of the Canadian Firearms Safety Course or you can apply online at www.rcmp.gc.ca.

Alternative Step: Purchase and Practice Bow or Crossbow

If you want to jump into hunting a bit quicker by skipping steps 2 and 3 for firearms—or if you are not interested in owning a firearm—a bow or crossbow may be for you. In Canada, bows and crossbows are not classified as firearms and can be acquired or sold by anyone over 18 years old.

Some of the regulations are different for hunting with a bow or crossbow in Alberta. For example, crossbows are legal for all hunting seasons except archery-only seasons, certain exceptions apply. Find more details about hunting with bows and crossbows in the Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations.

Step 4: Purchase a Wildlife Identification Number (WIN)

Your Wildlife Identification Number (WIN) is like your Social Insurance Number for the Alberta hunting and fishing community. You will use your 10-digit number to apply for hunting draws and purchase hunting licences in Alberta, whether you are hunting with a bow, crossbow, shotgun, or rifle. You can purchase your WIN card online at www.albertarelm.com or from licence issuers, such as an outdoor retailer or gas station.

With these two courses completed and a PAL and WIN card in your wallet, your next step is to consider what method of hunting works for you. Check out the next article in our Start Harvesting series: Shotgun, Rifle, or Bow?