The commonwealth of Virginia is home to a multitude of environments that are ideal for hunting and fishing. With the Appalachian Mountains to the west, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the river valleys in between, Virginia is a popular destination for recreational hunters and anglers.
Due to this popularity, Virginia institutes strict licensing laws to prevent over hunting and harvesting as well as fund conservation efforts. Failure to abide by these licensing laws is punishable by severe fines or even jail time. Individual licenses are needed to hunt, trap, fish in freshwater and fish in saltwater. Additional permits and tags also may be required for animals and hunting or fishing areas.
The state administers recreational licenses through the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF). Prospective hunters and anglers can apply for and purchase these licenses at any of the hundreds of licensing agents located throughout the state. Alternatively, licenses can be purchased online and printed out.
Virginia Hunting Licenses
Hunting licenses are required for any hunter older than 16 years of age. Hunters aged 12 to 15 years of age must obtain a junior hunting license, but hunters younger than 12 years old do not require one. Licenses are available to residents of Virginia, legal voters in Virginia, military service members stationed in Virginia, unnaturalized persons who own real estate in Virginia and have lived there for no less than five years and students enrolled in recognized Virginia schools. Equivalent non-resident hunting licenses exist but are more expensive.
Hunters do not need a hunting license if they are:
- Hunting on their private property or are a spouse, child, grandchild or parent of the landowner.
- Older than 65 years of age and hunting on private property in the city or county of their residence.
- Hunting on privately owned land and are tenants with written permission from the owner.
- An American Indian who is residing on reservation land in Virginia and is registered with a tribe.
- Stockholders owning at least 50 percent of a domestic corporation in Virginia hunting on property owned by said corporation.
A hunting license from the state of Virginia allows a hunter to hunt small game. However, the following additional licenses, permits and stamps are required should any hunter want to hunt the animal or hunt in the area covered under the jurisdiction of these add-ons.
- Deer/Turkey License: An additional license is required to hunt deer and turkey. Bag limits apply enforced via a tag system.
- Bear License: Functions like a Deer/Turkey license with a similar tag system.
- Archery License: Required to use a bow and restricted to designated archery seasons.
- Muzzleloader License: Functions like an archery license, applies to primitive weapons such as flintlock rifles. Restricted to a defined season.
- Bonus Deer Permit: Allows for the bagging of deer more than the tag limit put forth by the Deer/Turkey license. Restricted by daily bag limits as well as location prohibitions.
- National Forest, Virginia State Forest, Public Access Lands for Sportsmen Use Permit: Individual permits are required to access and hunt on these lands.
- Federal Migratory Duck Stamp: The federal government requires all hunters in the United States who wish to bag migratory waterfowl to buy this stamp.
- Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp: Required by the state to hunt migratory water fowl.
Any hunters in Virginia, licensed or exempt, must enroll in the Harvest Information Program (HIP) if they plan on hunting any migratory game bird in the state including doves, waterfowl, rails, woodcock, snipe, coots, gallinules or moorhens. This enrollment is in addition to any licenses, fees or stamps. This system keeps track of game birds harvested so that accurate population estimates can be made for conservation efforts.
Trapping Licenses in Virginia
A license is required to trap animals in the state of Virginia. Additionally, cities or counties may also require a separate trapping license to trap on their grounds. Exemptions and restrictions are similar to those applied to hunting licenses. However, trappers under the age of 16 are also exempt from the license if accompanied by a licensed trapper who is 18 years or older.
Virginia Fishing Licenses
Any angler 16 years or older must obtain a fishing license to fish in the state of Virginia. Resident requirements are identical to those of the hunting license. Exemptions for the fishing license are also identical with guests who are fishing in private ponds, residents who are over the age of 65 fishing in salt water and legally blind persons.
Equivalent non-resident licenses are also available at greater cost.
The DGIF requires separate licenses to fish in salt and fresh water, but also offer combination licenses at higher prices. The DGIF also sells a tidal boat license which entitles the owner of the vessel and any onboard guests to fish in salt and fresh water.
Some add-on licenses and permits may be required in addition to the fishing license and include:
- Trout Fishing License: Required to fish in designated trout stocked waters.
- Daily Permits: Some areas require a daily permit for access. These areas include Clinch Mountain, Crooked Creek and Douthat State Park Fee Fishing Areas.
- Nation Forest and Virginia State Forest Use Permits: Both require individual permits to access and fish on the grounds.
- County Dip Net Permit: Required to take shad, herring and mullet via dip net.