Big Game Regulations
Trophy Sheep - A male bighorn sheep with horns, one of which is of sufficient size that a straight line drawn from the most anterior point of the base of the horn to the tip of the horn extends beyond the anterior edge of the eye when viewed in profile.
Full-Curl Trophy Sheep - A male bighorn sheep with horns, one of which is of sufficient size that when viewed in profile, its tip extends upward beyond a straight line drawn from the rear-most point of the base of the horn to the centre of the nostril.
Study a ram carefully when determining its trophy status. Be sure to view the ram's head from a horizontal plane and in profile, with the front of the right and left horn bases aligned. Views from below, in front, or any other perspective other than "in profile" will not provide for accurate judgement. Some rams may not be legal even if they are old or have horns severely broomed or with turned up tips.
White-tailed Deer - Body colour grey to reddish brown, under body white. Tail large and bushy, brown on upper surface and white on lower surface. Tail often held erect and "flagged" when animal runs. Gait a series of short running dashes and bounds. Antlers have individual tines off main beams. Antlers present on males only.
Mule Deer - Body colour grey to brownish grey, under body white. Ears prominent; tail compact, rope-like, and black tipped; rump patch white. Tail held down when animal runs. Gait a series of stiff-legged bounds. Antlers branched and present on males only.
Three-point Elk - A male Elk bearing an antler that is composed of a main beam from which project not fewer than two tines, each of which is at least 7.6 cm (3 in.) in length.
Note: The tip of the main beam must be at least 7.6 cm (3 in.) from the base of the last tine counted.
Six-point Elk - A male Elk bearing an antler that is composed of a main beam from which project not fewer than five tines, each of which is at least 7.6 cm (3 in.) in length.
Note: The tip of the main beam must be at least 7.6 cm (3 in.) from the base of the last tine counted.
Cow - large, long nose and face; eyes appear close to top of head; rectangular body proportions; 1.8 m (6 ft.) high at the shoulders; may be found alone.
Calf - small, short nose and face; eyes appear more centered between tip of nose and top of head; squarish body proportions; 1.2 m (4 ft.) high at the shoulder; seldom seen found alone.
Antlered - A white-tailed deer, moose or elk having an antler exceeding 10.2 cm (4 in.) in length.
Antlerless - A white-tailed deer, moose or elk that is not "antlered" (as defined above)
Trophy Antelope - A male pronghorn antelope that has a horn at least 12.6 cm (5 in.) in length.
Non-trophy Antelope - A female pronghorn antelope or a male pronghorn antelope having horns not more than 7.6 cm (3 in,) in length.
Woodland Caribou - Woodland Caribou are classified as threatened animals in Alberta.
THERE IS NO OPEN SEASON FOR CARIBOU.
There is No Season for Grizzly Bear
Go to bearsmart.alberta.ca for more information on distinguishing black bears from grizzly bears.
In the case of moose, elk, deer, antelope, bison and non-trophy sheep the evidence of sex, species and class must remain attached to the carcass (cannot be surgically or otherwise removed) until:
- the carcass is delivered to a premises in respect of which there is a Food Establishment Permit issued under the Public Health Act or Licence for the Operation of an Abattoir issued under the Meat Inspection Act, or
- the carcass is cut up and packaged for consumption at:
- the usual residence of the person who killed the animal, or
- the usual residence (a residence that is neither a business premises nor attached to such a premises) of a resident of Alberta and that resident is in attendance.
The evidence of sex, species or class that must be retained is as follows:
- moose, elk, deer, antelope, bison and non-trophy sheep - attached to the same part of the animal to which the tag is affixed, one of the following:
- testicles, scrotum, or udder, and in the case of deer only, the completely haired tail, or
- the head with horns or antlers attached if the animal has horns or antlers, or
- the head (complete with the skin on it) if the animal has no horns or antlers,
and in addition
- the complete skull plate with horns or antlers intact must be retained with the carcass of the male antelope, male elk or male non-trophy sheep
- the complete head must be retained with the carcass of a calf moose harvested under authority of a Calf Moose Special Licence.
- cougar - one of the following attached to the skin and visible: in the case of a male, the scrotum in the case of a female, a teat or a portion of a mammary gland.
To retain the scrotum or udder, cut to one side of the scrotum or udder when opening the animal for gutting. If you skin your game, the scrotum or udder must remain attached to the portion of which the tag is affixed. If you remove testicles and penis, leave the entire scrotum intact. The meat will not be tainted.
Deboning: a hunter can debone a carcass while in the field and still follow the requirements described above for moose, elk, deer, antelope, bison and non-trophy sheep. It’s not necessary for the full hind quarter of meat to remain intact while still bearing the required evidence, provided that portion of the leg and tendon where the tag is attached also has the evidence of sex, species or class still attached to it.
NOTE: Antlered moose, elk and deer must NOT be tagged around the antler base. Please review the following instructions.
Immediately after killing a big game animal, the appropriate tag(s) must be affixed and securely locked to the animal as follows:
- trophy sheep, goat - one tag through the nostril and, as soon as the skin is removed from the skull, one tag around the lower bone of the eye socket leaving the horns and eye intact.
- moose, elk, deer, antelope, bison and non-trophy sheep - through the space between the bone and the tendon of a hind leg directly above the hock and around either the bone or the tendon.
- bear and cougar - to the skin.
Upon killing an animal, a partner must immediately inform the primary licence holder (and vice versa – if the primary licence holder kills the animal, he or she must immediately inform the partner) of the killing. The primary licence holder must, immediately upon arriving at the carcass, tag the animal in the normal fashion (click here for more information).
Tags must remain affixed until, in the case of
- trophy sheep, goat - the animal is registered (scroll down to view Compulsory Registration) and the skin is processed.
- moose, elk, deer, antelope, bison, non-trophy sheep or turkey - the carcass is delivered to: – a premises in respect of which there is a Food Establishment Permit issued under the Public Health Act or Licence for the Operation of an Abattoir issued under the Meat Inspection Act, – the usual residence of the person who killed the animal, or – the usual residence (a residence that is neither a business premises nor attached to such a premises) of a resident of Alberta and that resident is in attendance, and the carcass is cut up and packaged for consumption.
- bear and cougar - the skin is processed.
To tag your kill using the adhesive tag that comes with your licence, attach the wire loop to the animal as described above for various species and classes. Close and secure the loop by affixing the adhesive tag over the free ends of
Hunters are reminded that when big game (including boned meat) or game birds are taken to a business for butchering or other related processing services, there are requirements for the business to keep a record of the wildlife that has been submitted. This includes recording the date, the name and address of the person who delivered the wildlife, the name and address of the person who killed the wildlife and their wildlife certificate number or wildlife identification number (WiN), the number of the licence under whose purported authority the wildlife was killed, and (if applicable) the tag number, and a description of the wildlife that in the case of a big game animal includes its sex.
Note: The following applies to bowhunting other than with a cross-bow. Scroll down for information about hunting with cross-bows.
Except for the hunting of black bear, coyote, cougar or wolf under the circumstances as outlined under Access for Control of Livestock Predation, a Bowhunting Permit is required by anyone who hunts big game, game bird, wolf or coyote with a bow and arrow. Bowhunters with appropriate general or special licences may hunt during the general seasons, archery-only seasons and primitive weapon seasons. A Bowhunting Permit is required in combination with a big game licence. In some areas of the province, hunters require special licences to hunt certain species of big game – see season tables. A bowhunter who obtains an Antlered Moose Special Licence, Antlerless Moose Special Licence, Calf Moose Special Licence, Antlered Mule Deer Special Licence, Antlerless Mule Deer Special Licence, Antlered White-tailed Deer Special Licence, Antlerless White-tailed Deer Special Licence, Antlered Elk Special Licence, Antlerless Elk Special Licence or Landowner Special Licence may, if an early archery season is offered, hunt under the authority of that licence during the archery season but only in the WMU specified on the licence and only for the type and species of animal for which the licence was issued. Holders of a Landowner Special Licence are subject to the terms/conditions of their licence. Bowhunters are reminded that, in some situations, archery-only seasons for some species may be in progress at the same time as primitive weapon and rifle seasons for other species in the same WMU.
Persons hunting big game must use an authorized bow and an authorized arrow. An authorized bow is one that is held, drawn and released by muscular power and has a draw weight of not less than 18 kg (40 lb.). This is the number of kilograms (pounds) required to draw an arrow of 71 cm (28 in.) to its head. An authorized arrow is one that is not less than 61 cm (24 in.) in length that has a tip that bears a head that is not intentionally designed to resist being withdrawn after it has penetrated an object. Furthermore, it must either have a solid, sharp cutting head of at least 7/8 inch in width, or a head that, when the arrow impacts, opens to present sharp cutting edges at least 7/8 inch in width.
Hunters are asked to remove their tree stands at the end of the hunting seasons unless permission has been granted by the landholder to do otherwise.
Cross-bows may not be used to hunt big game during archery-only seasons. The only exception is for an eligible handicapped hunter who has obtained a cross-bow licence.
A Bowhunting Permit, as required by bowhunters using conventional archery equipment, is not required by persons who are hunting with cross-bows.
In accordance with federal regulations, cross-bows may not be used for waterfowl hunting.
Persons hunting big game with a cross-bow must use an authorized cross-bow and arrow (bolt). An authorized cross-bow is one that requires 100 pounds or more of pull to draw the string or cable to its cocked position. There is no restriction on arrow length, however it must have a tip that bears a head that is not intentionally designed to resist being withdrawn after it has penetrated an object. Furthermore, it must either have a solid, sharp cutting head of at least 7/8 inch in width, or a head that, when the arrow impacts, opens to present sharp cutting edges at least 7/8 inch in width.
After harvesting any of the animals listed below, a hunter or guide who has personally accompanied a Non-resident or Non-resident Alien hunter must register the kill at a Fish and Wildlife office within the specified time period. Where parts are required to be submitted, they must be submitted at the time the animal is registered in person by the hunter who killed the animal. Contact a Fish and Wildlife office for further information.
- Goat (the incisor bar must be submitted);
- Male sheep over 1 year of age (the complete unaltered skull with horns and eyes intact, and cape and lower jaw removed) to a designated Fish and Wildlife Office. See page 13 for Designated Offices for registering sheep. You must call ahead to arrange a time to complete the registration process;
- Cougar (the skull and skin must be submitted, complete with the evidence of sex attached and visible). A premolar tooth will be retained for aging.
- Bobcat (the skin must be submitted complete with the evidence of sex attached and visible);
Registration Deadlines – Deadlines for registering harvests are:
- Male sheep over 1 year of age – not later than 7 days after the close of the open season in which the animal was killed or 14 days after the date on which the animal was killed, whichever occurs first.
- Goat (NO SEASON FOR 2023) – not later than 14 days after the close of the open season in which the animal was killed or 30 days after the date on which the animal was killed, whichever occurs first.
- Cougar – if taken on privately owned land by a landowner or occupant, click here to see the requirements; if taken under a licence allocated to an outfitter, within 5 business days of the date of the kill; if taken under any other authority, within one business day following the date of the kill.
- Bison taken in WMU 536 or 539 (NO SEASON FOR 2023) – not later than the end of the fifth usual business day after the animal was killed.
- Bobcat – before the skin is sold, processed or exported from Alberta or before the expiration of the period of 30 days after the bobcat was killed, whichever event comes first.
Persons registering goat, sheep, bison, cougar, bobcat and wolf are required to provide the following information:
- species and sex of the animal,
- date and location of the kill.
As part of the registration process, trophy sheep horns will be fitted with a permanent identification marker. Fish and Wildlife has incorporated improvements to the sheep registration protocol which include the use of a new jig as well as allowing a Non-resident/Non-resident Alien hunter to have their guide register their ram on their behalf. Other animals may be marked in another manner or retained for examination.
Compulsory registration provides information about the relative numbers of males, females and young in big game populations. It also provides the dates and locations of the harvest. Age structure and sex ratios provide an indication of population productivity (how many young survive to become adults) and status (increasing, decreasing or stable). The population and harvest data can then be used to determine the harvest goals or quotas for following years. This valuable information, provided by hunters, is essential for managing cougar, goat, trophy sheep and wolves in Alberta.
It is a mandatory requirement to submit the heads of deer harvested from specific WMUs for CWD testing and research purposes within 30 days of when it was killed. Click here for details.
Summaries that include additional information on registering game animals taken under Constitutionally recognized hunting rights can be viewed at open.alberta.ca/publications/hunting-by-treaty-indians-in-alberta-rights-responsibilities
Trichinosis - To prevent possible trichinosis, a parasitic infection, bear and cougar meat should be thoroughly cooked before it is consumed by humans or pets.
If possible, cougars should be brought in for registration in an unfrozen condition so the premolar tooth can be removed. It is also helpful to prop the jaw open with a stick before rigor sets in.
Season Dates And Locations (click here for Month Abbreviations).
Non-trophy Sheep Special Licence
Areas 416, 418A*, 418B*, 418C*, 420, 422A*, 426A*, 430B*, 432, 434A*, 434B*, 437, 438A*, 438C*, 438D*, 440, 442, 444, 445A*, 445B*, 446 — S10 - O31
Areas (402 - 303, 306)*, 402 - 308*, 402A*, 404B*, 406A*, 406B*, 408A*, 408B*— S10 - O31
Area 410 — S10 - N30
* These areas comprise either a portion of one WMU or all of one WMU and a portion of an adjacent WMU. See descriptions in the 2023 Alberta Hunting Draws booklet.
Camp Wainwright Deer Special Licence (WMUs 728 and 730)
Bow and arrow or muzzle loader — N30 - D2
Rifle — D4 - D6*, D7 - D9*, D11 - D13*, D14 - D16*
*Refer to alberta.ca/WainwrightHunt for important information for hunters participating in the 2023 Camp Wainwright Hunt.
Antelope Archery Special Licence
WMUs 102, 104, 106, 108, 112, 116, 118, 119, 124, 128, 138, 140, 142, 144, 148, 150, 151, 152, 160, 162, 163, 164, 166 — S1 - S23
Trophy Antelope Special Licence
WMUs 138, 142, 144, 150, 151, 152, 160, 162, 163, 164, 166 — S25 - S30
WMUs 102, 104, 106, 108, 112, 116, 118, 119, 124, 128, 140, 148 — O16 - O21
Non-trophy Antelope Special Licence
WMUs 138, 142, 144, 150, 151, 152, 160, 162, 163, 164, 166 — S28 - S30, O2 - O4
WMUs 102, 104, 106, 108, 112, 116, 118, 119, 124, 128, 140, 148 — O19 - O21, O23 - O25
Either Sex Elk Special Licence
WMUs 728 and 730 — Bow and arrow or muzzle loader N30 - D2, Rifle D4 - D16
WMU 300 Elk Special Licence — S6 - O24, O25 - D24, D25 - F21, 2024
Refer to the 2023 Alberta Hunting Draws booklet for details on what seasons will be open and how to apply for special licences.
NOTE: It is unlawful, with the following exceptions, to allow the pelt of any furbearing animal to be wasted: It is not legally necessary to salvage pelts of 1) furbearing animals taken in accordance with regulations authorizing control of problem wildlife, or 2) coyotes harvested, by residents, outside of public lands in the Green Area.
A Resident may, without a licence, hunt (but not trap) timber wolf from the opening of any big game season in a particular WMU to May 31, 2024, or until June 15, 2024 in WMUs where black bear seasons are open until June 15, 2024.
A Non-resident or Non-resident Alien who holds a Non-resident/Non-resident Alien Wolf/Coyote Licence may hunt (but not trap) timber wolf from the opening of any big game season in a particular WMU to May 31, 2024, or until June 15, 2024 in WMUs where black bear seasons are open until June 15, 2024.
Coyote – A Resident, Non-resident or Non-resident Alien who holds a Non-resident/Non-resident Alien Wolf/Coyote licence may, except in WMUs 728 and 730, hunt (but not trap) coyote
a) throughout the year on privately owned land and on public land in the White Area, to which he or she has the right of access to hunt;
b) on public lands in the Green Area to which he or she has the right of access to hunt, from the opening day of a big game season in a particular WMU to May 31, 2024 or until June 15 if the hunting is in a WMU that has a spring season for black bear ending on that date.
In Camp Wainwright (WMUs 728 and 730) a Resident may hunt coyote from January 5, 2024 until March 1, 2024.
Baiting for Wolves and Coyotes - On public land, hunters cannot use bait for hunting wolves or coyotes except a) from Dec. 1 to Mar. 31, or b) during an open season for the hunting of black bear where the setting out, use and possession of bait for the purpose of hunting black bear is permitted.
Each wolf or coyote bait site must have a readily observable sign showing the owner’s name, WiN, Big Game Outfitter Permit Number, or Big Game Guide’s Designation Number.
These baiting restrictions do not apply to WMUs 102-166, to persons hunting under authority of a trapping licence, or on any private land.
A Resident may, without a licence and at all times of the year, hunt (but not trap) red fox on any privately owned land to which he or she has the right of access.
Red Squirrel and Badger
A Resident may, without a licence and at all times of the year, hunt or trap red squirrel and badger on any privately owned land to which he or she has the right of access.
A resident may, without a licence from November 1 - February 28, 2024, hunt (but not trap) bobcat in WMUs 102, 104, 106, 108, 112, 116, 118, 119 and in the portion of WMU 110 that lies east of highway 2 and south of highway 3. The use of dogs is prohibited. All kills must be registered at a Fish and Wildlife office.
Porcupine, rabbit, hare, raccoon and woodchuck may be hunted, but not trapped**, without a licence throughout the province, at all times of the year. Skunk may be hunted and trapped.
** Some exceptions apply. Please refer to the 2023 Alberta Guide to Trapping Regulations, available in September 2023.