North Carolina Hunting & Fishing
The services that the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission provides to the public are financed primarily through the sales of licenses, which include hunting, fishing, trapping and other licenses. The various types of licenses sold by the Commission differ with respect to the activities they authorize, where and when the activities occur, and where the license-holder resides. This section provides some general information about these licenses, followed by detailed summaries of the various licenses available, the privileges they authorize and the associated fees. All licenses are nontransferable.
You can purchase a license for immediate use in four ways as listed below. A $2 transaction fee may be applied to your total order at time of purchase.
- Visit a wildlife service agent—Most licenses, including lifetime licenses, can be obtained from your local wildlife service agent. Be prepared to present your valid driver license or state identification card.
- Visit ncwildlife.org—Most licenses are available for purchase online using a computer or mobile device.
- Phone 888-248-6834—Have a pen, paper, VISA or MasterCard, and NCWRC customer number handy.
- All licenses may be obtained directly from the Wildlife Resources Commission in person at NCSU Centennial Campus, 1751 Varsity Drive, Raleigh, N.C. or by mail at NCWRC, 1707 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1700.
Disabled licenses and permits are available to North Carolina residents and must be obtained directly from the Wildlife Resources Commission. The Commission does not honor disabled licenses or permits from other states. To learn more about disabled licenses or to obtain an application, visit ncwildlife.org, call 888-248-6834, or write NCWRC, 1707 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1700.
To replace a license that becomes worn, lost or destroyed, call 888-248-6834, go to ncwildlife.org, or visit a wildlife service agent. A $5 fee is charged for the replacement license. A $2 transaction fee may be applied to your total order at time of purchase.
For more information on licenses, obtaining license applications or obtaining a list of wildlife service agents nearest you, visit ncwildlife.org, or call 888-248-6834.
Reciprocal Fishing License Agreements
A reciprocal fishing license agreement is in effect between North Carolina and each of the states listed below. The agreement provides for the following: All statewide hook-and-line fishing licenses obtainable from either North Carolina or the respective state are honored on certain boundary waters as noted:
The agreement with Georgia covers fishing from boats not anchored to the shore or to a pier or boat dock connecting to the shore on Chatuge Reservoir including all tributaries that are accessible by boat from the main body of the reservoir.
The agreement with Tennessee covers the state-line portion of Slick Rock Creek and Calderwood Reservoir.
The agreement with Virginia covers boat fishing the Dan River east of the Union Street Dam in Danville, the Staunton River east of the mouth of Difficult Creek, and Kerr and Gaston reservoirs and their tributaries that are accessible by boat. The agreement also covers that portion of the New River between the confluence of the North and South forks of the New River in North Carolina (Alleghany County) and the confluence of the New and Little rivers in Virginia (Grayson County).
No reciprocal agreements exist between North Carolina and South Carolina that provide for honoring the other state’s fishing licenses on any boundary waters.
License Requirements and Exceptions
License Identification Requirements
To show entitlement to a license issued by the Wildlife Resources Commission, anyone exercising the privileges conveyed by the license shall carry a picture identification card and show it to any wildlife enforcement officer upon request. The picture identification card should include the license-holder’s correct name, address and date of birth. (A North Carolina Driver License or Department of Motor Vehicles identification card is acceptable.)
Residency Definitions and Requirements
You are considered a resident if you have resided in the state for six months or have been domiciled (established a permanent residence) for 60 days. When residency is used to establish eligibility applicants must complete a Certificate of Residency, available from a wildlife service agent or the Wildlife Resources Commission, certifying that they have maintained residence in a county of the state for at least 60 days with the intent to reside there permanently. Individuals claiming residency in another state cannot claim to be a resident in N.C. regardless of whether they own property, pay property tax, pay utility bills, etc., in N.C. Residency can only be established in one state.
Nonresident students may purchase a resident license while attending a university, college or community college in North Carolina. When purchasing your license from a wildlife service agent, you must show your valid student identification.
Military Stationed In N.C.
Nonresident members of the U.S. Armed Forces (including their spouses and children under 18) who are stationed in the state are deemed residents of the state and of the counties in which they reside for the purpose of purchasing resident licenses.
Military Stationed Outside N.C.
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty outside of North Carolina shall be deemed an individual resident of the State for the purpose of purchasing short-term and annual hunting, fishing and trapping licenses.
Nonresident status applies to anyone who does not live in the state of North Carolina, with the exceptions noted above (students and military).
Hunter Education Course Requirement
Except as specified below, on or after July 1, 2013, a person, regardless of age, may not purchase a hunting license in this state without producing one of the following, a hunter education certificate of competency, a N.C. hunting heritage apprentice permit, or a N.C. hunting license issued prior to July 1, 2013.
A person who wishes to purchase a lifetime license need not comply with the requirements above in order to purchase that license, so long as the person does not hunt unless they have successfully completed the hunter education course or they are accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age who is licensed to hunt in N.C. and that the licensed adult maintains a proximity to the hunter, which enables the adult to monitor the activities of the hunter by remaining within sight and hearing distance at all times without the use of electronic devices.
Hunter education courses are offered in all 100 counties and online with a required review and test day (field day) for completion. For more information visit ncwildlife.org/HunterEd, or write to the NCWRC Wildlife Education Division, 1712 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1700.
Hunting Heritage Apprentice Permit
This permit is free of charge and is required at the time a hunting license is purchased for those who have not held a N.C. hunting license prior to July 1, 2013 or who have not satisfactorily completed the hunter education course requirements. This permit authorizes the permittee to hunt if accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age who is licensed to hunt in this State, or if accompanied by an adult landholder or spouse exempted from the hunting license requirement as defined by law, provided the licensee is hunting on the landholder’s land. “Accompanied” means that the licensed adult maintains a proximity that enables the adult to monitor the activities of the apprentice by remaining within sight and hearing distance at all times, without use of electronic devices. This permit is valid only for the term of the hunting license purchased under the authority of the permit.
Big Game Harvest Report Card Requirement
Big game harvest report cards always expire on June 30 of each year. If your hunting license and big game hunting privilege license are still valid after the big game harvest report card expires, you may obtain a replenishment card from either the Wildlife Resources Commission or any wildlife service agent. Lifetime license-holders also may obtain the big game harvest report card by going online at ncwildlife.org/lifetime, calling 888-248-6834, or visiting a wildlife service agent. Persons exempt by law from the big game hunting license must obtain a “License-Exempt Big Game Harvest Report Card” for license-exempt hunters from a wildlife service agent or by calling 888-248-6834. Replenish and exempt big game harvest report cards are issued at no charge when obtained directly from the Wildlife Resources Commission. Those issued at a wildlife service agent location are subject to a $2 transaction fee. For more information on license exceptions, refer to the “Exceptions to License Requirements” section. Authorization numbers for big game animals, taken prior to receiving the big game harvest report card via the mail (when license is purchased by telephone), must be recorded and available for inspection. Once the harvest report card is received by mail, the big game kill authorization number must be recorded on the harvest report card and the card validated for the appropriate animal. For more information on big game reporting, refer to the “Big Game Harvest Reporting”.
Bear Management E-Stamp
Hunters must procure a Bear Management E-Stamp before taking any bear within the state. Individuals who purchased a lifetime license with big game privileges prior to July 1, 2014 and those individuals exempt from the hunting license requirement, unless otherwise specified, may obtain a Bear Management E-Stamp at no charge when obtained directly from the Wildlife Resources Commission. Those issued at a wildlife service agent location are subject to a $2 transaction fee. Bear Management E-Stamps may be purchased from July 1 until the close of bear season and expire on June 30 of each year. For more information on the Bear Management E-Stamp, refer to Privilege Licenses, Stamps & Certifications.
HIP Certification Requirement
All licensed hunters hunting migratory game birds (doves, rails, woodcocks, gallinule, snipes or waterfowl) in North Carolina are required to have a certificate of participation in the federal Harvest Information Program (HIP). This certification can be obtained by going online at ncwildlife.org, calling 888-248-6834, or visiting a wildlife service agent. HIP certifications are issued at no charge when obtained directly from the Wildlife Resources Commission. Those issued at a wildlife service agent location are subject to a $2 transaction fee. Persons exempt by law from the hunting license requirement are not required to obtain the HIP certification.
Federal Duck Stamp
In addition to the North Carolina waterfowl privilege, waterfowl hunters 16 years of age and older are required to carry on their person the federal duck stamp, signed in ink across the face. The federal duck stamp expires June 30 of each year. Stamps may be ordered from July 1 to April 1 each year online at ncwildlife.org, by calling 888-248-6834, or visiting a wildlife service agent. At the time of purchase, the customer will be provided a proof-of-purchase receipt for a Federal Duck E-Stamp which authorizes the same privileges as the physical duck stamp for up to 45 days or until the physical stamp is received in the mail. Refer to Privilege Licenses, Stamps & Certifications for more information.
Exceptions to License Requirements
- A landowner or person leasing land primarily for cultivation, their spouse, and dependents under 18 residing with them, may hunt, trap and fish on such land without a license.
- A resident of this state who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces serving outside N.C., or who is on full-time military duty outside the state in a reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces is exempt from hunting, inland and coastal fishing license requirements while on leave in this state for 30 days or less. When hunting or fishing under this exemption you must carry, on your person, your military ID card and a copy of the official document confirming you are on leave from a duty station outside of N.C. Individuals hunting bear must purchase a “Bear Management E-Stamp.” You must also comply with all reporting and hunter safety requirements as mandated by the Commission and purchase a federal duck stamp if waterfowl hunting.
Individuals exempt from the requirements of a hunting license must obtain a “License-Exempt Big Game Harvest Report Card” when hunting deer, bear or wild turkey. Those hunting bear must also obtain a “Bear Management E-Stamp.”
Individuals exempt from hunting and fishing license requirements must adhere to designated seasons and limits.
Hunting and Trapping
- Youth under age 16 are exempt from the requirement of a hunting license provided they comply with the following:
- Youth who have not obtained a Certificate of Competency showing their completion of the hunter safety course must be accompanied by a properly licensed adult when hunting.
- Youth who have obtained a Certificate of Competency, may hunt without being accompanied by an adult, but must carry their certificate while hunting.
- Youths exempt from the hunting license requirement must obtain a “License-Exempt Big Game Harvest Report Card” when hunting deer, bear or wild turkey.
- Youth hunting bear must also obtain a “Bear Management E-Stamp.”
- Youth under age 16 are exempt from the requirement of a trapping license.
- Youth under age 16 are exempt from the requirement of any fishing license and trout privilege license.
- The game lands license is not required to fish in any waters on game lands or Wildlife Conservation Areas.
- An inland fishing license is not required to fish in a private pond. A private pond is a body of water arising within and lying wholly upon the lands of a single owner or a single group of joint owners or tenants in common, and from which fish cannot escape, and into which fish of legal size cannot enter from public waters at any time. A pond or lake located on land owned by a public body such as a state-supported university or a governmental entity is not a private pond.
- July 4th is declared “Free Fishing Day,” and a fishing license and trout privilege license are not required in any public waters, including coastal waters, on this date.
- Residents with a valid Unified Subsistence Inland/Coastal Recreational Fishing License Waiver are exempt from the requirement of a basic inland (does not include trout fishing) and coastal recreational fishing license.