In this section
As of January 1, 2020, all Resident and Non-Resident hunters are required to take government-issued Hunter Education training prior to being issued a hunting licence in the Northwest Territories (NWT), under the Wildlife Act. For more information, or to take the course, visit NWT Hunter Education.
If you are an Aboriginal harvester with rights to harvest in the NWT, you:
- do not need a licence to harvest in areas of the NWT in which you have a right to harvest.
- need a General Hunting Licence (GHL) to harvest in areas of the NWT in which, subject to land claim agreements, you do not have a right to harvest.
If you are an Aboriginal harvester who does not have traditional harvesting rights in the NWT, you:
- need a resident or non-resident hunting licence and must follow the seasons, bag limits and other conditions laid out in the regulations for their particular licence.
If you are a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant living in the NWT for 12 continuous months, you need a Resident Hunting Licence.
If you are a resident and temporarily move outside the NWT for less than 12 months, you are still considered a resident as long as you intend to return to the NWT once within that timeframe.
If you are Canadian citizen or landed immigrant who lives outside the NWT or has not resided in the NWT for 12 months, you need a Non-resident Hunting Licence.
If you are not a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant, you need a Non-resident Alien Hunting Licence.
Non-NWT residents must follow the seasons, bag limits and other conditions laid out in the regulations for the non-resident licence.
Non-NWT residents must use the serviced of a licensed NWT outfitter and guide to hunt big game.
Resident and non-NWT resident hunters need a wildlife tag(s) in addition to their hunting licence.
In some wildlife management areas, Aboriginal harvesters and General Hunting Licence holders also require tags/authorizations for certain species of big game. Wildlife tags are issued for each species. The tags must be attached to the animal immediately after the kill.
Non-NWT residents must use the serviced of a licensed NWT outfitter and guide to hunt big game.
All youth under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult harvester while hunting.
The minimum age to obtain a hunting licence is 12 years old. Youth under 18 must have the consent of a parent or guardian to obtain a licence, and must be accompanied by an adult harvester while hunting. Both the person who consents to the hunting licence and the person accompanying a young harvester are legally responsible for the young harvester’s actions.
Resident youth can hunt without a licence in the NWT, under the authority of an adult harvester who is entitled to hunt in the NWT. The youth must have the consent of a parent or guardian and is subject to the terms and conditions that apply to the adult they are hunting with. Anything harvested by the young harvester will be counted against the bag limit of the person supervising them.
Non-resident and non-resident alien youth must have a hunting licence, tags, and be accompanied by a person who is eligible for and holds a valid NWT hunting licence.
The minimum age to obtain a hunting licence is 12 years old. Youth under 18 must have the consent of a parent or guardian to obtain a licence, and must be accompanied by an adult harvester while hunting.
Some land claim agreements provide an exclusive right to harvest wildlife in certain areas. Anyone without a recognized right to harvest in these areas under the land claim agreement requires permission from the land claimant organization to harvest there.
Some land claim agreements include an exclusive right for beneficiaries to harvest furbearers in certain areas. Non-beneficiaries must have permission from the land claim organization in order to harvest the following small game:
- ground squirrel, red squirrel, marmot, and hare in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region
- ground squirrel, red squirrel, and marmot in the Gwich’in Settlement Area
- red squirrel and marmot in the Sahtu Settlement Area
- woodchuck and red squirrel on Tłįchǫ lands
All other seasons, bag limits, tag requirements and conditions in the big game, small game and trapping regulations remain the same for licensed hunters.
Whether you are a resident of the NWT or not, you must carry and show your licence and tags at all times.
If you are an Aboriginal harvester in the NWT, you must carry and show identification proving a right to harvest in the area in which you are hunting. Otherwise, your hunting licence and wildlife tags must be carried with you when hunting.
An agreement is being worked on with Indigenous organizations for the type of identification you should use.
Harvesting and possession limits are outlined in the NWT Summary of Hunting and Trapping Regulations.
If you are an Aboriginal harvester, follow the limits on harvesting barren-ground caribou, grizzly bears, muskox, polar bear and wood bison by Aboriginal or treaty rights holders outlined in the Wildlife Act and Regulations that were put in place for conservation reasons.
Other seasons and limits in the Act and Regulations do not apply if you are a harvester exercising an Aboriginal or treaty right to harvest.
If you are a resident, non-resident or non-resident alien hunter, you must have a hunting licence to hunt small game.
To hunt big game, resident, non-resident or non-resident alien hunters also need a wildlife tag(s) in addition to their hunting licence. In some wildlife management areas, Aboriginal harvesters and General Hunting Licence holders also require tags/authorizations for certain species of big game. Wildlife tags are issued for each species. The tags must be attached to the animal immediately after the kill.
Muskox tag allocations
Muskox tags are available to residents for Muskox Wildlife Management Area S/MX/01 and U/MX/01 through a yearly draw.
Applications for the yearly draw are available after April 1 from local and regional ECC offices. Applications must be postmarked before May 15 and received before the draw date. The draw will be held each year before June 1. Tags will not be awarded to a person that has received a tag for any of the previous four seasons. For more information, please contact your local or regional Environment and Climate Change office.
Wood Bison tag allocations
Resident hunters with a current NWT bison tag are eligible to harvest one bison (either sex) in Bison Management Unit U.
Harvesters have to carry their bison tag while hunting and must submit a harvest report to ECC regardless of success.
Resident hunters with a tag to hunt wood bison in Unit U (Slave River Lowlands herd) must complete a Resident Hunter Mandatory Bison Hunt Report Form. Hunter information provided in the report helps improve wildlife management.
Wood Bison in Management Area D/WB/05
Resident hunters with a current wood bison tag are eligible to harvest one bison (male only) in Management Area D/WB/05.
Annually, there are seven wood bison tags available to GHL/resident hunters at local First Nations Acho Dene Koe Band (Fort Liard) and Nahanni Butte Dene Band (Nahanni Butte).
Harvesters require written approval from a local First Nation and must carry their wood bison tag while hunting a male bison in this management area. Please remember to report your bison harvest to a local or regional ECC office. See the Summary of NWT Hunting Regulations for more information.
Both NWT residents and non-residents require an outfitter to hunt big game (but not small game). Outfitters provide licensed guides for the hunters they serve.
For information on outfitters in the NWT:
During hunting season, Government of the Northwest Territories Renewable Resource Officers inspect hunters for compliance with hunting regulations at check points, border crossings and in hunting areas throughout the territory.
The minimum standards for ammunition and equipment for hunting big game are:
- At least .30 calibre ammunition to hunt wood bison
- At least .222 calibre ammunition to hunt wolf and wolverine in all areas of the NWT
- At least .243 calibre ammunition to hunt all other types of big game
- Minimum requirement of 2,800 joules of energy at the muzzle for polar bears
- Draw weight for bows must be at least 20 kg at 700 mm draw and arrows must have a broadhead point width of at least 25 mm at the widest point or a barbless three-bladed bodkin head
- Standards for crossbow use are a draw weight of at least 68 kg at 700 mm with a bolt weight of at least 16.2 kg and at least a 2.2 cm diameter cutting broadhead
There are several ways you can legally possess game meat and other wildlife parts.
You can lawfully harvest it yourself, receive it from someone else who lawfully harvested it or you can get a permit for possession.
As a licensed hunter, you can possess all the meat and wildlife parts you legally harvest. If you are a resident, non-resident or non-resident alien hunter, you must keep your tags and licence as proof of legal possession until all meat is consumed. You may not sell your meat without a permit or commercial tag.
All hunters can sell, trade or gift the inedible parts of wildlife they have lawfully harvested under the authority of a licence.
The provisions of land claim agreements govern the exchange of meat and wildlife parts by land claim beneficiaries.
For more information, please contact a local or regional Environment and Climate Change office.
You can receive a gift of meat of wildlife from a person who lawfully harvested it. Where a gift of meat weighs 5 kg or more, you must make sure the meat is labelled or get a receipt, containing specific information as outlined in the Regulations.
Recipients of gifts of meat less than 5 kg are encouraged to label their packages with the harvester’s name and identification or licence number. While this is not a requirement, it will protect you from being charged with unlawful possession of wildlife if you have more than one package of gifted meat.
You do not need a permit to possess wildlife parts that have been tanned, preserved by a taxidermist or manufactured into food, clothing, jewelry or art.
You do not need a permit to possess the following parts:
- naturally shed antlers of caribou, elk, deer or moose
- porcupine quills
- feathers of birds or other inedible parts of ptarmigan or grouse
- owl pellets or feces from other species
- road-killed small game
- hooves unless certification is needed
- hides or pelts of wildlife other than furbearers unless certification is needed
- bones, including skulls with antlers or horns attached, unless certification is needed
All non-resident and non-resident alien hunters must obtain an export permit before exporting meat or any part of big game. Resident hunters do not require an export permit to export wildlife they have legally harvested. Gifts of meat require an export permit if they exceed 10 kg.
Anyone exporting wildlife is encouraged to check the requirement of the jurisdiction the wildlife is being exported into as an export permit may be required by the receiving jurisdiction. Wildlife parts must be presented for inspection when the export permit is being obtained. Permits will not be issued after the items have been exported.
There is no fee for an export permit. However, non-resident and non-resident alien hunters are required to pay a harvest fee when big game has been successfully harvested regardless of export.
A permit is required before exporting Dall’s sheep horns from the NWT. Other species that may require an export permit are: birds of prey, bison, grizzly bear, polar bear and muskox.
Please contact a local or regional Environment and Climate Change office for more information.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) was established to control the import and export of species considered rare or endangered. A CITES permit is required for all parts of the following big game species leaving Canada: grizzly bears, black bears, polar bears, wood bison and wolf.
You must have a CITES permit for these harvested animals before they leave Canada. Many countries have restrictions on the importation of certain species of wildlife. To avoid confiscation of items, check the regulations with a wildlife or customs agency of the country into which you plan to import.
Some exemptions allow an individual to export or import some tourist souvenir items acquired during the trip, if the item is part of the individual’s clothing, accessories or personal accompanied baggage. The item must not be for commercial purposes and cannot be sold or disposed of within 90 days after the date of import or export.
CITES permits are available online from Environment Canada (www.ec.gc.ca). It may take up to 80 calendar days for processing to obtain a CITES permit, so apply well in advance. As CITES permits regulate the export of wildlife from Canada rather than the NWT, you may also need an NWT wildlife export permit.
You can kill wildlife without a permit or licence to prevent starvation and to defend life or property. You must report any wildlife killed for these reasons to a Renewable Resource Officer:
- Report the wounding or killing to an officer as soon as you can and provide details including your name, date, time, location, species, amount and any other related information requested by an officer.
- Follow the direction of an officer.
- If reasonable, submit big game killed in defense of life or property to an officer.
- Do not keep any part of big game or prescribed wildlife that is killed in defense of life or property.
- If you accidentally kill or seriously wound big game with a motorized vehicle, you must report the accident to an officer within 24 hours and provide your name, date, time, location, amount of wildlife killed or seriously wounded, species and any other related information requested by an officer.
There are different types of licences required to harvest in the NWT, depending on where you live, what game you are after, and whether you are an Aboriginal harvester.
Additional permission, permits or licences may be required, depending on where you live, what you plan to hunt, and what you intend to do with your harvest.
For more detailed information, see:
NWT Summary of Hunting and Trapping Regulations (NWT Hunting Guide)
Special harvester licence fact sheet
Harvesting wildlife on private lands fact sheet
Trapping in the NWT fact sheet
Exporting wildlife from the NWT fact sheet