What Group Sets Hunting Regulations in Most States?

Shooter sighting in the target

If you are new to hunting, you may be wondering, “What group sets hunting regulations in most states?” The answer to this question is the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). In this article, we will look at the Wildlife Management Agency’s history, responsibilities, and participation in state hunting regulations.

What is the Wildlife Management Agency?

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service sign

The USFWS is the federal department that manages the fish, wildlife, and natural habitats within the United States. Their goal as a department is to work “with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.”

In more plain language, the USFWS aims to preserve wildlife by working with more local agencies to look at the plants, animals, and geography of the nation.


The USFWS came about in 1871 and was referred to as the United States Commission on Fish and Fisheries. It was created by Congress to study and recommend solutions to the decline of food fish.

In 1896, the first division of the U.S. Commission on Fish and Fisheries created its first division, which focused on birds as pest-controllers. The department continued its work by looking at the geographical distribution of plants and animals.

In 1934, Congress passed the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. With this act, the USFWS began monitoring and protecting natural habitats around the nation.

Since then, the USFWS has incorporated tribal or Native American scientists into the discussion of wildlife preservation. This Native American presence has increased the respectability of traditional ecological knowledge.


The USFWS is responsible for conserving and preserving U.S. wildlife. This causes them to manage around 150 million acres of land, but there is a lot of U.S. land not under their jurisdiction as well.

Here are the USFWS’ most pressing responsibilities:

  • Set and enforce wildlife laws
  • Protect endangered species
  • Manage migratory birds
  • Restore nationally significant fisheries
  • Conserve and restore natural habitats
  • Help other nations with conservation
  • Distribute funds among the states’ wildlife agencies

Hunting Regulations

Hunting Warning Road Sign

A major priority of the USFWS is to set and enforce wildlife laws. These laws often relate to hunting restrictions. A few restrictions placed on hunting include the following:

  • Licensure: The USFWS does not distribute hunting or fishing licenses, but they require their use. You can get a hunting or fishing license through state wildlife agencies.
  • Refuge hunting: Hunting refuges are designed to protect and conserve wildlife habitats. Hunting on refuges allows hunters to help regulate the number of animals to prevent overpopulation, which destroys habitats.
  • Hunting seasons: There are only certain times when you can hunt. The hunting season depends on the state and animal type.
  • Bagging limits: There is a limit to the number of animals that can be killed. The purpose of the bagging limit is to prevent the overhunting of animals.

If you are caught violating any laws, even accidentally, you will be fined or prosecuted. You, as the hunter, are fully responsible for knowing and abiding by every restriction and regulation. Claiming ignorance is not a viable answer when caught violating laws.

The degree of punishment depends on the number of convictions and the severity of the violation. Here are some standard punishments for first offenses:

  • Hunting without a license or during a closed season can lead you to be fined a minimum of $250. You could also have your hunting privileges revoked for a year or more.
  • If you exceed the daily limit, you will lose your hunting privileges for a minimum of three years.
  • You can be fined up to $1,000, imprisoned for a maximum of one year, or both if you have a class 1 misdemeanor hunting law violation.

Once again, the punishment depends on the violation and number of violations on your record. The more violations you have, the harsher the punishment. Always check your local regulations for specific punishments for committing a hunting law violation.

How are Hunting Laws Passed?

In the United States, hunting regulations are passed on the federal and state level.

Wildlife agencies pass hunting regulations for states. They work with the USFWS and community advisors to determine what areas need more protection or regulation. The agencies and community advisors often host meetings where community members can voice concerns or irritants.

Once the community advisors and wildlife agencies have agreed upon desired changes, the agencies begin to set new regulations. The regulations they set are always in accordance with the USFWS.

The USFWS determines its laws based on animal and wildlife protection needs. They base these needs off statistical data and scientific evidence.

What are the Laws?

Laws vary from state to state. As a result, you need to do research before hunting. You are held responsible for violation breaches even if you were unaware of the restriction.

You can check your local laws and regulations by looking at state publications, wildlife agency websites, hunting guides, mapping software, or agency personnel.  Typical hunting laws include the following:

  • Licensure requirements
  • Permitted hunting equipment
  • Permitted animals for hunting
  • Hunting seasons
  • Bagging limits


What group sets hunting regulations in most states? The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) helps to set and enforce wildlife laws. Before hunting, you will want to check both federal and local laws to protect yourself from potential violations.