Everything you need to know before you start hunting from licences to properties
Australia is a great country for hunting. There aren’t just well-known pest animals like wild pigs and rabbits in Australia but also large numbers of deer including delicious sambar, fallow, rusa and chital (axis deer). There are even large red deer and wapiti (elk)!
To hunt these beautiful animals in Australia you’ll need a few things first. You’ll need a firearms licence and you’ll need to join a hunting club (or at least a shooting club depending on your licence) and then you’ll need a place to hunt, which will also require a game licence in most cases. You’ll also need a firearm and some gear.
Table of contents
- Getting a firearms licence and permit in Australia
- Getting a game licence
- Finding a property or land to hunt on
- Buying a firearm
- Next steps
1. Getting a firearms licence in Australia
Each state has its own process for getting a firearms licence in Australia, but they are very similar. Here’s a basic outline of getting a firearms licence in Australia plus some eligibility criteria:
- You must satisfy the eligibility criteria e.g be over 18 years of age (unless applying for a minor’s permit which has other conditions and a minimum age of 12) and be a “fit and proper” person
- You must have a genuine reason for wanting a licence (more on that below)
- You must provide identification documents
- You must pay a fee
- You must complete a firearms safety course (this is either before you submit you application in some states e.g NSW and VIC, or after you receive approval in other states e.g SA).
You can get the full details of each state’s firearm licence process on the relevant websites below:
As part of the application process there may also be background checks required. In NSW for example, the following will exclude you from a licence:
- Having an AVO or being within 10 years from the expiry of an AVO unless it’s been revoked
- Having a good behaviour bond
- Having a firearms or weapons prohibition order
- Being registrable under the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000
- Being convicted of specific offences within the last 10 years e.g fraud, stealing, affray etc.
As mentioned above, you’ll need a genuine reason for wanting a firearms licence, one of which is recreational hunting. The full list of genuine reasons includes:
- Target shooting
- Recreational hunting or vermin control
- Primary production
- Pest animal control
- Animal welfare
- Firearms collectors
- Rural occupation
Each genuine reason has requirements which are listed on the respective state website.
To support getting a licence for hunting, you’ll generally need to become a member of a hunting club, own or live on rural land, have permission to shoot on someone’s rural land or have permission from the government. For the purposes of this guide, let’s say you’re a NSW-licensed shooter and don’t have access to your own land. In this case, you’ll need to become a member of a hunting club.
After becoming a member, you’ll need to participate in at least two hunting club events during every “compliance period” which is the 12 months that the hunting club decides on.
The DPI website has a great list of hunting clubs across the country.
Next you’ll need to decide the category of licence for your firearms licence. For everyone excluding firearms dealers and collectors this includes A, B, C, D, and H categories. Here’s what’s in each category taken from the NSW Police Force website:
|A||Air rifles, rimfire (except self loading), shotguns (except pump action, lever loading or self loading), shotgun and rimfire combinations|
|B||Muzzle-loading guns, centre-fire rifles, shotgun and centre-fire combinations, lever action shotguns (with magazines of no more than 5 rounds)|
|C||Self-loading rimfire rifles with magazines of no more than 10 rounds, self-loading shotguns with magazines no more than 5 rounds and pump action shotguns with magazines of no more than 5 rounds|
|D||Self-loading centre-fire rifles, self-loading rimfire rifles with a magazines of over 10 rounds, self-loading shotguns with magazines of over 5 rounds, pump action shotguns with magazines of over 5 rounds, lever-action shotguns with magazines of over 5 rounds|
|H||Pistols (including air pistols and blank fire pistols)|
Source: NSW Police Force
You’ll also need to complete a safety training course run by an accredited club or person. This includes both theoretical and practical components.
Some of the basic safety rules include those of the National Firearms Safety Code:
- Treat every gun as if it’s loaded
- Always points guns in a safe direction
- Only load a gun when you’re ready to shoot
- Keep your finger off the trigger unless you’re ready to shoot
- Identify your target beyond all doubt
- Check your firing zone
- Never store a firearm and ammunition together and ensure they’re safely stored
- Avoid drugs and alcohol when using firearms
- Never fire at hard surfaces including water
- Never climb fences or obstacles with loaded firearms
Depending on the state you might need to complete this course before or during the application process. The relevant state website listed above will have the exact details to follow.
In any case, to complete your application you’ll need to include proof of completion of your course, proof of your identity, proof of your genuine reason and payment of the fee.
Application fees differ depending on the state. Here’s a quick summary:
Source and more information: NSW Police Force
|Category||Fees for a natural person|
|Longarm Category A (5 years)||$237.00|
|Longarm Category A/B (5 years)||$273.80|
|Longarm Category C (3 Years)||$164.30|
|Category D (3 Years)||$157.50|
|Longarm Category E (3 Years)||$157.50|
Source: Victoria Police
|Licence or renewal fee per year||$34.60|
Source: Queensland Police
|Original issue (1 year)||$263.00|
|Renewal (1 year)||$55.00|
|Additional firearm application fee||$184.00|
Source: Western Australia Police Force
|1 year licence or renewal||$85.00|
|3 year licence or renewal||$223.00|
|5 year licence or renewal||$354.00|
Source: South Australia Police
|Categories A, B and H Licence (5 years)||$142.20|
|Categories A, B and H Licence (3 years)||$101.12|
|Category C Licence (5 years)||$142.20|
|Category C Licence (3 years)||$101.12|
|Category C Licence (12 months or less)||$41.08|
|Category D Licence||$41.08|
Source: Tasmania Police
|Category A B (10 years)||$213|
|Category C (5 years)||$213|
|Category C with A B (5 years)||$213|
|Category H (5 years)||$213|
|Category H with A B (5 years)||$213|
Source: Northern Territory Police
|Category A, B, C or H (5 years)||$147.00|
Source: ACT Policing
2. Getting a game licence
Once you’ve received your licence you’ll still usually need a game licence to hunt on public land (and private land in some cases).
Each state has slightly different processes and rules, some of which are listed below.
In Victoria you’ll need a game licence from the Game Management Authority to hunt on public and some private land. You do not need to pass a test unless you want to hunt deer with hounds and/or waterfowl.
If you’re going to be hunting deer by stalking you’ll just need to apply and pay the fee.
While you’re waiting on your licence to come in after paying you can hunt using your payment receipt (I used my money order stub).
Below are the full fees (concession fees are on the GMA site):
|Game species||Short term duration||Long term duration|
|Game birds incl. duck||$57.80||$173.40|
|Game birds not incl. duck||$57.80||$173.40|
|Deer (stalking) and game birds incl. duck||$86.70||$260.10|
|Deer (stalking and hounds) and game birds incl. duck||$86.70||$260.10|
|Deer (stalking) and game birds not incl. duck||$86.70||$260.10|
|Deer (stalking and hounds) and game birds not incl. duck||$86.70||$260.10|
If you’d like to hunt duck in Victoria, you’ll need to sit for the waterfowl identification test, which is similar to most other states. The test is a video test where you’ll view a species for waterfowl for about five seconds, after which you’ll need to correctly identify it within 20 seconds.
The test is multiple choice, and there are 22 questions in total. You’ll need to score at least 85% and correctly identify all non-game birds before passing the test.
If you’d like to hunt Sambar deer with dogs you’ll need to pass the Hound Hunting Test, which is a multiple choice test with 35 questions. You’ll need to score at least 75% and answer five key questions correctly to pass.
Here are the test fees for taking the waterfowl identification test or hounds test:
|Waterfowl identification test||$31.20|
|Hunting with hounds test||$31.70|
You can find out which land is available for hunting in Victoria down below.
There are two licences in NSW: general and restricted. The general licence gives you the ability to hunt on private land (with the landowner’s permission), and the restricted licence (R-licence) gives you the ability to hunt on public land declared open for hunting.
To get your game licence, you’ll need to also complete an open book, multiple choice test. The test covers ethics, firearms and safety, and has a separate section where you can choose from between 1 – 4 categories to enable you to hunt with:
- Rifles and shotguns
- Blackpowder firearms
The R-licence test is comprised of two modules:
- Outdoor navigation. This covers the basics of reading a topographic map, using a compass and using a GPS.
- Written permissions. This explains the contents of a written permission form and the importance of having this form.
Your hunting club can usually run the test, as can some hunting and firearm stores.
The fees are as follows:
Source: Department of Primary Industries
In Queensland, hunters are only able to hunt on private land, so no hunting licence is required. A firearms licence is still required.
In South Australia you’ll need a basic hunting permit to hunt feral animals on private land (with the landowner’s permission), and you’ll need to pass a waterfowl identification test (WIT) to be able to hunt duck and quail.
The WIT is similar in most states and involves watching a series of video clips and correctly identifying the waterbirds and whether or not they’re game birds. You’ll have 22 clips to watch, and each correct answer is 3 points. You’ll need at least 50 points to pass.
The fees for the basic hunting permit are as follows (concession fees are on the SA Department of Environment and Water website):
|1 year||3 years||5 years|
In Tasmania, a game licence is required when hunting the following animals during the gazetted season:
- Deer (adult male and antlerless)
- Wild Duck
- Muttonbird (non-commercial)
- Brown Quail
- Ringneck Pheasant (King Island only)
You can find out when the hunting seasons are on the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment website.
The licence fees are as follows:
If you want to hunt duck you’ll need to sit the Waterfowl Identification Test which costs $45. The test includes videos which you’ll need to watch and identify if the bird is a game or non-game species. A minimum score of 47 is needed to pass, with higher scores required to also use your licence to hunt waterfowl in NSW, VIC and SA.
In the ACT you can only hunt on private property, so no hunting permits are required apart from a regular firearms licence.
There are two hunting permits available in the Northern Territory:
- Pig hunting in reserves
- Waterfowl hunting
The above permits allow you to hunt feral pigs and a range of duck and geese in reserves such as Shoal Bay Reserve or Harrison Dam reserve.
According to the SSAA, hunting on private land in the Northern Territory doesn’t require a permit, and hunters can hunt feral animals including Arabian camel, buffalo, wild boar, red fox and more.
In Western Australia hunters can only hunt feral or pest animals on private land with the landowner’s permission. No hunting licences or permits are required.
3. Finding a property or land to hunt on
Now you’ve got your gear, you’ll need to select a place to hunt. There are two options for most Australians depending on the state: public or private land. As mentioned above, you may need extra licences to hunt on either depending on the state, so check this out first.
Before you keep reading, know that the golden rule of hunting on any kind of land is to leave the land in better shape than what you found it in. Always clean up after yourself and always listen to the wishes of landowners before hunting on their land. Leave gates as you find them e.g if they’re closed, close them behind you after opening.
You can hunt on some public land in NSW, VIC, NT, TAS, SA and WA. The process to hunt on public land will require one of the above-mentioned licences. Once you’ve gotten your licence, it’s as simple as selecting a national park listed in the relevant state authority’s list, applying for written permission and then planning your trip.
In NSW you’ll need to have a Restricted Game Hunting or R-Licence. Once you have this, you can apply for written permission to hunt in a variety of state forests. Below is a map from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) showing these forests.
Note that each forest is assigned a category which dictates how often the forest is available for bookings and if you can bow hunt. The categories are:
|Category||Open for online bookings|
|2||7 days-per-week, possible periods of exclusion during peak times|
|3||Weekends only (public holidays immediately before or after a weekend are included in this)|
|4||7 days-per-week for bow hunting only|
Map of state forests in NSW open for hunting
You can find the full list of forests plus categories on the DPI website.
The Victorian Game Management Authority has a much more detailed list of where you can and can’t hunt than in NSW. You’ll still need a game licence as mentioned above. The available public land locations for hunting in Victoria include:
|Type of land||What hunting is permitted|
|State forests, forest parks and other unoccupied land||Game species during the open seasonPest animals at any time|
|State game reserves||Game species during the open season|
|Sanctuaries e.g Mount Cole, Gunbower Island, Kow Swamp||Game species may not be huntedPest animals may be hunted|
|National parks, state parks, coastal parks, wilderness parks and regional parks (only allowed on certain parks e.g Alpine National Park, Baw Baw National Park, Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park, Tara Range Park||Not allowed at any time unless specific parks mentioned on GMA websiteOn parks mentioned on the GMA website, different species and methods of hunting may be available (check website for more details)|
|Leased Crown land||Game and feral animals may be hunted with the lessee’s permission|
|Licensed Crown land||Game and feral animals may generally be hunted with the licensee’s permission|
The other great feature of the GMA website is that it has almost 100 maps showing you what species are able to be hunted and in what areas. Below is an example showing areas where you can hunt deer and areas where you can’t:
Feral pigs and waterfowl can be hunted in the Northern Territory if you are granted a permit.
For feral pigs, they can be hunted in Harrison Dam Reserve and Shoal Bay Reserve.
Magpie Geese and waterfowl can be hunted in a range of reserves, including Harrison Dam, Howard Springs, Lambells Lagoon and more. The full map can be be found on the NT.gov.au website.
Hunters can hunt on some land managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service, and in some cases licences and permits are required. To find out exactly where you can hunt contact the Parks and Wildlife Service on the numbers below:
- Northern region: (03) 6777 2179
- Southern region: (03) 6165 4053
- North West region: (03) 6464 3008
In some cases and for some species such as deer, a ballot system is used e.g to hunt fallow deer in the Central Highlands, and the Big Den State Forest.
Hunters can sometimes hunt on Hydro Tasmania land provided they have a licence issued by Hydro Tasmania. To find out more information contact Hydro Tasmania by phone on (03) 6230 5111 or email at [email protected]
Some land managed by Sustainable Timber Tasmania can also sometimes be hunted on. This land is listed on the Sustainable Timber Tasmania website. After identifying where you’d like to hunt, contact them with the following numbers:
North East Region
- Scottsdale Office (03) 6350 6466
- Perth Office (03) 6398 7000
North West Region
- Burnie Office (03) 6433 2666
- Smithton Office (03) 6452 9100
- Hobart Office (03) 6235 8353
- Geeveston Office (03) 6295 7111
For all information relating to where you can hunt in Tasmania, you can download the current Game Tracks online publication which will keep you updated. This is available on the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment website.
You don’t need to know someone with a farm or land to be able to hunt on private property. In fact, the last two times I’ve been hunting I’ve visited a property of someone I met for the first time.
Apart from the obvious way of searching online, you can also learn about many good hunting opportunities through your hunting club. Some hunting clubs will even have their own properties you can apply to use.
As you get more involved, you’ll build up a network of people you meet inside and outside of the hunting realm that know people with land or who own land themselves.
The last hunting property I visited at the time of writing was a beautiful cattle farm in Victoria and was teeming with sambar deer species. It was referred to my mate by a friend from work.
How to find private land to hunt on in Australia
The below websites are good places to start if you’re looking for private land to hunt on.
Some of the properties have accommodation onsite, and in others you’ll need to rent an airbnb or hotel in the closest town and drive out to the land each day or night.
They each have their own pros and cons. If you’re staying on the property you’re going to be hunting on you’ll save time in transportation and you’ll have more time hunting.
If you’re staying in town and driving to the property you’ll generally have better facilities to relax and unwind after a hunt, and often better choices for food if you’re eating out.
Websites to find private land to hunt on in Australia
4. Buying a firearm and gear
One of the most exciting parts of the hunting experience is buying your gear! The choices you make about your gear will depend on where and what you’re hunting, with special considerations being made for cold weather and larger game animals, and while beyond the scope of this guide, below are some notes about the most important part: your firearm.
Choosing a firearm
A gun’s caliber refers to the internal diameter of the gun barrel. Some calibers are measured in inches e.g .308 refers to a gun with roughly a 0.308 inch diameter, whereas others are measured in the metric system e.g 9mm means the gun barrel has a 9mm diameter. Different calibers are required for different animals.
A larger caliber means a larger bullet, and therefore generally speaking may indicate more stopping power. Caliber isn’t the only ingredient making up a gun’s stopping power. The speed at which the bullet leaves the barrel (muzzle velocity), the bullet materials and shape and the mass of the bullet all contribute too.
While some smaller caliber hunting rifles can be suitable for smaller animals like rabbits and foxes, larger animals like deer and buffalo generally require larger calibers.
According to the SSAA, the following calibres are recommended for different game animals:
|.22 Long Rifle||Rabbits and hares|
|.223||Feral cats, foxes and dingoes|
|.243||Goats, pigs and small deer|
|.300||Large deer and donkeys|
If you’re interested in hunting deer, The Game Management Authority in Victoria have further minimum calibers recommendations for specific species:
|Minimum Caliber||Deer species|
|.243||Hog, Fallow, and Chital|
|.270||Sambar, Rusa and Red|
Steven Rinella, host of Meat Eater, recommends hunters choose a caliber that is versatile and time-proven in his book The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering and Cooking Wild Game. His recommendations include:
- 7mm Rem Mag
- .308 Winchester
- .300 Win Mag
Hunting in Australia is an enjoyable pastime which will hopefully see you with a bunch of fond memories, some great experiences in the bush and a freezer full of meat. It’s well worth the time and money spent to get the correct licences, permits and knowledge to hunt according to the law. For most that are new to hunting, joining a hunting club and learning first hand will be the best way to get better.
Let us know how your recent hunting experiences were in the comments below.