U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Announces Expansion Of Hunting Opportunities


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has announced its final decision regarding new or expanded hunting opportunities on dozens of national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries. The decision follows a June 26 proposed rule change to increase hunting and fishing opportunities including species available for hunting, acreage open to hunting, method of take, and season date ranges. The rule change was initially posted in the Federal Register and FWS accepted public comments on the proposal through midnight, August 12. The final rule is likely to be published on September 10 and would go into effect 30 days later.

SCI submitted comments supporting the opening of new refuges to hunting and the expansion of hunter and angler access on refuges already open to hunting and fishing. In the written comments, SCI specifically supported the expansion of available acreage available for hunting opportunities, longer seasons and hunting hours, saying, Because hunting is a necessary component of conservation and traditionally compatible with the purposes of the Refuge System, SCI supports the opening of refuges where hunting has not previously been permitted and the expansion of species available for harvest on areas already open to other hunting.  SCI welcomes the many opportunities for hunter access, especially for underserved groups such as urban residents, youth, and disabled hunters, created by the Proposed Rule.”

Following detailed comments on each Wildlife Refuge proposal, SCI concluded its comments by saying, “SCI fully supports the opening of refuges to hunting and increasing hunting opportunities on refuges on which hunting is already allowed.  SCI commends the FWS for taking these steps to increase hunting opportunities and access on federal public lands.  Through the Proposed Rule, the FWS is increasing the number of refuges and the extent of refuge lands open to hunters, particularly to members of the public who currently lack access to hunting.  Thank you again for the opportunity to comment on this important planning decision.

These are exciting changes for hunters across America, especially because several refuges are being opened to hunting for the first time! Further, the FWS has added the hunting of new species on dozens of refuges. These openings were supported by SCI in the submitted comments and are listed below:



Great Bay NWR, New Hampshire will add wild turkey hunting.

Mashpee NWR in Massachusetts will open hunting of duck, geese, coot, snipe, rail, woodcock, crow, squirrel, pheasant, quail, grouse, fox, coyote, raccoon, opossum, white-tailed deer and wild turkey.

Monomoy NWR. Massachusetts will open hunting for duck, geese, and coot.

Parker River NWR in Massachusetts will open hunting of upland game.

Silvio O. Conte NWR in Massachusetts and Connecticut will open hunting of migratory game birds, upland game and big game.



Key Cave NWR in Alabama will open hunting of snipe, woodcock, crow, fox, bobcat, coyote, white-tailed deer and feral hog.

The FWS announced it will prioritize opening new opportunities in Georgia in next year’s cycle.



Boyer Chute NWR in Nebraska (on the Iowa border) will be open to wild turkey hunting.

Crane Meadows NWR in Minnesota will be open to game bird and upland game hunting.

Cypress Creek NWR in Illinois will expand species for hunting to include rail, crow, Hungarian partridge, pheasant, bobcat, skunk and woodchuck.

Crab Orchard NWR. Illinois will expand species for hunting to migratory birds, bobcat, skunk and woodchuck.

Green Bay NWR in Wisconsin will open hunting for white-tailed deer for the first time.

Iron River NFH, Wisconsin will open hunting for waterfowl, upland game and big game.

Tamarac NWR, Minnesota will open hunting for rail, crow, mourning dove, wild turkey and bobcat.



Colusa, Delevan, Sacramento and Sutter NWRs in California will expand hunting to include a wild turkey season.

Leadville NFH, Colorado will open hunting for duck, grouse, mule deer and elk.

McKay Creek NWR, Oregon will open hunting for mourning dove, wild turkey, elk and deer.

Medicine Lake NWR, Montana will open hunting for coot, crane and tundra swan.

Minidoka NWR, Idaho will add elk hunting opportunities.

Seedskadee NWR in Wyoming will open hunting for white-tailed deer and elk.



Dexter NFH, New Mexico will be open to hunting for migratory game birds and upland game birds.

Oklahoma has seven refuges that will be open to hunting new species!

Deep Fork NWR will be open to hunting geese, coot and merganser.

Little River NWR will open coyote hunting.

Ozark Plateau NWR will open hunting of squirrel, rabbit, white-tailed deer and feral hogs.

Salt Plains NWR will open hunting of coot, white-winged dove, Eurasian-collared dove, rock dove, beaver, wild turkey and feral hog.

Sequoyah NWR will open hunting of wild turkey and feral hog.

Tishomingo NWR will open hunting of migratory game birds, wild turkey and feral hog.

Washita NWR will open hunting for dove.

Wichita Mountains NWR will open hunting to migratory game birds, upland game, wild turkey and feral hog.


In addition to the many refuges opening up opportunities to hunt species for the first time, several others have expanded season dates, increased acreage available for hunting, and increased opportunities for youth hunting – all proposals supported by SCI. The following list outlines the refuges and the changes they have made to increase hunting opportunities:



Parker River NWR, Massachusetts will expand acreage and extend season dates for migratory bird hunting.



Boyer Chute NWR, Nebraska will expand the acreage and date ranges for existing hunting opportunities.

Crane Meadows NWR, Minnesota will expand existing hunting opportunities to new acres.

Cypress Creek NWR, Illinois will expand acreage for migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting.

Tamarac NWR, Minnesota will expand opportunities for migratory birds, upland game, big game and furbearers.



Hutton Lake NWR in Wyoming will allow youth waterfowl hunting.



Deep Fork NWR, Oklahoma will expand season dates for existing big game hunting opportunities.

Little River NWR, Oklahoma will expand youth turkey hunting.

Salt Plains NWR will expand the acreage currently available for hunting.

Tishomingo NWR, Oklahoma will expand acreage for white-tailed deer hunting.

Washita NWR, Oklahoma will expand acreage for migratory game bird hunting.






First For Hunters