In order to determine if a shot is legal and ethical, you must first be able to properly identify that animal. Wildlife identification is a necessary skill for all hunters. Before heading out for a hunt, you should not only study up on the animal you are hunting, but also on the other animals you might encounter. Hunters can separate animals into five distinct categories:
Big Game (large mammals)
Big game animals include animals such as deer, moose, elk, bear, sheep, mountain lions and wolves. These large mammals will usually bear young once a year, or in rare cases once every few years. They are found in various habitats, but always in wild or semi-rural areas. It can be difficult to distinguish males from females, though in most cases females will be a little smaller than the males.
Consult the wildlife ID appendix at the end of this online course for the species commonly found in Minnesota. Of all the big game species found in the state, the moose is by far the largest. Also take some time to learn about which species are native to the state. Grizzly bears, for instance, are not native to Minnesota and are not found in the woods. There are many big game species that are endangered and therefore protected from hunting. For example, the gray wolf is protected in Minnesota and cannot be hunted.
Most states will have very specific regulations on hunting big game, including different seasons for the methods in which you are allowed to harvest the game. Always consult local regulations well in advance of the hunting season to find out about limits, dates, firearm restrictions, tagging and transporting requirements, etc.
Though big game hunting usually takes place in the early morning or around dusk, be aware that it is illegal to discharge a firearm at night. Hunters are only permitted to fire from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. All hunters in Minnesota should acquire an up-to-date copy of the Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations handbook. This handbook contains valuable information on all pertinent hunting regulations, as well as sunrise and sunset tables.
IMPORTANT! In Minnesota it is illegal to harvest big game species with the use of any rimfire rifle.