Rules and Regulations

Photo Hike

To report a wildlife violation call 1-844-397-8477)

Please consult the Refuge Manager at 515-994-3400 if you have specific rules and regulations questions. Additional site-specific regulations may be posted on this site in the near future. To ensure your safety and protect wildlife and habitat, please be aware of these regulations.


General Restrictions

  • Access to the refuge is open from 1/2 hour before sunrise until 1/2 hour after sunset unless otherwise posted or stated in hunting regulations.

We prohibit:

  • Target shooting.
  • Training pets and allowing pets off leash unless hunting.
  • All types of motorized vehicles on all refuge land (to include on frozen bodies of water) except on designated parking areas, access roads and public roads.
  • Non-motorized/motorized watercraft use.
  • Camping, open fires and overnight parking.
  • Abandoning, discarding or otherwise leaving any personal property. All property brought onto a refuge must be removed at the end of each day. This includes all common items like vehicles, boats, decoys, trail cameras, blinds, geo-caching items, photography equipment, portable stands, climbing sticks and trash.
  • Destructing, defacing, disturbing or unauthorized removal of any natural object, artifact, cultural resource or government property. Mushroom and berry harvesting are allowed for personal consumption only.
  • Introducing, liberating, or placing plants or animals or their parts taken elsewhere on refuge lands or waters.
  • Disposing of animal carcasses, trash, refuse, rocks, wood or other debris.
  • Cutting, mowing, sawing, digging, collecting, injuring or removing vegetation.
  • Launching, landing or disturbing of wildlife by aircraft (drones) on the refuge. This includes for recreational or commercial purposes.
  • Commercial enterprise without a special use permit.
  • Use or possession of any illegal drug or drug paraphernalia is prohibited.


  • If hunting is an approved use on the refuge, that activity may have additional requirements in addition to state regulations based on location, timing, species, methods of take, etc… See refuge specific regulations below.
  • If small game hunting is an approved use on the refuge, hunters using shotguns, including turkey hunters, are required to use and possess only non-toxic shot.
  • During the small game and migratory bird seasons, hunting dogs must be under the immediate control of the hunter.
  • Hunters must wear an article of blaze orange/pink consistent with state regulations.
  • We prohibit constructing or occupying permanent stands or blinds. We also prohibit the use of nails, wire, screws or bolts to attach a stand to a tree or hunting from a tree, into which a metal object has been driven to support a hunter. Portable hunting stands must be set up and removed each day.
  • We prohibit the use or possession of alcoholic beverages while hunting.
  • We prohibit distribution of feed or bait, or hunting over bait. This includes salts and minerals.


  • If trapping is an approved use on the refuge, it is by special use permit only and may have additional requirements with state regulations.  

Artificial Lights

  • You may not use a spotlight, headlight or other artificial light to spot, locate or take any wild animal on a refuge.

Specific to Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

  • Skateboards, bicycles, and Segway scooters are not allowed on refuge trails. Pets on leash, wheelchairs, electric carts, and strollers are permitted.
  • Firearms are permitted on refuge land in accordance with Federal and State laws. Except for authorized hunting activities, discharge of firearms on refuge land is prohibited.
  • Fireworks are prohibited on National Wildlife Refuges.
  • Parking is allowed at designated areas which are marked with a “P” for parking. Do not park in any field entrance. (Access must be maintained for emergency, fire and patrol vehicles.) Do not drive into fields or grassland areas.
  • Shed antler collection is prohibited.
  • Remain in your vehicle and on the road while inside the bison and elk enclosure.

Additional information

  • The above information is a partial list of rules and regulations. View the Neal Smith NWR Public Use Regulations for more details.
  • Special-use permits may be issued for compatible secondary uses upon approval of the refuge manager. Contact the refuge office for application information at 515-994-3400.