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Bowhunting has different regulations and laws depending on where you are in the country. However, today we are going to be looking specifically at the United States of America.
So, is Bowhunting legal in the USA? In short, yes it is. However, each State has its own specific regulations. For example, the variations range from the size of your bow to when you can hunt throughout the year.
Similarly, there are variations in the rules depending on if you use a recurve bow, compound bow, or crossbow.
First, this article is intended for information only and is not to be taken as legal advice. You are responsible for knowing and adhering to the legal hunting requirements in your own jurisdiction
It is your responsibility to check with your local authorities to confirm any information found in this article. Regulations change often. Therefore, you should always know the law before you bow hunt anywhere.
What affects the regulations?
There are a few different things that affect the regulations and vary with each state. These are:
- The seasons/dates in which you can hunt
- The type and size of your bow
- Licensing requirements
- The species of animal you plan to hunt and whether it is male or female
- Areas in which you can hunt
- Required articles of clothing while hunting
There are many reasons for these regulations. To name a few:
- Keeping the wildlife population at a supportable level
- Protecting the animals from being ineffectively hit and wounded, causing them to suffer
- Raising the funds needed to maintain hunting lands and game
For example, whenever you pay a fee on a hunting license or pay taxes on gear, you are paying towards maintaining the land that game live in.
As if the above reasons aren’t enough, the rules ensure the safety of yourself and other hunters. By following the local regulations listed here, you can ensure safety for everyone while in the woods.
Today, we are going to be covering the regulations as they pertain to archery equipment specifically. We will not cover what safety courses, training, etc are required because each state differs far too much to cover here. For all that information, you need to do your own due diligence.
Before we get started, I wanted to take a moment to cite my sources. I got all of my information I reference in this article from each state’s regulations page. I list each link below each section, so definitely check out the other hunting regulations for your state.
You can also use this link to quickly find out details on your states hunting license requirements: https://www.fws.gov/hunting/state-license.html
And this webpage has details about where you can legally hunt: https://www.passionatehunters.com/federal-hunting-laws/
Now, let’s dig in.
Below you will find regulations for each of the 50 states in alphabetical order.
ALABAMA – LEGAL
There are no size restrictions.
ALASKA – LEGAL
The 2019-2020 hunting regulations state the following:
You MAY NOT Hunt big game with a bow, UNLESS the bow is at least:
- 40 pounds peak draw weight when hunting deer, wolf, wolverine, black bear, Dall sheep, and caribou
- 50 pounds peak draw weight for hunting mountain goat, moose, elk, brown bear, muskox, and bison
- The arrow’s at least 20 inches in overall length, tipped with a broadhead, and at least 300 grains in total weight
- The broadhead is a fixed, replaceable or mechanical/retractable blade type and not barbed.
You can find all the most recent hunting-related information from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website here.
ARIZONA – LEGAL
There are no size restrictions.
ARKANSAS – LEGAL
The 2019-2020 hunting regulations state the following:
- Archery equipment is limited to the following:
- Compound bow, crossbow, longbow and recurve bow. Longbows and recurve bows with a draw weight of 35 pounds or more.
- Crossbows with a functional mechanical safety device and a draw weight of 125 pounds or more.
- It is unlawful to hunt wildlife with any of the following archery tackle:
- A longbow or compound bow with a draw weight of fewer than 35 pounds;
- A crossbow without a functional mechanical safety device or with a draw weight of less than 125 pounds;
- Arrows with an arrowhead width of less than 7/8 inch when open;
- Arrows or arrowheads containing poisons or chemicals;
- Arrowheads containing firearm ammunition;
- Arrows propelled from a compressed air system; or
- Arrows propelled by the action of an explosive or combustible propellant.
EXCEPTION: Small game may be hunted using arrowheads less than 7/8 inch in width.
All of the hunting-related information for this state is found here:
CALIFORNIA – LEGAL
- Bow, as used in these regulations, means any device consisting of a flexible material having a string connecting its two ends and used to propel an arrow held in a firing position by hand only. Bow, includes longbow, recurve or compound bow.
- Crossbow, as used in these regulations means any device consisting of a bow or cured latex band or other flexible material (commonly re- 30 California Department of Fish and Wildlife referred to as a linear bow) affixed to a stock, or any bow that utilizes any device attached directly or indirectly to the bow for the purpose of keeping a crossbow bolt, an arrow or the string in a firing position. Except as provided in subsection 354(j), a crossbow is not archery equipment and cannot be used during the archery deer season.
- For the taking of big game, hunting arrows and crossbow bolts with a broad head type blade which will not pass through a hole seven- eighths inch in diameter shall be used. Mechanical/ retractable broad heads shall be measured in the open position. For the taking of migratory game birds, resident small game, furbearers and nongame mammals and birds any arrow or crossbow bolt may be used except as prohibited by subsection (d) below. Notwithstanding the general prohibition of the use of lights in Fish and Game Code section 2005, arrows or crossbow bolts with lighted nocks that do not emit a directional beam of light may be used.
- No arrows or crossbow bolt with an explosive head or with any substance which would tranquilize or poison any animal may be used. No arrows or crossbow bolt without flu-flu fletching may be used for the taking of pheasants and migratory game birds, except for provisions of section 507(a)(2).
- No arrow or crossbow bolt may be released from a bow or crossbow upon or across any highway, road or another way open to vehicular traffic.
- No bow or crossbow may be used which will not cast a legal hunting arrow, except flu-flu arrows, a horizontal distance of 130 yards.
- (g) Except as described in subsection 354(j), crossbows may not be used to take game birds and game mammals during archery seasons.
- Except as provided in subsection 353(g) of these regulations and in Section 4370 of the Fish and Game Code, archers may not possess a firearm while hunting in the field during any archery season, or while hunting during a general season under the provisions of an archery-only tag.
- No person may nock or fit the notch at the end of an arrow to a bowstring or crossbow string in a ready-to-fire position while in or on any vehicle.
- Upon application to the department, the department may issue a Disabled Archer Permit, free of any charge or fee, to any person with a physical disability, as defined in 354(k), which prevents him/her from being able to draw and hold a bow in a firing position. The Disabled Archer Permit authorizes the disabled archer to use a crossbow or device which holds a string and arrow in the firing position to assist in the taking of birds and mammals under the conditions of an archery tag or during archery season.
All of this information, as well as other hunting regulations, can be found in a handy little booklet. Get it here: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations
My other article may be of interest: Are Crossbows Legal In California?
COLORADO – LEGAL
A longbow, recurve bow or compound bow on which the string is not drawn mechanically or held mechanically under tension. String or mechanical releases are legal if they are hand-drawn or hand-held with no other attachments or connections to bow (except bowstring).
- Hand-held bows, including compound bows, must use arrows with a broadhead having a minimum of 7/8-inch outside diameter (width) and a minimum of two steel cutting edges. Each cutting edge must be in the same plane for the entire length of cutting surface.
- Only legal, hand-held bows are allowed during archery seasons.
- A minimum draw weight of 35 pounds and a let-off maximum of 80 percent is required.
- No part of a bow’s riser (handle) or track, trough, channel, arrow rest or other devices (excluding cables and bowstring) that attaches to riser can contact, support and/or guide the arrow from a point rearward of the bow’s brace height behind the undrawn string.
- Bows can propel only a single arrow at a time. No mechanisms for automatically loading arrows allowed.
- Scopes and electronic or battery-powered devices cannot be incorporated into or attached to bow or arrow, with the exception of lighted nocks on arrows. Recording devices such as cameras or video recorders attached to bows may be used as long as they do not cast light toward the target or aid in range finding, sighting or shooting the bow.
- Hydraulic or pneumatic technology cannot be used to derive or store energy to propel arrows. Explosive arrows are prohibited.
- Draw weight must be a minimum of 125 pounds.
- Draw length must be a minimum of 14 inches from the front of the bow to the nocking point of the drawstring.
- A positive mechanical safety device required.
- The bolt must be a minimum of 16 inches long, have a broadhead that is a minimum of 7/8-inch wide and with a minimum of two steel cutting edges. Each cutting edge must be in the same plane for the entire length of the cutting surface.
- Illegal during archery seasons.
All of this information can be found in a brochure here: https://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/RegulationsBrochures.aspx
CONNECTICUT – LEGAL
Legal Bows and Arrows
For the purposes of hunting deer and turkey, legal bows include:
Long, recurved, or compound bows
Must have a minimum draw weight of 40 pounds. Mechanical string release devices are permitted. Projectiles coated with any drug, poison, or tranquilizing substance are prohibited.
The use of crossbows for hunting deer, turkey, and all other species is permitted. Legal crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds and permanently fixed rifle type stock with a functional mechanical safety device. Adjustable crossbow stocks are permitted, but folding stocks are not. The bolt (arrow) length must be at least 18 inches, excluding the broadhead. Crossbows are considered loaded when fully drawn with a bolt in place. Telescopic sights are permitted.
The brochure for this state has a bunch of information pertaining to hunting of all types, and you can find it here: http://www.eregulations.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/20CTHD-LR.pdf
DELAWARE – LEGAL
No person shall use a compound, recurve, or longbow with a pull weight less than 35 pounds.
Crossbows used must have a minimum pull weight of 125 pounds, be manufactured after 1980, and have a mechanical safety, and may be equipped with a scope. Crossbows shall not be transported in or on a vehicle while in the cocked position
Go here to check out the regulations for Delaware: http://www.eregulations.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/19DEHD-LR3.pdf
FLORIDA – LEGAL
Longbows, compound bows, recurve bows, and crossbows may be used but must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds. Hand-held releases may be used. Arrows or bolts used to take deer or turkeys must be equipped with broadheads having at least two sharpened edges with minimum widths of 7/8 inch.
Find this state’s brochure here: http://www.eregulations.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/19FLHD-LR.pdf
GEORGIA – LEGAL
There are no size restrictions. Find the brochure with other regulations here: http://www.eregulations.com/georgia/hunting/
HAWAII – LEGAL
When hunting with a bow, the following drawing tension requirements are applicable:
- Longbows must have a minimum of 40 pounds at a 28-inch draw
- Recurved bows must have a minimum of 35 pounds
- Compound bows must have a minimum of 30 pounds
Find this information here: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/recreation/hunting/mammal/
IDAHO – LEGAL
In any hunt, including general any-weapon seasons and short-range hunts, it is unlawful to pursue or kill big game animals:
- With arrows or bolts having broadheads measuring less than 7/8 inch in width and having a primary cutting edge less than 0.015 inch thick.
- With any bow having a peak draw weight of less than 40 pounds up to or at a draw of 28 inches or any crossbow having a peak draw weight of fewer than 150 pounds.
- With an arrow or bolt wherein the broadhead does not precede shaft and nock.
- With any chemicals or explosives attached to the arrow or bolt. • With arrows or bolts having expanding broadheads.
- With arrows or bolts having barbed broadheads, which is a broadhead with any portion of which forms an angle less than 90 degrees with the shaft or ferrule.
- With any electronic or tritium-powered device attached to an arrow, bolt or bow. Except disabled archery permit holders may use a non-magnifying sight with battery-powered or tritium lighted reticles.
- With any bow capable of shooting more than one arrow at a time. • With any compound bow set at more than 85 percent let-off.
- With an arrow or bolt, and broadhead with a combined total weight of fewer than 300 grains.
- With an arrow less than 24 inches from broadhead to nock inclusive.
- With a bolt (crossbow) less than 12 inches from broadhead to nock inclusive.
Archery Only Season
Any person hunting in an archery-only season, including controlled hunts, must have in their possession their license with archery permit validation. During an archery-only season, it is illegal for hunters to use any firearm or implement other than a longbow, compound bow or recurve bow in compliance with general archery equipment requirements, or:
- Any bow equipped with magnifying sights.
- Any device that holds a bow at partial or full draw. Except hunters possessing a disabled archery permit may use a device that holds a bow at partial or full draw. Applications for the use of devices holding a bow at partial or full draw by disabled hunters are available at Fish and Game offices.
- Any crossbow. Except disabled hunters possessing a permit may use a crossbow. Applications for the use of crossbows by disabled hunters are available at Fish and Game offices.
Look for the above information in this brochure: https://idfg.idaho.gov/sites/default/files/seasons-rules-big-game-2019-2020.pdf
ILLINOIS – LEGAL
Long, recurve, or compound bows
- Minimum draw weight of 30 pounds at some point within a 28-inch draw length.
- Minimum arrow length is 20 inches and broadheads must be used. Electronic arrow tracking devices are illegal.
- Minimum peak draw weight of 125 pounds.
- Minimum length (from butt of the stock to front of limbs) is 24 inches.
- Fletched bolts or arrows of not less than 14 inches in length (not including point) and broadheads must be used. Electronic arrow tracking devices are illegal.
- Broadheads may have fixed or expandable cutting surfaces, but they must have a minimum of 7/8-inch diameter when fully opened.
- Broadheads with fixed cutting surfaces must be metal or flint-, chert-, or obsidian-knapped; broadheads with expandable cutting surfaces must be metal.
The regulations brochure for Illinois is found here: https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/Pages/HuntingDevicesandAmmunition.aspx
INDIANA – LEGAL
Legal equipment includes longbows, compound bows or recurve bows and arrows. Airbows do not meet the definition of legal archery equipment. The bow must have a pull of at least 35 pounds. Arrows must be tipped with broadheads that are metal, metal-edged, or napped flint, chert or obsidian. Poisoned or exploding arrows are illegal. Bows drawn, held or released by means other than by hand or hand-held releases may be used.
Crossbows are legal hunting equipment during the archery deer season and in Deer Reduction Zones. A crossbow means a device for propelling an arrow by means of limbs mounted on a stock and a string and having a working safety that may be drawn, held, and a pull of at least 125 pounds.
Brochure link: http://www.eregulations.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/19INHD-LR4.pdf
IOWA – LEGAL
Longbows, recurve bows, and compound bows shooting broadhead arrows are permitted. No explosive or chemical devices may be attached to the arrow or broadhead. There are no minimum draw weights for bows or minimum diameter for broadheads. Arrows must be at least 18 inches long. Draw locks on compound bows are legal.
Crossbows are not legal except that a physically handicapped person, as defined on p. 14, may obtain a permit from the DNR to use a crossbow. applications are available at www.iowadnr.gov/hunting – click on “Licenses
and Laws” and then on “License Applications,” or by visiting the DNR central office or any of the district offices (p. 51), or by calling the DNR
at 515-725-8200. Residents 70 and older may obtain one Antlerless-only statewide crossbow deer license. See p. 40 for details.
This information can be found on this webpage: https://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Deer-Hunting
KANSAS – LEGAL
Longbows, recurve bows, and compound bows that do not have a mechanical device that locks them at full or partial draw and crossbows.
Disabled hunters who, in addition to a turkey permit, possess a disability draw-lock permit as authorized under KAR 115-18-7, may hunt with bows that have a draw-lock device attached. No bow, crossbow or arrow may have any electronic device attached that controls the flight of the arrow.
Devices that may be attached to a bow or arrow shall include lighted pin, dot or holographic sights; illuminated nocks; rangefinders; film or video cameras; and radio-frequency location devices. Rangefinding devices and optical scopes or sights that project no visible light toward the target and do not electronically amplify visibly or infrared light may be used. Arrows used for hunting turkeys must be equipped with broadhead points that cannot pass through a ring 3/4-inch in diameter when fully expanded.
Non-broadhead arrows may be possessed while hunting but may not be used to take wild turkeys. Devices capable of dispensing chemicals to take big game animals may not be used.
Download the 2019-2020 brochure here: https://ksoutdoors.com/Hunting/Hunting-Regulations
KENTUCKY – LEGAL
- Longbows, recurves and compound bows of any draw weight (no minimum).
- Wood, carbon or metal arrows, but arrows may not be chemically treated.
- Fixed blade or mechanical broadheads at least 7/8” wide (when blades extended), but broadheads may not be chemically treated.
Kentucky’s brochure can be found here: https://fw.ky.gov/Hunt/Documents/HuntingGuideEntire.pdf
LOUISIANA – LEGAL
Legal Gear for Archery Season includes: Traditional bow, compound bow, crossbow, or any bow drawn, held or released by mechanical means.
Prohibited Activities/Equipment include: Possession or use any poisoned or drugged arrow or arrows with explosive tips. Hunting deer with a bow having a draw weight less than 30 lbs. Hunting with a bow or crossbow fitted with an infrared, laser sight, electrically operated sight or device specifically designed to enhance vision at night (does NOT include non-projecting red dot sights; RS 56:116.1.(b)(4)). Hunting with dogs (All Archery Seasons are still hunt only).
This informative brochure can be found here: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/page/41407-regulations/2019-2020huntingregslow-res11119.pdf
MAINE – LEGAL
Deer & bear may be taken under the archery provisions only by means of a hand-held bow with a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds (for moose a minimum draw weight of 45 pounds is required), and broad-head arrow. Arrowheads (including expandable mechanical broadheads) must be at least ⅞ inch in width. It is unlawful to use a set bow, or to use arrows with poisonous or explosive tips. Hunters 65 years of age or older may hunt any wild bird or wild animal with a crossbow during any open season on that wild bird or wild animal.
Find this information, as well as other great information, on this page: https://www.maine.gov/ifw/docs/19-MDIFW-09-HuntingLawbook-2019-20.pdf
MARYLAND – LEGAL
Vertical Bow Regulations
The vertical bow shall have a full draw and pull of 30 pounds or more for deer hunting. Draw locking devices are legal on all vertical bows for deer hunting. Vertical bow release aids are permitted.
A crossbow used for deer hunting shall have a draw of 75 pounds or more. All crossbows should have a working safety. It is unlawful to have a loaded crossbow in, on or leaning against any vehicle. A cocked crossbow without a bolt or arrow in the firing position is considered to be unloaded. Regulations for Both Vertical Bows and Crossbows. Arrows or bolts used for deer hunting must have a sharpened broadhead with metal points and a minimum width of 7⁄8 of an inch. The use of poisoned or explosive tipped arrows or bolts are not permitted.
The brochure for Maryland can be found here: http://www.eregulations.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/19MDHD-LR5.pdf
MASSACHUSETTS – LEGAL
All bows (recurve, long, and compound), except permitted crossbows, used for hunting deer, bear, and turkey must have a draw weight of at least 40 lbs. at 28 inches or at peak draw. Mechanical releases are permitted. Arrows used on deer, bear, or turkey must have well-sharpened steel broadhead blades not less than 7/8 inches in width. Expanding broadheads are legal for deer, bear, and turkey. Archers may hunt deer with a bow and arrow during the primitive firearms deer season but must comply with all regulations of those seasons, including blaze orange and stamp requirements. Crossbows may be used by certain permanently disabled persons by permit only.
Go here for the 2020 hunting guide: https://www.mass.gov/doc/2020-massachusetts-fishing-and-hunting-guide/download
MICHIGAN – LEGAL
A crossbow may be used during any season in which a firearm is allowed, for both big and small game, except hunters in the Upper Peninsula may not use a crossbow or a modified bow during the Dec. 1 – Jan. 1 late archery deer season and December muzzleloader deer season, unless the hunter is disabled and has a crossbow permit or special permit to take game with a modified bow. When hunting deer, bear, elk, and turkey, crossbow hunters must use only arrows, bolts, and quarrels at least 14 inches in length and tipped with a broadhead point at least 7/8 inches wide.
There are (currently) no size restrictions on traditional, recurve or longbows.
Find this information on this page: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/hunting_and_trapping_digest_461177_7.pdf
MINNESOTA – LEGAL
- Bows must have a pull no less than 30 pounds at or before full draw.
- Arrowheads used for taking big game must have a minimum of two metal cutting edges, be of broadless broadhead designs, with a diameter of at least 7/8 inch.
- “Expandable” broadheads may be used to take big game if they meet the above requirements and are:
- at least 7/8 inch in width and no more than 2 inches in width at or after impact
- of barbless design and function in a barbless manner
- No person may hunt with a bow drawn, held, or released by a mechanical device, except disabled hunters who have a crossbow permit.
- A hand-help mechanical release attached to the bowstring may be used if the person own strength draws and holds the bowstring.
Crossbows used for hunting must follow these guidelines:
- Be shoulder-fired
- Deliver at least 42 foot-pounds of energy at 10 feet
- Bolts (arrows) must be at least 10 inches long
- Have a functional safety
This information can be found here: https://files.dnr.state.mn.us/rlp/regulations/hunting/full_regs.pdf#view=fit&pagemode=bookmarks
MISSISSIPPI – LEGAL
Longbows, recurves, compound bows, and crossbows. There is no minimum or maximum draw weight. There is no minimum arrow length. Fixed or mechanical broadheads allowed.
Here you can find the hunting regulations for Mississippi: http://www.mdwfp.com/law-enforcement/hunting-rules-regs/
MISSOURI – LEGAL
Longbows, compound bows, and recurve bows of any draw weight.
Any other regulations you want to check on can be found right here: https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/downloads/2019FDT.pdf
MONTANA – LEGAL
- It is unlawful to use any chemical or explosive device attached to an arrow to aid in the taking of game animals.
- The following criteria define Archery Equipment. It is unlawful to possess while hunting game during any Archery-Only Season and in Archery Equipment-Only areas, archery equipment that does not meet the following criteria:
- Hunting Bow: A hunting bow for game animals shall be a longbow, flatbow, recurve bow, compound bow, or any combination of these designs.
- The bow must be a device for launching
an arrow, which derives its propulsive
energy solely from the bending and
recovery of two limbs (includes bows
with split limbs).
- The bow must be hand-drawn by a
single and direct uninterrupted pulling
action of the shooter. The bowstring
must be moved from brace height to the
full draw position by the muscle power
of the shooter’s body. The energy
used to propel the arrow shall not be
derived from any other source such as
hydraulic, pneumatic, mechanical, or
similar devices. These limitations shall
not exclude the mechanical leverage
advantage provided by eccentric
wheels or cams, so long as the available
energy stored in the bent limbs of
the bow is the sole result of a single,
continuous, and direct pulling effort
by the shooter.
- The bow must be hand-held. One hand
shall hold the bow and the other hand
draw the bowstring. The bowstring
must be moved and/or held at all points
in the draw cycle entirely by muscle
power of the shooter until release. The
bowstring must be released as a direct
and conscious action of the shooter,
either relaxing the tension of the
fingers or triggering the release action
of a hand-held release aid.
Exception: Physically disabled
bowhunters certified by FWP with the
Permit To Modify Archery Equipment
(PTMAE) are exempted from the
the requirement of holding or shooting
the bow with their hands.
A bow is considered lawful if it is at least 28 inches in total length.
Arrow: An arrow is a projectile at least 20 inches in overall length. The length of the arrow is measured from the rearward point of the nock to the tip of the broadhead. A broadhead is mounted on the fore-end. The arrow shall weigh no less than 300 grains with the broadhead attached. Arrows must have broadheads with at least two cutting edges and be at least 7/8 inches at the widest point. Expandable broadheads are lawful as long as when expanded they are at least 7/8 inches at the widest point, and weigh no less than 70 grains.
For more information, including prohibited equipment, check out this link: http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/regulations/default.html
NEBRASKA – LEGAL
Longbow, compound bow, recurve bow, shoulder-fired non-electronic crossbow (with a draw weight of at least 125 pounds), hand-thrown spear.
NEVADA – LEGAL
A bow must have:
- A peak draw weight of at least 40 pounds
- A let-off of not more than 80 percent for compound bows
- “Let-off” means the amount of decrease in the draw weight of a compound bow from the peak draw weight to the holding draw weight after the bow has reached full draw.
Regarding Arrows: Legal hunting arrows must have a broadhead attached, be 24 inches in length from the end of the nock to the tip of the broadhead and have a 300-grain minimum weight. An arrow that is used in hunting any game mammal or game bird may be equipped with a nock that is illuminated electronically or chemically.
Fixed broadheads must be at least 7/8 inch wide at the widest point; mechanical heads must be at least 7/8 inch wide at the widest point when in the open position.
Nevada is one of the few states that have their regulations listed on a website instead of a brochure: http://www.eregulations.com/nevada/hunting/weapons-regulations/
NEW HAMPSHIRE – LEGAL
Interesting fact: Archers must have their name and address on arrows. Fixed blade broadheads cannot be less than ⅞ inches wide and not more than 1½ inches wide. Allowed: Retractable blade broadheads (cannot be less than ⅞ of an inch wide when open). The minimum draw weight for deer is 40 lbs.
A crossbow means a device consisting of a bow-mounted to a rigid stock for discharging quarrels, bolts, or arrows and having a mechanical means to hold and release the drawn string. A bolt means a short projectile for a crossbow that resembles an arrow.
A crossbow shall have a minimum pull of 125 pounds, a working mechanical safety and a stock no less than 25 inches in length. Name and address must be plainly marked on the crossbow bolt. Allowable sizes of broadheads are outlined in the section above.
Find these regulations here: http://www.eregulations.com/newhampshire/hunting/deer-hunting-regulations/
NEW JERSEY – LEGAL
Longbow and recurve bows: must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds at the archer’s draw length.
Compound bows: must have a minimum peak draw weight of 35 pounds.
Crossbows: must have a minimum draw weight of 75 pounds. Crossbows must have a minimum stock length of 25 inches.
All arrows must be fitted with an edged head of well-sharpened metal and a minimum width of ¾ inches. It is unlawful to use or possess a poison arrow or one with an explosive tip.
Find the hunting brochure here: https://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/pdf/2019/dighnt19.pdf
NEW MEXICO – LEGAL
Compound, recurve and longbows of all sizes are allowed. Sights on bows may not project light, but lighted pins are allowed. Arrows must have broadheads (fixed or mechanical) with steel cutting edges. Prohibited: Drugs added to arrows, arrows driven by explosives.
Link to the hunting regulations here: http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/hunting/general-rules/big-game-rules/
NEW YORK – LEGAL
A recurve bow, longbow, and compound bow must have a draw weight over 35 lbs.
Arrows with barbed broadheads and arrowheads less than 7/8 inches at the widest point or with less than 2 sharp cutting edges are prohibited.
Link to webpage: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/8305.html
NORTH CAROLINA – LEGAL
When used to hunt bear, deer, elk, wild turkey, alligator and feral swine:
- Longbows and recurve bows must have a minimum pull of 40 pounds
- Compound bows must have a minimum pull of 35 pounds.
- Crossbows must have a minimum pull of 100 pounds
- Only arrows and bolts with a fixed minimum broadhead width of seven-eighths of an inch or a mechanically opening broadhead with a width of at least seven-eighths of an inch in the open position shall be used.
Slingbows having a minimum pull of 40 pounds may be used during legal hunting seasons for hunting wild turkey, small game animals, nongame animals, and nongame fish.
Blunt-type arrowheads may be used in taking small animals and birds, including rabbits, squirrels, quail, and grouse.
Poisonous, drugged, or explosive arrowheads shall not be used for taking any wildlife.
This information can be easily found here: http://www.eregulations.com/northcarolina/hunting-fishing/general-hunting-regulations/
NORTH DAKOTA – LEGAL
A bow must be pulled, held and released by hand. Any release aid may be used providing it is hand operated, the shooter supports the draw weight of the bow, and the release is not attached to any part of the bow other than at the bowstring.
A compound bow used for hunting deer must have at least 35 pounds of draw at 28 inches or less draw length. Recurve and longbows used for hunting deer must have at least 35 pounds of draw at 28 inches.
Arrows must be at least 24 inches long, tipped with a metal broadhead, with at least two sharp cutting edges, and have a cutting diameter of at least 3/4 inch (i.e., not able to pass through a 3/4 inch ring).
It is illegal to hunt big game with barbed arrows (barbed refers to an arrowhead with any fixed portion of the rear or trailing edge of the arrowhead forming an angle less than 90 degrees with the shaft). Broadheads with mechanical or retractable blades are legal.
Telescopic sights, range finding devices, battery-powered or electronically lighted sights or other electronic devices attached to the bow, or the arrow, are not permitted (exception: lighted nocks and recording devices which do not aid in range finding, sighting or shooting the bow are permitted). Handheld range finding devices are legal.
Arrows capable of causing damage or injury in excess of that inflicted by the cutting edges of the broadhead are prohibited (e.g., explosive arrow points, arrows tipped with drugs or chemicals, and pneumatic or hydraulic shafts are illegal).
Find the deer guide for North Dakota here: https://gf.nd.gov/gnf/regulations/docs/deer/deer-guide-2019.pdf
OHIO – LEGAL
Longbows, compound bows, and recurve bows: Minimum draw weight 40 pounds. The arrow tip needs a minimum of two cutting edges, which may be exposed or unexposed and minimum 3/4-inch width. Expandable and mechanical broadheads are legal.
Crossbow: Minimum draw weight of 75 pounds. The arrow tip needs a minimum of two cutting edges, which may be exposed or unexposed and minimum 3/4-inch width. Expandable and mechanical broadheads are legal.
Download the guide with this link: http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/hunting-trapping-and-shooting-sports/hunting-trapping-regulations/allowable-hunting-equipment
OKLAHOMA – LEGAL
- Bow: Any compound bow of 30 pounds or more draw weight; any recurve, longbow or self-bow of 40 pounds or more draw weight. Hand-held releases are legal. Devices that permit a bow to be held mechanically at full or partial draw are allowed.
- Broadheads: Arrows and/or bolts must be fitted with hunting type points not less than 7/8 inches wide, including mechanical broadheads meeting this width requirement when fully open.
- Crossbows: Minimum of 100 pounds draw weight and equipped with safety devices. Bolts must be a minimum of 14 inches in length. Leverage gaining devices are legal.
Go to this website for more detail: http://www.eregulations.com/oklahoma/hunting/big-game-regulations/
OREGON – LEGAL
- Only recurve, long, or compound bows are legal for hunting game mammals.
- Broadheads must be unbarbed and at least 7/8″ wide. Broadheads with moveable blades that fold/collapse when withdrawn are not considered barbed. The western gray squirrel may be hunted with small game arrow points/heads.
It is unlawful to hunt game mammals with:
- Bows having a draw weight of fewer than 40 pounds (except no minimum draw weight for western gray squirrel).
- Any device secured to or supported by the bow that maintains the bow at full draw.
- Any electronic device attached to the bow or arrow, except lighted arrow nocks that have no function other than to increase the visibility of the arrow.
The website for Oregon’s bowhunting regulations are listed here: http://www.eregulations.com/oregon/big-game-hunting/legal-hunting-weapons-game-mammals/
PENNSYLVANIA – LEGAL
Long, recurve or compound bows with a peak draw weight not less than 35 pounds, and crossbows with a draw weight of not less than 125 pounds are permitted. Bowhunters must use arrows equipped with broadheads having an outside diameter of at least 7/8-inch with no less than two cutting edges.
This state has a cool interactive guide. Find it here: http://read.nxtbook.com/pgc/huntingtrapping/20192020/big_game_regulations.html
RHODE ISLAND – LEGAL
- Archers may use a longbow, recurve bow, compound bow or crossbow for hunting deer.
- Longbows, recurve bows and compound bows must be set at not less than forty (40) pounds for archers using fixed blade broadheads, and a minimum of fifty (50) pounds for archers using mechanical broadheads.
- Only broadhead tipped arrows with at least two (2) metal cutting edges are allowed. All broadheads must be seven eighths (7/8) of an inch or greater at the widest point including mechanical broadheads measured in the “open” position.
- Crossbows must be set at not less than one hundred twenty-five (125) pounds minimum draw weight. Expandable broadheads are permitted.
- One (1) field point arrow may be carried in the quiver for the safe discharge of the crossbow; the field point arrow must be made distinguishable from the crossbow arrow by a color difference.
- All archery deer hunters must have taken and successfully completed bowhunter education classes or hold a prior year archery deer permit in order to obtain a current year archery deer permit.
- Licensed deer hunters may carry one (1) blunt or judo tipped arrow to hunt the open portion of the small game season during the archery deer season.
- Licensed archery deer hunters using a crossbow may carry one (1) blunt or judo tipped arrow to hunt small game mammals during the open portion of the small game season during the archery deer season; no birds may be taken with a crossbow and this arrow must be made distinguishable from broadhead tipped arrows and the discharge arrow.
You can find this information here: http://www.eregulations.com/rhodeisland/hunting/deer-hunting/
SOUTH CAROLINA – LEGAL
Archery means a longbow, recurve bow, compound bow or crossbow (50-11-565). There are no restrictions on draw weight/length, arrow weight/length, or broadhead weight, width, or style.
This webpage has the above information, as well as other hunting regulations for South Carolina: http://www.eregulations.com/southcarolina/huntingandfishing/deer-rules-regulations/
SOUTH DAKOTA – LEGAL
A person hunting with bow and arrow may not use or possess any of the following:
- Explosive, poisonous, hydraulic, or pneumatic points
- Crossbows and draw-lock devices that hold the bow at partial or full draw except as provided in chapter 41:09:12
- Electronic devices mounted to the bow that aid in the taking of game. Except for: cameras, video cameras, cell phones used exclusively for photographic purposes, lighted sight pins, and illuminated arrow nocks
- Arrow rests that have more than three inches of continuous contact with the arrow
- Electronic arrow or electronic string releases
- Arrows, including the attached broadhead, weighing less than 275 grains when hunting a big game animal
- An arrow less than 26 inches long when measured from the notch of the nock to the end of the shaft, not including the blunt or broadhead
- An arrow without broadheads (either fixed or mechanical) that has at least two metal cutting edges when hunting big game animals, except blunt points may be possessed and used when hunting a turkey and both field points and blunt points may be possessed and used when hunting small game or at any time when possessed and used as practice arrows
- A bow that measures less than 50 pounds pull when hunting an elk with a mechanical broadhead or a bow that measures less than 40 pounds pull when hunting any other big game animal with a mechanical broadhead
- A bow that measures less than 40 pounds pull when hunting an elk with a fixed blade broadhead or a bow that measures less than 30 pounds pull when hunting any other big game animal with a fixed blade broadhead.
- Compound bows with a let-off of more than 80 percent
- Compound bows shorter than 28 inches as measured from the top of the upper wheel or cam to the bottom of the lower wheel or cam
Find the handbook for South Dakota here: https://www.flipsnack.com/SDGamefishparks/2019-hunting-and-trapping-handbook.html
TENNESSEE – LEGAL
There are no size restrictions that I could find. However, the link to the webpage for other regulations can be found here: http://www.eregulations.com/tennessee/hunting/big-game-regulations/
TEXAS – LEGAL
There is no minimum draw requirement for longbows, compound bows or recurved bows. Website for other regulations can be found here: https://tpwd.texas.gov/regulations/outdoor-annual/regs/season-types/archery-only
UTAH – LEGAL
- To hunt big game with archery equipment, your equipment must meet all of the following requirements:
- Your bow must have a minimum pull of 30 pounds at the draw or the peak, whichever comes first.
- Your arrowheads must have two or more sharp-cutting edges that cannot pass through a 7/8 inch ring. If you’re using expanding arrowheads, the arrowheads must have two or more sharp-cutting edges that cannot pass through a 7/8 inch ring when expanded.
- Your arrows must be at least 20 inches long, from the tip of the arrowhead to the tip of the nock.
- You may not use any of the following equipment to take big game during the archery season:
- A crossbow (Please see Utah Admin. Rule R657-12 and Utah Admin. Rule R657-5-11 for exceptions to this rule.)
- Arrows with chemically treated or explosive arrowheads
- A mechanical device that holds the bow at any increment of draw (Please see Utah Admin. Rule R657-12 and Utah Admin. Rule R657-5-11 for exceptions to this rule.)
- A release aid that is not handheld or that supports the draw weight of the bow
- A bow with a magnifying-aiming device
The Utah hunting guide can be viewed with this link: https://wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks/2019_field_regs.pdf
VERMONT – LEGAL
There are no size restrictions. Other regulations can be found here: http://www.eregulations.com/vermont/hunting/general-regulations/
VIRGINIA – LEGAL
There are no size restrictions. This states hunting guide can be viewed here: https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019-2020-Virginia-Hunting-and-Trapping-Regulations-Digest.pdf
WASHINGTON – LEGAL
It is unlawful for any person to hunt big game animals with a bow that does not produce a minimum of 40 pounds of pull measured at twenty-eight inches or less draw length. It is unlawful to hunt big game animals with any arrow measuring less than 20 inches in length.
View the Washington state hunting publication here: https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/02063/wdfw02063.pdf
WEST VIRGINIA – LEGAL
There are no size restrictions for longbows, recurve bows, and compound bows. However, It is illegal to hunt with a crossbow that does not have:
- A draw weight of at least 125 lbs
- A working safety
- Bolts at least 18 inches long
- Broadheads with at least two sharp-cutting edges at least 3/4 inches wide
Find this information, along with other regulations, here: http://www.wvdnr.gov/hunting/Regs1920/19-20_hunting_regs.pdf
WISCONSIN – LEGAL
- Crossbows and bow and arrows may be used by any person hunting under the authority of a gun deer license during any firearm deer season. Note: when hunting specifically under the authority of an archer license, only bows are allowed. When hunting under the authority of a crossbow license, only a crossbow is allowed. • Bows must have a draw weight of 30 pounds or greater, and metal broadheads must be at least 7/8 of an inch wide and kept sharp. Stone arrowheads may be used.
- Crossbows must have a minimum draw of 100 pounds, working safety and use at least 14-inch long bolts or arrows equipped with broadheads as described above.
- Bows equipped with a draw lock mechanism that is capable of holding the bow at full draw without the aid of a hunter are considered crossbows. These are exempt from the 100-pound requirement but must meet the 30-pound minimum draw weight.
Find the above details here: https://dnr.wi.gov/files/PDF/pubs/wm/WM0431.pdf
WYOMING – LEGAL
- For the taking of antelope, bighorn sheep, black bear, deer, mountain goat, mountain lion, or gray wolf where designated as a trophy game animal, a hunter shall use a longbow, recurve bow or compound bow of not less than forty (40) pounds draw weight and an arrow equipped with a fixed or expanding point broadhead that when fully expanded cannot pass through a seven-eighths (7/8) inch solid ring.
- For the taking of elk, grizzly bear or moose, a hunter shall use a longbow, recurve bow or compound bow of not less than fifty (50) pounds draw weight and an arrow equipped with a fixed or expanding point broadhead that when fully expanded cannot pass through a seven-eighths (7/8) inch solid ring.
- For the taking of any big or trophy game animal with a crossbow, a hunter shall use a crossbow having a peak draw weight of at least ninety (90) pounds and a bolt of at least sixteen (16) inches in length equipped with a fixed or expanding point broadhead that when fully expanded cannot pass through a seven-eighths (7/8) inch solid ring.
- For the taking of any big or trophy game animal by the use of any archery equipment, a hunter may use trackable arrow technology to assist in following up their shot, retrieving a hunting arrow or locating a legally harvested big or trophy game animal. Any electronic tracking device that is capable of transferring from a hunting arrow to a big or trophy game animal shall not be considered trackable arrow technology and shall not be permitted for hunting big or trophy game animals.
- Magnifying sights, holographic sights and range-finding sights attached to legal archery equipment are permissible to use while archery hunting any big or trophy game animal
This link is a small little publication that can be found here: https://wgfd.wyo.gov/WGFD/media/content/January_CH-32_Final-1-15-20.pdf
There you have it! This article has A TON of great information about bowhunting in the United States. As always, be sure to check out the links or reach out to your local fish and game department to verify all the information found in this article.
I’m a contributor to ArchersHub.com, and I love sharing my experiences and things that I have learned with others. My husband and I are avid bowhunters from Virginia, and we enjoy spending our time practicing archery and learning more about the sport.