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The Laws Of Bow Hunting In The United States

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Bow hunting provides recreational activities for a lot of Americans. Bow hunting is a method of hunting done either for recreational purpose or for consumption. This hunting method involves locating and killing animals by using a bow to shoot arrows. This hunting method is suitable for places that have restrictions on fire arms.

In some countries, bow hunting has been outlawed for various reasons. Bow hunting is however legal in USA. Although legal, like many other activities, bow hunting is regulated by laws and regulations. Bow hunting in USA is regulated by federal and state laws. However, it is primarily regulated by state laws. State regulations cover different matters relating to bow hunting such as location to hunt, bow hunting season, animal species, minimum draw weight, animal tagging, laws of trespass and hunting method.

Bow hunting regulations are passed to provide protection of rights of: people, property, resources, the environment and the wild life. Bow hunters are expected to be conversant with the various hunting regulations and to obey these regulations. If and when these regulations are violated, there are consequences will which depend on the state laws. The punishments usually include but are not limited to fines, revocation of hunting license and prison sentence. The gravity of punishment to be imposed on an offender depends on the gravity of violation by the bow hunter.

Some of the areas covered by bow hunting regulations are considered below.

Hunting license

To hunt in public a hunter must have state hunting license. States issue bow hunting license. The process for application and issuing of license is similar in the various states. Hunters are not expected go hunting without their license. Hunting without license attracts penalty. As with many other penalties, the penalty to be imposed differs from state to state. In some states, it attracts penalty of fine but in others jail time.

Hunting location

There are certain places that a hunter is permitted to hunt. Public places are good places to hunt and are provided by government to allow hunters follow their passion. These public places (National Parks) however have regulations and hunters are expected to adhere to these regulations. Hunters can also hunt in private land. To hunt in private land, a hunter needs permission from the land owner to avoid trespass claim. A trespass claim can cause the hunter to pay high damages. Thus, hunters are advised to ensure permission is gotten from land owner before hunting on private land. This applies where the land doesn’t belong to the hunter.

In addition, while hunting, bow hunters are not permitted to shoot a bow across a public path irrespective of whether or not anyone is passing the path. Violation of this rule is punishable with fine and the possibility of jail time, depending on the specific state law.

Draw weight minimum

Draw weight minimum is the force generated by pulling the bow in its full stretch. It is the strength of the bow. Legal minimum draw weight depends on the state and game in question. As a rule of thumb, the legal draw weight is considered to be 35 – 40 pounds. States have minimum or maximum draw weights set out in state regulations. The rationale for setting a minimum or maximum draw weight is to prevent brutality on the game. The type of animal being hinted also determines the minimum or maximum draw weight as certain states set out certain animals for minimum and certain for maximum draw weight.

The following are some of the limits placed by states.

  • Alaska has a minimum draw weight of 40 pounds when hunting wolf, deer and wolverine then a maximum of 50 pounds for hunting elk, moose and mountain goat.
  • Rhode Island has a minimum draw weight of 40 pounds and a maximum of 50 pounds.
  • Arkansas has a minimum draw weight of 40 pounds.
  • Connecticut has a minimum draw weight of 40 pounds.
  • Washington has a minimum draw weight of 40 pounds.
  • Minnesota has a minimum draw weight of 30 pounds.
  • Colorado has a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds.
  • Nebraska has a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds.
  • Kansas has no minimum draw weight.

It is unlawful for a hunter to hunt with a bow that does not meet the minimum draw weight of the state or exceeds the maximum draw weight set.

Type of bow

There are different types of archery bows. They include but are not limited to: Recurve bows, long bows, cross bows and compound bows. Bows are defined in the different state regulations. These definitions serve as a means to exclude types of bow not allowed in a state. There are states with no bow restrictions. Others however place restrictions on not just the type of bow but also the specifications of bow. Some states also state the length of the arrow and size of arrow head. The type of bow allowed also depends on the type of animal the hunter is hunting.

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The following are some states and their restrictions.

  • The state of Alabama has no restriction whatsoever on bow types.
  • In Arkansas, long bow, recurve bow and compound bow are the bows allowed. Scopes are not to be used. Mechanical strings releases may be used.
  • In Colorado, long bow, recurve bow or compound bows are to be used by the hunters. Mechanical release is not to be used. It is allowed to be used only if it is hand drawn with no connect ion to the bow. Automatic loading of arrows on bow is not allowed and explosive arrows are not allowed.
  • In Hawaii, the type of bow determines the minimum draw weight. Long bow must not be less than 40 pounds. Recurved bows have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds. Compound bows have a minimum draw weight of 30 pounds.
  • In North Carolina, long bows and recurved bows are the recognised types.

Bow hunting season

A hunting season is usually set for bow hunting which is separate from gun hunting season. This regulation is for the protection of hunters as bow hunters tend to dress in camouflage. It would be dangerous to bow hunt in gun season as bow hunter may be caught in the cross fire. Hunting seasons are also regulated to preserve wild life and certain species. Bow hunting season depends on the state regulation. When a season is closed, hunters are not expected to hunt. This is a violation of the state law and is a punishable offence.

Hunting method

In some states, it is illegal to chase, intercept animals with moving vehicles or motorcycles. It is also against the law to shoot a bow while on a motorcycle for hunting. There are however exceptions. For example, exemption is given to hunters with disabled hunters permit.

In certain states, only temporary tree stands and climbing devices are allowed. Permanent ones are prohibited. In addition to this, some states also prohibit baiting to attract game. The only method allowed for attracting game use of scent.

Arrow poison

Arrow poisons are sometimes put on arrow heads for hunting. The poison enters the blood stream of the animal to speed the death process. In certain states, poison is not allowed on the arrow used on animals.

Animal tagging requirement

State laws provide for name tagging and method of tagging. To tag is to label the game in other words, to claim the game. After hunting, the hunter is expected to tag the game. The tag is to indicate the date and signature of the hunter. Tagging is required to be done immediately after the kill, before the game is moved to a vehicle, farm house or residence. It is illegal to not tag a game and of course state laws provide the punishment for violation of the name tagging requirement.

The method of tagging depends on the animal killed. For example, to tag a turkey, the tag is attached to one leg. However, to tag a deer, three tags are put on it. One on the hind leg, another in between the hoof and the last on is put on the ankle joint.


When a game is tagged and is to be transported, certain rules apply to the transportation. The law requires that the animal be lawfully tagged and its head long with the external sex organs are still attached to the body of the game.

Harassing other hunters

Harassing of hunters can take various forms. It is against the law for a hunter to deliberately harass another hunter or take the game of another.

Penalty for violation of regulation

Depending on the state and the gravity of the violation, hunting offences range from misdemeanour to felony. When there is a violation of hunting law the hunter may be fined, imprisoned with the option of fine or just imprisoned. Hunting license is a privilege and not a right so upon certain violation, this privilege could be revoked. Hunters are therefore familiarise themselves with the regulations of the state they wish to hunt in, before hunting. This is to avoid violation of regulation.

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The Laws Of Bow Hunting In The United States. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
“The Laws Of Bow Hunting In The United States.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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