Do You Need a License to Own a Crossbow in the US?

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The only answer to this question – do you need a license to own a crossbow in the US – well, its complicated.

The crossbow often has a complicated legal status due to its potential use for lethal purposes, and its similarities with both firearms and other archery weapons. The crossbow is, for technical purposes, often categorized as a firearm by various legal jurisdictions, despite the fact that no combustion is required to propel the projectile.

In some nations crossbows are not subject to any specific regulation, in most there are laws, which differ widely. Each jurisdiction has its own definition of a crossbow, and in some cases pistol-sized crossbows are treated differently. There may be minimum ages for possession, and sales of both crossbows and bolts may be restricted. Specific rules around hunting use are also common.

Some jurisdictions require permits and background checks similar to those required for firearms.

Do You Need a License to Own a Crossbow in the US?

This is not an area that you will want to make a guess.  You will need to know what your state laws are on having a license for carrying a crossbow and be sure to abide by those regulations.

Not following the law could result in ramifications that could cost you fines which mean that would take away from your hunting budget.

Here are the license regulations for each state:

Alaska

Crossbows are illegal in bow-only areas, but can be used where guns and bows are legal weapons. Legal in archery season for handicapped hunters with an approved Methods and Means Exemption Form.
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Alabama

Crossbows legal for all persons during the entire deer hunting season.  Magnified scopes are now allowed on crossbows only.
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Arkansas

Crossbows legal during archery seasons; must have minimum draw weight of 125 pounds and mechanical safety.
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Arizona

Crossbows legal for handicapped hunters on a very restrictive permit basis, or for anyone during general firearms seasons.
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California

Crossbows legal for all hunters during gun seasons. Also, the California Game Commission voted on April 22, 2004 to adopt the following language to their regulations: “Any person with a physical disability which prevents him/her from being able to draw and hold a bow in a firing position, may 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, archery season, or general session.  Under these conditions, archers must provide to the Department and retain in his/her immediate possession while taking or attempting to take big game written verification of the disability, including: the person’s name and signature, address, date of birth, driver’s license or DMV number, physician’s name and signature, physician’s license number and address and a description of the disability.”
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Colorado

Crossbows legal for all hunters during gun seasons and for handicapped hunters during archery season.
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Connecticut

Effective 2013 Fall seasons, crossbows will be legalized for all archery hunters.
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Delaware

Crossbows legal during all deer seasons.  Crossbows may be equipped with a scope.

It is unlawful to transport a crossbow on or within any vehicle while the crossbow is in the cocked position.  Deer may be hunted with crossbows provided hunter orange is displayed when it is also lawful to hunt deer with a gun.

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Florida

August 30, 2010.  Effective July 2011, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission  passed a new rule which will extend zonal crossbow seasons by a month.  The new rule adds   30 days to each crossbow season in zones A, B, and C, and adds 33 days in zone D, thereby coinciding with the archery season on private land only.

Georgia

Crossbows legal in all seasons starting 2003.
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Hawaii

Crossbows legal by special disabled permit only.
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Iowa

Crossbows are legal during the late Muzzleloader season. Also, Residents 70 and older may obtain one Antlerless-only statewide crossbow deer license.
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Idaho

During an any-weapon hunting season you can hunt with a crossbow without any other permit besides your hunting license and proper tag. Crossbows also legal for handicapped persons by permit-to hunt with a crossbow during an archery season, you must also have a valid archery permit as well as a hunting license and a proper tag.
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Illinois

Crossbows are legal during archery season
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Indiana

Crossbows legal in entire archery season beginning December 31, 2011.  Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125-pounds and a mechanical safety.
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Kansas

Crossbows legal for all hunters during archery deer seasons.

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Kentucky

Legal in all of archery season. Deer archery season will open the 3rd Saturday in September and close on the 3rd Monday in January. Additionally, youth 16 and under, and 65+ will open on September 7th.

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Louisiana

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Commission now has the ability to establish a bow and arrow only season, and a bow and arrow and crossbow season in special deer hunting seasons.
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Massachusetts

Crossbows may be used by certain permanently handicapped persons by permit only.
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Maryland

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife and Heritage Service now allows crossbows to be used to hunt any game species during any open season where a vertical bow may be used (excluding waterfowl and certain furbearers). This would permit the use of a crossbow during the entire deer bow season in all counties.  Minimum draw weight is 75-pounds, telescopic sights are permitted and the crossbow must have a working safety.
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1-877-620-8367 (in state) or 410-260-8367 (out of state)

Maine

To be eligible to purchase a crossbow hunting permit, any person (16 years of age and older) must hold a valid license to hunt big game (either a big game hunting license or an archery license), and must submit proof of having successfully completed an archery hunting education course and a crossbow hunting course or evidence of having previously held adult archery and crossbow hunting permit issued specifically for the purpose of hunting with a crossbow or bow and arrow in this State or any other state, province or country in any year after 1979. When proof or evidence cannot be provided, the applicant may substitute a signed affidavit.

Also legal for disabled hunters.
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Michigan

Anyone who is 10 years old or older can hunt with a crossbow during any season when a firearm is allowed, for big game or small game, except that hunters in the Upper Peninsula may not use a crossbow during the Dec. 1-Jan. 1 late archery season and Dec. 2-11 muzzleloader season, unless the hunter is disabled. Crossbow use is not allowed in the Red Oak Unit during the archery-only bear season (Oct. 7-13). Read More

Minnesota

Crossbows legal for handicapped hunters by permit.  Also legal for anyone during firearms season and Turkey and Bear seasons.
Legal for 60+ for deer, bear, turkey and rough fish.
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Missouri

Crossbows are legal during Archery Deer & Turkey seasons.
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Mississippi

Effective July 1, 2013, crossbows are legal in all of Archery Season.  Archer’s are reminded that they are required to wear hunter orange during all gun seasons.  The separate crossbow permit is no longer required.

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Montana

Crossbows legal only during gun seasons. No provision for handicapped hunters.
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North Carolina

Effective August 1, 2010, allows the use of crossbows anytime bow and arrows are legal weapons. Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 100-pounds.
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North Dakota

Crossbows legal for handicapped hunters by permit.

Deer Gun & Youth Deer Seasons–Crossbows are legal during the deer gun season.  Crossbows must: a) have a peak draw weight of 75 pounds and not more than 200 pounds, b) be equipped with a working safety to prevent accidental firing, c) have a stock at least 14 inches long, d) use bolts at least 14 inches in length.

Muzzleloader Season–Crossbows must: a) have a peak draw weight of 75 pounds and not more than 200 pounds, b) be equipped with a working safety to prevent accidental firing, c) have a stock at least 14 inches long, d) use bolts at least 14 inches in length.  No magnification (1X) scopes are legal to use on crossbows during the muzzleloader season.

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Nebraska

Crossbows are legal archery equipment for big game (deer, antelope, elk, turkey & bighorn sheep).
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New Hampshire

Crossbows legal for handicapped hunters by permit. Legal for all hunters to take a deer in firearms season. Legal for all hunters on Long Island in Moultonborough with Long Island Deer Permit.  Crossbow hunters must purchase a crossbow hunting permit.
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New Jersey

Crossbows are legal in any bow and arrow hunting season and other hunting seasons for all species where the use of bow and arrow is allowed. Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 75 pounds and a minimum stock length of 25 inches.

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New Mexico

Crossbow use is allowed by Certified Mobility Impaired Hunters during all hunts.  Crossbows may now be used in “Any Legal Sporting Arm” or Muzzleloader” hunts unless otherwise restricted.
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Nevada

Crossbows may only be used for hunting big game during an “Any Legal Weapon” hunt.  Crossbows are not allowed for archery hunts.  Crossbows must have a minimum 125-pound draw weight, minimum draw length of 14-inches from front of bow to nocking point, minimum 18-inch stock and a positive mechanical safety.  Arrows must be minimum 16-inches and have a broadhead.
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New York

Deer or Bear
South – November 1-14, 2014
North – October 15-24, 2014
Please check NY Hunting Regulations for additional information.

www.dec.ny.gov

Ohio

Crossbows legal during archery season.
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Oklahoma

Crossbows and conventional bows with draw lock devices are a legal means of hunting whenever conventional bows are allowed.
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Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners has approved the expanded lawful use of crossbows to include both the archery deer and bear seasons. The Board included a sunset date for the expanded crossbow use requiring a future vote on the measure again before June 30, 2012.

*The use of magnified scopes was approved on April 21, 2009.

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Rhode Island

The crossbow is no longer classified as a firearm – it is now in the same classification as recurves, compounds and longbows. Crossbows are now Approved for use by all archery hunters during the Archery deer season provided the hunter has successfully completed the Bow Hunter education course or otherwise qualifies for an Archery deer permit.

The use of crossbow for hunting wild turkey or any wild bird is prohibited by law (RIGL 20-14-7).

Special permits are no longer required to hunt with the crossbow including those previously required for disabled hunters; however, use of Adaptive Aids for archery hunting still requires the special permit.

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South Carolina

Archery equipment is now defined as ” a bow and arrow, a long bow, a recurve bow, a compound bow, or a cross bow.”

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South Dakota

Crossbows legal for handicapped hunters during archery season. Must have a minimum draw weight of 125-pounds and a functional mechanical safety device.  Telescopic sights and lighted sight pins are prohibited.
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Tennessee

The use of crossbows is now permitted during all seasons including the regular archery season.
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Texas

Full-inclusion of crossbows in archery seasons except Grayson County.

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Utah

The general-season any legal weapon (rifle) buck deer hunt runs from Oct. 18 to Oct. 26. If you obtained a general-season any legal weapon buck permit, you may use any legal weapon to take one buck deer in the hunting unit listed on your permit. 2014 is the first year you may use a crossbow, a draw lock or a muzzleloader with a magnifying scope during the rifle hunt. (You may not use them during the archery or muzzleloader hunts.)
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Virginia

Crossbows are legal during archery season and firearms season.  A crossbow permit will be required if the season is “archery only”.
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Vermont

Hunters 50 and older may use a crossbow without first obtaining a crossbow disability permit. Hunters 49 or younger need a disability permit to hunt with a crossbow.
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Washington

Crossbows are legal for qualifying archers with a permanent non-operable upper extremity impairment. An application must be completed by a licensed Physician and submitted by the hunter to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for consideration. Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125-pounds and a working safety. Retractable broadheads are not legal. Crossbows with a scope are legal during modern firearm season within “restricted areas”.

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Wisconsin

Legal in all of Archery Season – effective 2014 Seasons (will be reviewed in August 2019).
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West Virginia

Full-inclusion of crossbows in archery seasons except Logan, McDowell, Mingo, & Wyoming County. However, Class Y/YY holders may still use crossbows in these counties during the archery seasons.
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Wyoming

Crossbows legal during archery seasons; Must have 90-pound minimum draw weight, minimum draw length of 14-inches and shoot a minimum 16-inch bolt.
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Conclusion

Sure, its complicated.  But understand that each state will have various rules and regulation. Thankfully, we have plenty of resources to discover when and where we need to carry a license for a crossbow.

 

About the Author Pink Crossbow

Jen loves the outdoors and enjoys exploring a wide-range of activities. A mother of 3 whose seen far too many friends suffer from cancer, she believes Pink Crossbow reflects a sport for LIFE. It's a reminder that archery belongs to everyone regardless of age, size, or gender...and real enthusiasts aren't afraid to wear pink!

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