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Can Felons Hunt With A Bow?

Can felons hunt with a bow? Whether you’re planning on hunting for sport, food, or income, as a felon, you need to know what weapons you can legally use.

Making a mistake over your choice of hunting weapon could land you in serious trouble, so it’s vital that you do plenty of research before you make a purchase or borrow a friend’s hunting gear.

As you most likely already know, a felon can’t own or use a firearm for any reason, so the most common hunting weapon is out of the question.

This leaves two possible options for wild game hunting. These are bow hunting and trapping.

Can felons hunt with a bow, or is this yet another restriction you’ll have to live with?

That’s the question we’ll answer in this article.

Can Felons Hunt With A Bow in 2024?

Can Felons Hunt With A Bow

A bow is a weapon, but it isn’t a firearm, so in most cases, the answer to, “Can felons hunt with a bow?” is yes.

The legislation which removes your right to own and use firearms is only concerned with firearms and explosives. It doesn’t cover every weapon.

For a weapon to fall into the firearms category, the weapon needs to be able to expel a projectile using an explosive.

A bow expels a projectile – the arrow or bolt – but it uses your muscle power to create the force to fire the arrow. No explosion is created when you use a bow.

Therefore, a bow is not a firearm, and the regulations under the federal Gun Control Act which prohibit felons from owning or using firearms do not apply.

So now you know about federal law. What about state laws?

Are There Any Other Laws That Ban Felons From Using Bows?

While federal law applies nationwide, states make their own laws and you could face a restriction depending on the state you live in, or the state you visit on a hunting trip.

To find out if there is a restriction in your state, you should seek advice from a lawyer or look up the laws for your state that deal with felons owning or using weapons.

As an example, in Colorado, bows are considered weapons, and felons are not permitted to own or use bows. If you violated that law, you would be faced with a felony charge of possession of a weapon by a previous offender.

The penalty for that offense is 12 – 18 months in prison, one year of parole, and a fine of up to $100,000.

While it’s convenient to look up quick answers online for most things, it’s not a good idea to rely on the internet for advice about anything that could lead to criminal charges, large fines, or imprisonment.

Knowing your state’s laws on the legality of owning a bow as a felon is an area that you must do your own due diligence on.

Another point you’ll need to check on is your own release or probation terms. Read through your documents to make sure that there aren’t any restrictions on you using or owning a bow.

Although restrictions aren’t likely to be in place for the majority of nonviolent felonies, if your felony conviction was for a crime involving the use of a weapon, owning a bow could be off-limits to you.

And if you’re out on probation, you’ll want to let your probation officer know about your hunting plans just in case there might be any unforeseen issues that could get you into trouble.

Related Article: Can Felons Go To Gun Range?

Do You Need A Hunting License To Hunt With A Bow?

Yes, absolutely. Don’t get yourself into hot water by thinking that hunting licenses only apply to guns.

You’ll need to apply for a license for the type of animal you want to hunt, take any required courses and exams, and pay the relevant fee.

Unfortunately, some states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts, prohibit some felons from obtaining hunting licenses.

In those states, you may be able to use a bow for target practice, but you would break the law if you went out to hunt with your bow without a license.

Often you won’t need to pass any kind of criminal background check to obtain a hunting license, so there’s no reason to avoid applying for one.

Can Felons Hunt With A Compound Bow?

Can Felons Hunt With A Compound Bow?

A compound bow is a popular choice among bow hunters. It’s much easier to use and less tiring than a recurve bow, which means you get better accuracy and a more successful hunt.

Unlike recurve bows, compound bows have a let-off, which means that you don’t have to hold the draw weight the entire time the bowstring is pulled back. On a 50-pound bow with an 80% let-off, you’re only going to need to hold 10 pounds. You can draw the bow and hold your aim for longer without muscle fatigue ruining your shot.

There are no restrictions in place that prohibit felons from hunting with compound bows. But when you hunt with a compound bow, there are some specific rules you’ll need to follow to be legal.

Before you purchase a compound bow, check on your state requirements for things like draw weight, length, and let-off. Hunting with the wrong bow could lead to your hunting license being revoked and a fine.

When you apply for your hunting license, you’ll be given all the rules and regulations that you need to follow. Your local hunting or sporting goods store will also be a good place to get advice about which compound bows meet the requirements for hunting in your state.

Read More: Is a Crossbow a Firearm?

Can Felons Hunt With A Crossbow?

If crossbows are legal for hunting in your state, then you can go hunting with a crossbow. There are no specific bans on felons using crossbows. However, in Minnesota, holding a firearms license is a requirement to hunt with a crossbow, which means that felons can’t hunt with this type of bow.

Currently, only Oregon bans the use of crossbows statewide, although you will need to research your county’s rules on crossbow hunting.

In some states, crossbows are legal, but certain counties within the state may have prohibited crossbow hunting.

You also need to know that different crossbow hunting seasons are in force from state to state. For example, in North Dakota, you can hunt with a crossbow during rifle season but not archery season, while in Oklahoma, you have to hunt with a crossbow during archery season.

If you’re hunting with a crossbow in firearm season, be mindful of the constructive possession law (see below) if you take a break in the company of other hunters hunting with guns.

Some states also limit the type of animal you can hunt with crossbows, while others require a big game permit for all crossbow hunting.

For the longest possible hunting season, you may need to consider hunting with a compound bow for part of the year and a crossbow for the rest of the season.

Be Careful Who You Hunt With

If you plan to go out hunting with a partner or a group, you must check if they are going to carry firearms on their person or in their vehicle.

Even if everyone is hunting with a bow, someone in your group could have a firearm on them. In fact, it’s common for bow hunters to take a gun along on a hunting trip for self-defense purposes.

The reason you need to be careful about this is because of constructive possession laws.

If you came into contact with law enforcement for some reason and there was a gun nearby that you knew about and could exercise control over, you could be charged with constructive possession, which is a third-degree felony.

Check This Also: Can A Felon Own A Taser?

FAQs on Can a Felon Hunt With a Bow

Can A Felon Be Around A Bow?

Can A Felon Be Around A Bow?

In most states, felons can own and use bows for target practice and for hunting. Check with a lawyer or your state authorities to find out if there is a restriction in place in your state. You’ll also need to go through your release or probation paperwork to make sure that the terms of your release don’t prohibit your use of a bow.

Are Compound Bows Considered Firearms?

No, to be a firearm, a weapon has to meet a very specific definition. The ATF defines a firearm as a weapon that expels a projectile using an explosive. Since compound bows do not use explosives, they are not firearms. If you want to hunt with a compound bow, you’ll need a license and your weapon must meet the required specifications for length, draw weight, and let-off.


For the vast majority of felons, hunting with a bow is a viable and enjoyable alternative to hunting with a gun.

In most cases, you can hunt with a recurve bow, a compound bow, or a crossbow as long as you follow all the rules about hunting licenses, hunting seasons, and weapon technical specifications in force in your state.

Before you head to your sporting goods store to pick out a bow, you should investigate the laws in your state to make sure that bow ownership and hunting licenses aren’t prohibited for felons.

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