March 12, 2020

Can I Carry a Bow and Arrow in Public?

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One thing that I hadn't thought of is what happens if I was to carry my bow in public and is it even legal to carry out? Well, these thoughts made me dig in and start searching for answers to help calm my own nerves, and hopefully yours also!

Can I carry a bow and arrow in public? In most states their is no rules that explicit say that you can't carry, but there is more than state rules so you need to look deeper into your county and city rules to make sure there isn't another ruling. It is always safe to put your bow into a bow sock and keep it unstrung.

Well, isn't that interesting? Let's take a look into the reasons why you may want to carry a bow out in public, additionally, we are going to look into what license if any is required for you to carry. Finally, we are going to dive into state laws and if there are any states which actually do restrict your options.

Why Carry a Bow In Public?

Well for hunting this makes sense as you will be possibly in public lands while moving to the blind. Otherwise you could be bringing the bow to a shop to get something repaired or to have them look at an issue you have where you need a set of expert eyes.

In most cases the best way to know if you are violating the laws is to read them for your local city, county, and state.

Josh

In this case you should transport the bow unstrung and carried, should you have a strung bow you could be stopped by police as it and you could be considered armed.

Do You Need a License to Carry a Bow and Arrow?

In the United States this is a no, it is not a requirement to have a license to carry or use a bow and arrow. This may be subject to local laws and rules which can supersede the country not having a rule. It should be noted that this doesn't apply to crossbows and that there is an entirely different set of regulations around those devices.

Most state regulations will be specifically around one of the following related to your bow:

  • Restrictions to the bow size
  • Restrictions to the bow weight
  • Restrictions to the bow style
  • Restrictions by age
  • Requirements for purchase

You will want to focus around any local state, county, and city rules around the above to let you know your overall needs to be legal.

Does a Bow and Arrow Count as a Firearm?

A bow and arrow aren't counted legally as firearms as they don't have a barrel and firing being accomplished via gunpowder to send a projectile. This means you aren't under all the same rules and concerns of a firearms owner which is very beneficial.

State Bow and Arrow Laws (HUNTING)

STATERESTRICTIONS
ALABAMANo Size Restrictions
ALASKAHunting 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 is 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.
ARIZONANo Size Restrictions
ARKANSASLong, recurve and compound bows: Must have at least a 40-pound pull. Scopes may not be used. String locks and mechanical string releases may be used. Deer, turkey and bear hunters are required to use arrowheads at least 7/8-inches wide. Poison may not be used on arrows. Mechanical broadheads allowed
CALIFORNIABow, 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 long bow, recurve or compound bow.
COLORADOA long bow, 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).
CONNECTICUTFor the purposes of hunting deer and turkey, legal bows include long, recurved, or compound bows with a minimum draw weight of 40 pounds and crossbows. Mechanical string release devices are permitted. Projectiles coated with any drug, poison or tranquilizing substance are prohibited.
DELAWARENo person shall use a compound, recurve, or longbow with a pull weight less than 35 pounds.
FLORIDAUsing bows with draw weights less than 35 pounds.
GEORGIANo size restrictions
HAWAIIWhen hunting with a bow, no person shall use:(A) Long bows with less than forty pounds of drawing tension at a twenty-eight inch draw;(B) Recurved bows with less than thirty-five pounds of drawing tension; or (C) Compound bows with less than thirty pounds of drawing tension.
IDAHOWith 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 less than 150 pounds. 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 less than 300 grains. With an arrow less than 24 inches from broadhead to nock inclusive.
ILLINOISVertical bows, limited to longbows, recurve bows, or compound bows with minimum pull of 40 pounds at some point within a 28-inch draw. Minimum arrow length is 20 inches. Any mechanical device capable of maintaining a drawn or partially drawn position on a vertical bow without the hunter exerting full string tension is illegal.
INDIANALegal equipment includes long bows, compound bows or recurve bows and arrows. The bow must have a pull of at least 35 pounds. No portion of the bow’s riser or any track, trough, channel, arrow rest or other device that attaches to the bow’s riser can guide the arrow from a point back beyond the bow’s brace height. The common overdraw is still allowed as long as it does not extend beyond the string when the bow is relaxed.
IOWALongbows, 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.
KANSASDoes not have a minimum bow weight, draw length or bow length. 
KENTUCKYNo size restrictions
LOUISIANALegal gear for archery season includes: Traditional bow, compound bow, and crossbow, or any bow drawn, held or released by mechanical means.
MAINEDeer may be taken under the archery provisions only by means of hand-held bow with a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds, and broad-head arrow. Arrow heads must be at least 7/8 inch in width. 
MARYLANDFor hunting deer and bear, the vertical bow shall have a full draw and pull of not less than 30 pounds.
MASSACHUSETTSArrows must be well-sharpened steel broadhead blades no less than 7/8 inches in width. Expanding broadheads and mechanical releases are legal. All bows, except permitted crossbows, used for hunting deer (recurve, long, and compound) must have a draw weight of at least 40 lbs. at 28 inches or at peak draw.
MICHIGANNo size restrictions
MINNESOTABows must have a pull no less than 30 pounds at or before full draw.
MISSISSIPPILongbows, recurves, compound bows, and crossbows. There is no minimum or maximum draw weight. There is no minimum arrow length. Fixed or mechanical broadheads may be used.
MISSOURILongbows, compound bows, and recurve bows of any draw weight.
MONTANALEGAL: T24 NOT LEGAL: T18, T20
A bow is considered legal if it is at least 28 inches in total length. Bows shorter than 28 inches are prohibited for use in Montana. In another example, an arrow is defined as a projectile at least 20 inches in overall length. An arrow must weigh no less than 300 grains with the broadhead attached. Crossbows are not a legal weapon during the archery equipment only season.
NEBRASKALong bow, compound bow, recurve bow, shoulderfired non-electronic crossbow (with a draw weight of at least 125 pounds), hand-thrown spear.
NEVADAA longbow used in hunting a big game mammal must, in the hands of the user, be capable of throwing a 400 grain arrow 150 yards over level terrain. Arrows used in hunting big game mammals must be at least 24 inches long and have: (a) Fixed broadheads that are at least 7/8-inch wide at the widest point; or (b) Expandable, mechanical broadheads that are at least 7/8-inch wide at the widest point when the broadhead is in the open position.
NEW HAMPSHIREArchers 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. Retractable blade broadheads are permitted (cannot be less than ⅞ of an inch wide when open). Minimum draw weight for deer is 40 lbs.
NEW JERSEY35 pounds pull at archer’s draw length (long and recurve bows) or peak weight (compound bow) or 75 pound minimum draw weight (crossbow)
NEW MEXICOIncludes compound, recurve and longbows. Sights on bows may not magnify targets or project light. Arrows must have broadheads (fixed or mechanical) with steel cutting edges. No drugs may be used on arrows. Arrows cannot be driven by explosives.
NEW YORKA bow with a draw weight of 35 lbs or less is not legal.
NORTH CAROLINAArchery hunting is limited to longbows and recurved bows having a minimum pull of 40 pounds, com pound bows with a minimum pull of 35 pounds and crossbows with a minimum draw weight of 100 pounds. Only arrows with a fixed minimum broadhead width of 7/8 inch or a mech an ically opening broad head with a minimum width of 7/8 inch in the open position may be used for taking bear, deer or wild turkey. Blunt-type arrowheads may be used in taking small animals and birds, including but not limited to, rabbits, squirrels, quail, grouse, pheasants. Poisonous, drugged, barbed or explosive arrowheads may not be used for taking any game. Bolts must use broadheads as described for arrows
NORTH DAKOTAA 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 the bowstring. Bows used for hunting elk and moose must have at least (35 for deer), 50 pounds of draw at 28 inches or less draw length. 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 unbarbed and have fixed blades (i.e., broadheads with mechanical or retractable blades manufactured to stay open are illegal). 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, except a lighted nock and recording devices which do not aid in range finding, sighting or shooting the bow are permitted.
OHIOLongbows and crossbows may be used to take legal game. However, crossbows may not be used to hunt migratory game birds. Longbow hunters may use a hand-held mechanical release or a mechanical device with a working safety. Crossbows may be cocked with a device, but must have a working safety and a stock more than 25 inches long.
OKLAHOMAAny 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.
OREGON40 lbs or greater in draw weight for everything but elk. Elk is 50 lbs or greater in draw weight.
PENNSYLVANIALong, 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, and not more than 200 pounds. Bowhunters must use arrows equipped with broadheads having an outside diameter of at least 7/8-inch with no less than two cutting edges, which shall be in the same plane throughout the length of the cutting surface.
RHODE ISLANDLong bow, re-curve bow and compound bow 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 a mechanical broadheads. Only broadhead tipped arrows with at least two (2) metal cutting edges are allowed. All broadheads must be 7/8 of an inch or greater at the widest point. including mechanical broadheads measured in the “open” position. Licensed deer hunters may carry one blunt or judo tipped arrow to hunt the open portion of the small game season during the archery deer season.
SOUTH CAROLINAArchery means a longbow, recurve bow, compound bow or crossbow (50-11-565). There are no restrictions on draw weight/length, arrow weight/length, or broad head weight, width, or style.
SOUTH DAKOTALEGAL: T24  NOT LEGAL: T18, T20
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; - Arrow rests that have more than three inches of continuous contact with the arrow; - Electronic devices mounted to the bow that aid in the taking of game. However, cameras, video cameras, cell phones used exclusively for photographic purposes, lighted sight pins, and illuminated arrow nocks may be used; - Electronic arrow or electronic string releases; - 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;- An arrow, including the attached broadhead, weighing less than 275 grains when hunting a big game animal; - An arrow that is 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 a broadhead (fixed or mechanical) that has at least two metal cutting edges when hunting a big game animal, 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; or - 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.
TENNESSEENo size restrictions
TEXASThere is no minimum draw requirement for longbows, compound bows or recurved bows.
UTAHThe minimum bow pull is 40 pounds at the draw or the peak, whichever comes first.
VERMONTNo size restrictions
VIRGINIANo size restrictions
WASHINGTONIt 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 or weighing less than 6 grains per pound of draw weight with a minimum arrow weight of 300 grains.
WEST VIRGINIANo size restrictions
WISCONSINCrossbows and bow and arrows may be used by any person hunting under the authority of a gun deer license during any firearm (i.e., gun deer or muzzleloader) deer season. Note: when hunting under the authority of an archer license, only bows and arrows are allowed. When hunting under the authority of a crossbow license, only a crossbow is allowed. For hunting deer, 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 arrow heads may be used. Crossbows must have a minimum draw of 100 pounds, a working safety, and use at least 14-inch long bolts or arrows equipped with broadheads as described above. Bows equipped with a drawlock 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.
WYOMINGFor the taking of antelope, big horn sheep, black bear, deer, 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 broadhead or expanding point designed to have a minimum cutting width of one (1) inch after impact.  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 broadhead or expanding point designed to have a minimum cutting width of one (1) inch after impact.

Final Thoughts

As a good ambassador for the sport of Archery please don't do anything that would make the sport or the participants look bad. If your state limits your ability to carry a bow, don't try and challenge this and instead ask how you can carry within the rules established.

Hopefully you learned some cool new details about owning and bow and how to safely transport it along with your local laws and how to look into them in more detail.

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Article written by Josh Koop
I have loved to play outdoor games since I was a little kid, as I grew up I found more games and I also found out about alternate rules. I started Outdoor Diversions with Matt to help get this information out to everyone so they can enjoy these games as much as I do!