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Bear Hunting Regulations and Seasons

General Information

NEW: To report a bear, a hunter must have a customer account through GoOutdoorsVA. It is free and easy to set up your account at GoOutdoorsVirginia.com. If you have any problems, please call 804-367-1000.

Bag Limits

One per license year, at least 100 pounds live weight or 75 pounds dressed weight (all internal organs removed). Females with cubs may not be harvested. Cubs may be 30–50 lbs by fall. Please observe and be patient before shooting as cubs often lag behind the female.

Unlawful to Feed or Bait Bears

See Unlawful Feeding for details. Feeding or baiting prohibited year round and statewide. Do your part to keep bears wild, reduce human-bear conflicts, and slow the spread of mange. Bears with mange will have hair loss, dry and scaly skin, and sometimes look thin or starving.

Unlawful to Shoot Without Intent to Retrieve the Bear

No person shall kill or cripple and knowingly allow any game animal to be wasted without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the animal and retain it in their possession.

Unlawful to Cripple, Harm, or Dislodge and Continue to Hunt

It is unlawful to cripple, harm or dislodge a bear from a tree for the intent of continuing a hunt, chase, or for the purpose of training dogs.

Bear Harvest Reporting and Tooth Submission

Successful bear hunters must report their harvest through the internet or by telephone and also submit a bear tooth.

Look Up the Age of Your Harvested Bear Online!

The age of your harvested bear will be available online 9 to 10 months after the hunting season ends at the DWR website.

Tracking Dogs

Allowed

Archery Bear Season

Season Dates

October 2 through November 12: Statewide

Legal Methods and Restrictions

Special restrictions apply to archery tackle use during this season. See Legal Use of Firearms and Archery Tackle for more details.

  • Archery tackle only, excluding slingbows.
  • Persons with a disability that prevents them from drawing a bow or crossbow may hunt with an arrowgun during the special archery season provided they have in possession an authorization form provided by the Department that has been completed by their physician.
  • Broadhead widths must be at least 7/8-inch wide or expand upon impact to 7/8-inch.
  • It is unlawful to use explosive head arrows or arrows to which any drug, chemical, or toxic substance has been added.
  • It is unlawful to use dogs, except that dogs may be used to track wounded or dead bear (see Hunting with Dogs) and dogs may be used by youth or apprentice bear hunters to take bears on October 10
  • It is unlawful to have a firearm in possession, except that a muzzleloading firearm as defined in the muzzleloader bear season section may also be in possession when and where there is an overlap with a muzzleloading bear season where bear hunting with a rifle or muzzleloading firearm is permitted. (See exception for valid concealed handgun permit holders.)

Youth and Apprentice Bear Hunting Weekend

October 9 and 10

  • Hunting weapons legal during the firearms season are allowed on this weekend.
  • Statewide (Sunday hunting on private lands only)
  • Resident and nonresident youth hunters 15 years of age and under or holders of a valid apprentice hunting license, when in compliance with all applicable laws and licenses, may hunt when accompanied and directly supervised by an adult over the age of 18 who has a valid Virginia hunting license or is exempt from purchasing a hunting license. Nonresident youth of any age need to have the appropriate licenses (unless exempt from purchasing a license).
  • Bear bag limit, weight limits, and all other take restrictions apply. If a bear is taken on this weekend, the youth or apprentice hunter may not take another bear in any season.
  • Blaze color is required in areas with an open deer firearms season during this weekend. If hunting in an area with no open deer firearms season this weekend, blaze color is strongly recommended.
  • Dogs may not be used on Sunday statewide.
  • Bears may be taken with the aid of dogs on Saturday statewide except:
    • In the counties of Accomack, Campbell (west of the Norfolk Southern Railroad), Fairfax, Grayson (west of State Route 16), Henry, Loudoun, Northampton, Patrick, Pittsylvania (west of the Norfolk Southern Railroad), Roanoke (south of I-81), Smyth (that part south of I-81 and west of State Route 16), and Washington (south of I-81) and the city of Lynchburg.
    • On the Amelia, C. F. Phelps, Featherfin, G. Richard Thompson, Mattaponi, Mattaponi Bluffs, Merrimac Farm, Oakley Forest, Parker’s Branch on Big Woods, Pettigrew, Robert W. Duncan, Tye River Unit of James River, and Ware Creek Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), and other areas posted on WMAs.
  • Tracking dogs maintained and controlled on a lead may be used to find a wounded or dead bear.
  • Adult hunters accompanying youth or apprentice bear hunters:
    • do not need a bear license on this weekend.
    • shall not carry or discharge a firearm.
    • shall maintain close visual and verbal contact with, provide adequate direction to, and can immediately assume control of the firearm.

Muzzleloader Bear Season

Season Dates

November 6 through 12: Statewide in all areas where hunting with a muzzleloading rifle is permitted.

Legal Methods and Restrictions

Special restrictions apply to specific firearms use during this season. See Legal Use of Firearms and Archery Tackle and Local Firearms Ordinances for more details.

  • Muzzleloading guns that can be used during this season include:
    • Single shot muzzleloading rifles .40 caliber or larger, firing a single projectile or sabot (with a .35 caliber or larger projectile) where the projectile is loaded from the muzzle;
    • Muzzleloading shotguns (one or more barrels) not larger than 10 gauge where the projectiles are loaded from the muzzle;
    • Muzzleloading pistols (one or more barrels) .45 caliber or larger, firing a single projectile or sabot (with a .35 caliber or larger projectile) per barrel where the propellant and projectile are loaded from the muzzle;
    • Muzzleloading revolvers .45 caliber or larger, firing a single projectile or sabot (with a .35 caliber or larger projectile) per cylinder where the propellant and projectile are loaded from the forward end of the cylinder.
  • Flintlock, percussion, or electronic ignitions are permitted.
  • It is unlawful to have in immediate possession any firearm other than a muzzleloading firearm while hunting with a muzzleloader. (See exception for valid concealed handgun permit holders.)
  • Smokeless powder is allowed in muzzleloading firearms designed for it. Never use smokeless powder of any type in any quantity in a muzzleloading firearm that is not specifically designed for it.
  • Scopes are permitted.
  • Pnuematic arrowguns are allowed.
  • It is unlawful to use dogs, except that dogs may be used to track wounded or dead bear (see Hunting with Dogs).

Early Firearms Bear Season

September 27 through 29:

In the counties (including the towns and cities within) of Albemarle, Alleghany, Amherst, Augusta, Bath, Bedford, Bland, Botetourt, Buchanan, Clarke, Craig, Culpeper, Dickenson, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Giles, Greene, Highland, Lee, Loudoun, Madison, Montgomery (northwest of I-81), Nelson, Page, Prince William, Pulaski (northwest of I-81), Rappahannock, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Russell, Scott, Shenandoah, Smyth (northwest of I-81), Stafford, Tazewell, Warren, Washington (northwest of I-81), Wise, Wythe (northwest of I-81).

Closed

Firearms Bear Seasons

October 1 through January 1:

In the cities of Chesapeake, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach.

November 22 through January 1:

In the counties of Albemarle, Alleghany, Amherst, Arlington, Augusta, Bath, Bedford, Bland, Botetourt, Buchanan, Caroline, Chesterfield, Clarke, Craig, Culpeper, Dickenson, Fairfax, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Frederick, Giles, Goochland, Greene, Hanover, Henrico, Highland, Lee, Loudoun, Louisa, Madison, Montgomery, (northwest of I-81), Nelson, Orange, Page, Powhatan, Prince William, Pulaski (northwest of I-81), Rappahannock, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Russell, Scott, Shenandoah, Smyth (northwest of I-81), Spotsylvania, Stafford, Tazewell, Warren, Washington (northwest of I-81), Wise, Wythe (northwest of I-81), and on the Clinch Mountain and Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Areas and Channels State Forest.

(Orange/White Striped) November 29 through January 1:

In the counties of Carroll, Floyd, Franklin, Grayson, Henry, Montgomery (southeast of I-81), Patrick, Pulaski (southeast of I-81), Smyth (southeast of I-81), Washington (southeast of I-81), Wythe (southeast of I-81).

November 29 through December 18:

In the counties of Amelia, Appomattox, Brunswick, Buckingham, Campbell, Charles City, Charlotte, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Essex, Gloucester, Greensville, Halifax, Isle of Wight, James City, King and Queen, King George, King William, Lancaster, Lunenburg, Mathews, Mecklenburg, Middlesex, New Kent, Northumberland, Nottoway, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward, Prince George, Richmond, Southampton, Surry, Sussex, Westmoreland, and York.

Closed:

In the counties of Accomack and Northampton

Towns and Cities

Bears may be harvested using any lawful weapon within the incorporated limits of any town or city that allows bear hunting from October 2 through January 1. This season will not supersede local ordinances with respect to hunting or use of weapon.

Legal Methods and Restrictions

Special restrictions apply to specific firearms use during this season. See Legal Use of Firearms and Archery Tackle and Local Firearms Ordinances for more details.

  • Modern firearms
  • Arrowguns are allowed
  • Archery tackle (excludes slingbows)
  • Muzzleloading firearms

Dogs May Not Be Used to Hunt Bears

On Sundays while in possession of a weapon. The meaning of “possession” for the purpose of this section shall include, but not be limited to, having a firearm, bow, crossbow, or any weapon capable of taking a black bear in or on one’s person, vehicle, or conveyance. (See exception for valid concealed handgun permit holders.)

  • November 22 through 28 in the counties west of the Blue Ridge and in the counties of Amherst (west of Rt. 29), Bedford, and Nelson (west of Rt. 151).
  • November 22 through 26 in Madison and Greene counties.
  • During the firearms bear season in the counties of Campbell (west of Norfolk Southern Railroad), Carroll (east of the New River), Fairfax, Floyd, Franklin, Grayson (east of the New River), Henry, Loudoun, Montgomery (south of I-81), Patrick, Pittsylvania (west of Norfolk Southern Railroad), Pulaski (south of I-81), Roanoke (south of I-81), and Wythe (southeast of the New River or that part bounded by Rt. 21 on the west, I-81 on the north, the county line on the east, the New River on the southeast and Cripple Creek on the south), and in the city of Lynchburg.
  • On the Amelia, C. F. Phelps, Doe Creek, Featherfin, G. Richard Thompson, Mattaponi, Mattaponi Bluffs, Merrimac Farm, Oakley Forest, Parker’s Branch Tract on Big Woods, Pettigrew, Robert W. Duncan, Tye River Unit of James River, and Ware Creek Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), and other areas posted on WMAs.
  • When hunting during the archery or muzzleloading bear seasons, except in certain counties during the youth/apprentice bear hunting weekend.
  • On Cavalier WMA except during the Bear Hound Training Season from August 14 through August 28. Dogs may not be used to hunt bears at any other time.

Bear Hound Training/Chase Season

NO BLACK BEAR MAY BE TAKEN DURING THIS SEASON.

Hours 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., including Sundays. See maps and information below for dates, locations, and other restrictions.

Licenses Required

Same for hunting seasons where bears can be taken. See licenses, stamps, and permits section for appropriate required licenses.

Unlawful Methods

  • It is unlawful to have in possession a firearm, archery tackle or any weapon capable of taking a black bear while participating in the bear hound training season. The meaning of “possession” for the purpose of this section shall include, but not be limited to, having a firearm, bow, crossbow, or any weapon capable of taking a black bear in or on one’s person, vehicle, or conveyance. (See exception for valid concealed handgun permit holders.)
  • It is unlawful to dislodge an animal from a tree for the intent of continuing a hunt, or chase, or for the purpose of training dogs.
  • It is unlawful to chase, hunt, or train dogs from baited sites or with use of bait.