Updates Related to COVID-19 »

Legal Use of Firearms and Archery Tackle

Firearm, Hunting Device, and Ammunition
Shotguns (including muzzleloading shotguns) using ammunition loaded with larger than number 2 fine shot
Deer: Yes Bear: Yes Elk: Yes Fall Turkey: Yes Spring Gobbler: No
Shotguns (including muzzleloading shotguns)
Deer: Yes Bear: Yes Elk: Yes Fall Turkey: Yes Spring Gobbler: Yes
Air guns (.35 caliber or LARGER)
Deer: Yes Bear: No Elk: No Fall Turkey: Yes Spring Gobbler: Yes
Rifles and pistols using rimfire ammunition and air guns (.35 caliber or SMALLER)
Deer: No Bear: No Elk: No Fall Turkey: Yes Spring Gobbler: Yes
Rifles and pistols using centerfire ammunition (.23 caliber or LARGER) Pistols must generate at least 350 foot pounds of energy or greater.
Deer: Yes Bear: Yes Elk: Yes Fall Turkey: Yes Spring Gobbler: Yes
Rifles and pistols using centerfire ammunition (SMALLER than .23 caliber)
Deer: No Bear: No Elk: No Fall Turkey: Yes Spring Gobbler: Yes
Muzzleloading firearms Rifles – .40 caliber or larger; Pistols – .45 caliber or larger
Deer: Yes1 Bear: Yes1 Elk: Yes1 Fall Turkey: Yes Spring Gobbler: Yes
Muzzleloading firearms Rifles – smaller than .40 caliber; Pistols – smaller than .45 caliber
Deer: No Bear: No Elk: No Fall Turkey: Yes Spring Gobbler: Yes
Archery tackle with broadhead widths/expandables that open to 7/8-inch
Deer: Yes Bear: Yes2 Elk: Yes2 Fall Turkey: Yes Spring Gobbler: Yes
  • Unplugged shotguns are legal for hunting nonmigratory game and crows.
  • Shotguns (including muzzleloading shotguns) must NOT be larger than 10 gauge and barrels MUST be at least 18 inches. (Rifled barrels are permitted in areas where slugs may be used)
  • All game birds and animals may be hunted from a boat (with a SHOTGUN and landowner permission), EXCEPT deer. (Licensed trappers may shoot a .22 caliber rifle or pistol on or over public inland waters to dispatch trapped animals)
  • 1 Muzzleloading rifles must be single shot, load the projectile from the muzzle, and use projectiles .35 caliber or larger. See Legal Methods and Restrictions in the bear (page 29) and deer (page 39) sections for additional details on other muzzleloading weapons.
  • Muzzleloading shotguns/rifles, arrowguns, or archery tackle may be used to hunt during the muzzleloading and firearms seasons.
  • Archery tackle may include: longbows, recurves, compounds, crossbows, sling-bow and arrowguns/airbows. (Persons with a disability which hinders them from drawing a bow/crossbow may use an arrowgun during archery seasons when in possession of an authorization form provided by DWR and signed by their physician.
  • 2 Slingbows may NOT be used for bear or elk.
  • All methods may be used to hunt nuisance species, crow, and small game.
  • Please refer to local firearms ordinances for any additional prohibitions that may be in your locality.

Other Weapons Usage

Unlawful to:

  • Hunt migratory game birds with a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells in the magazine and chamber, combined, unless allowed by federal regulations and authorized by the Department.
  • Discharge a firearm, muzzleloader, arrowgun, or archery tackle in or across or within the right-of-way of any road.
  • Cast a light attached to a vehicle or from a vehicle beyond a roadway upon places used by deer without written permission of the landowner or at anytime while in the possession of a rifle, shotgun, pistol, muzzleloader, arrowgun, archery tackle, or speargun.
  • Handle any firearm in a reckless manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.
  • Shoot a rifle or pistol at wild birds or animals on or over the public inland waters of the state. However, licensed trappers may shoot a .22 caliber rimfire rifle or pistol on or over public inland waters for the purpose of dispatching trapped animals.
  • Carry a loaded rifle or pistol on a boat or other floating device on public inland waters for hunting wild birds or animals.
  • Kill or attempt to kill any deer while in a boat or other type of watercraft.
  • Shoot waterfowl or migratory game birds from a boat being propelled by a motor.
  • Shoot or attempt to take any wild bird or animal from any vehicle, except as otherwise provided by law.
  • Use vehicles or carry firearms or bows and arrows (including muzzleloaders and concealed weapons) while retrieving dogs on private or prohibited lands without permission of the landowner.
  • Hunt with explosive head arrows or arrows to which any drug, chemical, or toxic substance has been added.
  • Hunt wild birds and wild animals with fully automatic firearms (i.e., machine guns).

Loaded Weapons Definitions

Loaded Arrowgun

Defined as an arrowgun that has an arrow or bolt inserted on the arrow rest or barrel.

Loaded Crossbow

Defined as a crossbow that is cocked and has either a bolt or arrow engaged or partially engaged on the shooting rail or track of the crossbow, or with a “trackless crossbow” when the crossbow is cocked and a bolt or arrow is nocked.

Loaded Muzzleloader

A muzzleloading firearm is considered “loaded” when the muzzleloader is capped, or has a charged pan, or has a primer or battery installed in the firearm.

Loaded Firearm

Defined as a firearm in which ammunition is chambered or loaded in the magazine or clip and is engaged or partially engaged in a firearm.

Valid Concealed Handgun Permit Holders

Nothing in any Department regulation shall prohibit the possession and transport of a concealed handgun when the individual possesses a valid concealed weapon permit as defined in the Code of Virginia. The granting of a concealed handgun permit shall not thereby authorize the possession of any handgun or other weapon on property or in places where such possession is otherwise prohibited by law or is prohibited by the owner of private property. Furthermore, the possession of a concealed handgun permit does not authorize the use of the concealed handgun for hunting.