Crossbow Hunting

Crossbows are normally not considered legal “archery” equipment for taking game birds and game mammals during archery-only season. However, there is an exception for those who hold a Disabled Archer Permit. (Photo courtesy of Parker Bows)

Question: There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding crossbow hunting in California. Are they legal for archery season? Some say only for handicapped hunters. Some say they are totally illegal for any game hunting whatsoever.

I know they are not considered archery equipment and therefore are not legal in place of a traditional bow during archery season. Does that include handicapped hunters? This leads me to believe they are legal for hunting during rifle season and can be used by all properly permitted hunters year-round for hogs as well as for turkey (in season) in cases where a shotgun would be legal.

What’s the minimum required bolt weight, fps or foot pounds of energy required for game hunting? I also see there are restrictions on broadheads. Could you please clarify those restrictions? Are those 4 inch wide bladed broadheads legal for turkeys? How about ducks?

I am actually looking to hunt feral hogs and turkey with a crossbow and want to be 100 percent legal. Can I hunt hogs with a crossbow during deer-archery season? Is it legal to carry a backup pistol while hunting with a crossbow? I am not handicapped, but my dad is. What rules apply to handicapped hunters with crossbows and what disability is required? (Mark, San Bruno)

Answer: You are correct that crossbows are not considered “archery” equipment in California hunting regulations, and they may not be used to take game birds and game mammals during archery-only seasons (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354(g)). But, there is an exception for holders of a Disabled Archer Permit. Regulation CCR Title 14, section 354(j) sets forth the process of obtaining a Disabled Archer Permit by a person with a disease or disorder affecting the hunter’s ability to draw and hold a bow in a firing position. This permit authorizes disabled archers to use a crossbow or device that 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 or during archery season.

Crossbows are included as a legal method of take for turkeys (CCR Title 14, section 311(n)) and wild pigs (CCR Title 14, section 353(e)). Persons using a crossbow for taking big game species must use broadhead-type blades that can not pass through a hole 7/8 inches in diameter (e.g. the blade must be larger than 7/8 inches.) This minimum size requirement also applies to crossbow bolts when used for taking big game mammals. For additional requirements for taking pheasants and Migratory Game Birds, please review CCR Title 14, sections 354(d) through (g) and 354(i).

It is legal to take wild pigs with a crossbow (or firearm) in an area and during a time in which another big game species may only be taken with archery equipment.

Please go to DFG’s License and Revenue Branch website http://dfg.ca.gov/licensing/ for information regarding the criteria related to Disabled Archers Permits.

Fish and Game regulations do not specify the maximum or minimum required bolt weight, fps or foot pounds of energy required for crossbows used for taking game. Even if your dad is hunting with a crossbow under a Disabled Archer Permit during the AO deer season, it is not legal to carry a backup pistol during this period.


Designated salmon spawning areas?
Question: In the Fresh Water Sport Fishing regulations booklet at section 2.30 it says that spearfishing is not allowed in a “designated salmon spawning area,” but I can’t find anywhere what “designated salmon spawning area” means. How do I know if a particular area is a “designated salmon spawning area”? (Frank S.)

Answer: This is a lengthy list, too long for this column, but can be found in the Fish and Game Code under section 1505. To find this section online, please:

  1. Go to www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html
  2. Check the Fish and Game Code box and
  3. Type in 1505 in the keyword box at the bottom, and hit the search button.
  4. Click on the link “FISH AND GAME CODE SECTION 1500-1505”
  5. Scroll down to section 1505 and you’ll find the official list of designated salmon spawning areas.

Selling large taxidermy mounts
Question: A friend of mine is moving and asked me to help find new homes for their collection of large taxidermy mounts. There is a greater kudu and a cape buffalo. Is it legal to sell them in California? (Katie Y.)

Answer: Yes, the sale of these African mounts is not prohibited by California Fish and Game laws. However, the sale of birds or mammals found in the wild in California is prohibited (FGC, section 3039).

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 Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

2 responses to “Crossbow Hunting

  1. I am a new hunter and your questions and answers are really very informative for all the hunter.Hope you will update us from such type of interesting information in future.

  2. 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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