Handgun Carry While Archery Hunting


A number of states restrict the ability of archers to carry a handgun while archery hunting. However, this puts the personal safety of archers at risk through limiting their constitutional right to bear arms. While afield, bow hunters are vulnerable to attacks by large predators as well as criminals engaged in drug trafficking and production on public lands.


The right to personal protection should not be relinquished once a bowhunter enters the field. Archery hunters are at a great disadvantage in self-defense-related situations due to the limitations of archery equipment. Therefore, it is especially important that bowhunters be permitted to carry a handgun while afield. Many regions of the United States are inhabited by large predators such as bears, wolves, and mountain lions, which pose a threat to bowhunters who are underequipped to properly defend themselves should an attack occur. Additionally, the rise in backcountry drug operations on public lands has dramatically increased the possibility for dangerous encounters while afield. This has been particularly prevalent in Western states where marijuana grows on public lands have become common.

Points of Interest

  • In June 2015, a group of bow hunters travelling down a river in Alaska in a small raft came across a group of Alaskan Brown Bear cubs.  The mother charged the raft and, with only 8 feet between her and the bow hunters, one hunter quickly fired a round from his revolver into the water in front of the bear.  The hunter’s ability to legally carry a handgun stopped the attack and potentially saved the bow hunters’ lives.
  • In September 2012, an Idaho bow hunter was attacked by a grizzly bear while tracking a wounded elk. The man suffered severe bite injuries to the shoulder, but luckily made it out of the woods to safety.
  • Millions of marijuana plants are illegally grown ever year on public lands across the United States, with 12 million plants seized in California alone from 2008-2012. Many of the arrests made relating to these grows include members of large organized crime groups who are often armed and dangerous.
  • According to Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team biologist Chuck Schwartz, hunters killed an average of 3.7 grizzlies per year between 1992 and 2000. In the past decade or so, an average of 10.2 bears were killed a year, demonstrating a dramatic increase in bear encounters and the need for self-defense by hunters.
  • In 2016, two archery hunters on public lands in Utah found themselves in the line of fire of a man who was drinking and under the influence of drugs. The men were forced to retreat and call the authorities.
  • In October 2010, a Michigan bow hunter was attacked in his tree stand by a family of bears, sustaining injuries to his legs, shoulder, and back.
  • In 2016, two bow hunters in Montana were hospitalized after being attacked by grizzly bears. The attacks occurred on the same weekend and in the same area. Both hunters were tracking elk. Neither could defend himself, but injuries sustained were not life threatening. Bow hunters in this particular area are extremely vulnerable to attacks because the grizzly population is so dense.


37 states have successfully enacted legislation or regulations permitting the carry of a handgun while archery hunting, including:

  • Louisiana R.S. 56:116.1 (E): “Bow hunters may carry any caliber of firearm on their person, while hunting with a bow. The provisions of this Subsection shall in no way be interpreted to limit the ability of the department to regulate hunting activities in a wildlife management area in accordance with R.S. 56:109.”
  • Vermont Title 10, chapter, 105, §4252: “[T]he holder of an archery license or a super sport license may possess a handgun while archery hunting, provided that the license holder shall not take game by firearm while archery hunting. As used in this section, “handgun” means a pistol or revolver which will expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.”
  • Missouri Title 3, chapter 7, §10-7.432: “Any person who has been issued a concealed carry endorsement on a driver license or non-driver license and such endorsement or license has not been suspended, revoked, canceled, or denied may carry concealed firearms on or about his/her person while hunting.”

Moving Forward

The prohibition of handguns while archery hunting puts the personal safety and physical well-being of sportsmen and women at risk. Legislators should support legislation that ensures the right of bowhunters to carry a handgun while afield.


For more information regarding this issue, please contact Andy Treharne at atreharne@congressionalsportsmen.org

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