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 bow hunter 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 bow hunters 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 bow hunters who are underequipped to properly defend themselves should an attack occur. Additionally, the rise in backcountry drug labs and narcotics trafficking on public lands has dramatically increased the possibility for dangerous encounters while afield. 

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.
  • 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 2010 and 2011, three archery hunters were attacked by grizzly bears in separate instances in the Gravelly Mountains of Montana. In two of the cases the victims were hospitalized with significant injuries, in the third case the archery hunter shot and killed the grizzly with a pistol.
  • In 2003, 56 meth laboratories were seized on National Forest land, 38 meth laboratories were seized on US Fish and Wildlife Service managed lands, accompanied by 31 laboratory seizures on Bureau of Land Management recreational lands.
  • According to the U.S. Forest Service, during a thirteen year period from 1998-2011, hunters acting in self-defense resulted in 28 grizzly bear mortalities in the Flathead National Forest (MT) alone. At the time these mortalities occurred, hunters were pursuing other game species. 


37 states have successfully enacted legislation or regulation 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 bow hunters to carry a handgun while afield. 


For more information regarding this issue, please contact Soren Nelson at soren@sportsmenslink.org

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