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, a prevalence in backcountry illegal drug operations on public lands has dramatically increased the possibility for dangerous encounters while afield. This has been particularly prevalent in western states where illegal marijuana grows on public lands have become more common.

Points of Interest

  • In June 2015, a group of bow hunters were travelling down a river in Alaska in a small raft and came across a group of brown bear cubs. While attempting to scare the cubs off, the mother charged the raft and, with only 8 feet between her and the bow hunters, a bow hunter on the raft quickly fired a round from his revolver into the water in front of the bear, stopping the charge. The hunter’s ability to legally carry a handgun stopped the attack and potentially saved their lives, and the bear’s life, as well.
  • In September 2012, an Idaho bow hunter was attacked by a grizzly bear while tracking an elk. The bear charged the hunter and the man suffered severe bite injuries to his shoulder.
  • Millions of marijuana plants are illegally grown every year on public lands across the United States. 12 million plants were seized in California on National Forest Service Land alone from 2008-2012. Many of the arrests made relating to these grows include members of organized crime groups who are often armed and dangerous.
  • In 2016, two archery hunters on public land 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 and not able to defend themselves. Bow hunters in this area are extremely vulnerable to attacks because of the dense grizzly bear population.
  • In August of 2018, a bowhunter in Utah had just started his elk hunt when he was attacked by a mountain lion. The hunter was able to get one arrow off but missed. The mountain lion then knocked the hunter to the ground. The mountain lion reportedly lunged at the hunter multiple times during the extent of the encounter. Fortunately, the hunter suffered only minor wounds but stated that he will be carrying a handgun, while afield, from now on.


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

States that prohibit sportsmen and women from carrying handguns while archery hunting put the personal safety and physical well-being of their hunters at risk. Legislators should support legislation that ensures the right of bow hunters to carry a handgun while afield.

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