17 California Archery Seasons, Laws, and Locations for Bows and Crossbows

Archery for California hunting seasons.

Here, we fetch up California archery laws for hunting birds and mammals with a bow and arrow, as well as crossbows with a Disabled Archer’s Permit.

Topics

  1. Arrow Restrictions.
  2. Bag and Possession Limits.
  3. Boats.
  4. Crossbow Bolt Restrictions.
  5. Crossbow Restrictions.
  6. Definitions.
  7. Disabled Hunters.
  8. Dogs.
  9. Education.
  10. Firearms During Archery Seasons.
  11. Intoxication.
  12. Methods of Take.
  13. Permits.
  14. Seasons.
  15. Shooting Accidents.
  16. Target Practice.
  17. Wildlife Areas & Refuges.

Arrow & Crossbow Bolt Restrictions

Antelope

See “Big Game” below.

Badger

See “Furbearing Mammals” below.

Bear

See “Big Game” below.

Beaver

See “Furbearing Mammals” below.

Big Game

“Big Game” includes pronghorn antelopebeardeerelk, bighorn sheep, and wild pig.

Broad-Head Type Blades

Broad-head type arrows.When hunting Big Game with a bow or crossbow, California archery laws require that broad head type blades must NOT be able to “pass through a hole seven-eighths inch in diameter.” See 14 CCR § 354(c).

Mechanical/Retractable Broad Heads

Mechanical/ retractable broad heads must be measured in the open position.  See 14 CCR § 354(c).

Bobcat

See “Nongame Mammals” below.

Casting Distance

In general, California archery laws require that arrows and crossbow bolts must have a casting distance of 130 yards. See below for exceptions related to hunting: (1) Pheasant and (2) Waterfowl from a boat. See 14 CCR § 354(f).

Chukar

See “Resident Game Birds” below.

Coyote

See “Nongame Mammals” below.

Crow

See “Nongame Birds” below.

Deer

See “Big Game” above.

Doves

See “Migratory Game Birds” and “Resident Game Birds” below.

Ducks

See “Waterfowl” below.

Elk

See “Big Game” above.

Explosive Heads

Under California archery laws, explosive heads are NOT allowed with any arrow or crossbow bolt. See 14 CCR § 354(d).

Fox

See “Furbearing Mammals” below.

Furbearing Mammals

Image of Gray FoxFurbearing Mammals include badgerbeavergray foxminkmuskrat and raccoon. In general, you can use any arrow or crossbow bolt. However, you cannot use explosive heads, tranquilizers, or poisons. See 14 CCR § 354(c)-(d).

Geese

See “Waterfowl” below.

Grouse

See “Resident Small Game Birds” below.

Lighted Nocks

In general, California archery laws prohibit arrows or crossbow bolts with lighted nocks. The only exception is if they do not emit a directional beam of light. See 14 CCR § 354(c) which supersedes FGC § 2005.

Migratory Game Birds

California archery laws for migratory game birds, including ducks.

In California, Migratory Game Birds include certain American coots, certain dovesducks and geese (aka waterfowl), common moorhen, common snipe (Jacksnipe), and band-tailed pigeon. In general, you can use any arrow or crossbow bolt. However, you can never use explosive heads, tranquilizers, or poisons. See 14 CCR § 354(c)-(d)Warning shot!!! For shooting Waterfowl in the air or while on land, see “Waterfowl” below.

Mink

See “Furbearing Mammals” above.

Muskrat

See “Furbearing Mammals” above.

Nongame Birds

California archery laws for no game birds, including American Crow.California archery laws for Nongame Birds, including American crow, sparrows, and starlings. include the American crow, English sparrows, and starlings.  In general, you can use any arrow or crossbow bolt. However, you cannot use explosive heads, tranquilizers, or poisons. See 14 CCR § 354(c)-(d).

Nongame Mammals

California archery laws for nongame mammals, including coyote.Nongame Mammals include predators like Bobcat and Coyote, plus certain kinds of Jackrabbits, grounds squirrels, and rodents. In general, you can use any arrow or crossbow bolt. However, you cannot use explosive heads, tranquilizers, or poisons. See 14 CCR § 354(c)-(d).

Pheasant

When hunting Pheasant, you have to use arrows and crossbow bolts with flu-flu fletching. See 14 CCR § 354(d).

Pig

See “Big Game” above.

Pigeon

See “Migratory Game Birds” above.

Poison

Under California archery laws, poison is NOT allowed with any arrow or crossbow bolt. See 14 CCR § 354(d).

Ptarmigan

See “Resident Small Game Birds” above.

Quail

See “Resident Small Game Birds” above.

Rabbit

See “Resident Small Game Mammals” above.

Raccoon

See “Furbearing Mammals” above.

Resident Small Game Birds

California archery laws for resident small game birds, including grouse.Resident Small Game Birds are also referred to as Upland Game Birds. Those birds include Chukar, certain DovesGrousePheasant, white-tailed PtarmiganQuails, and wild Turkey.  Except for hunting Pheasant (see above), you can use any arrow or crossbow bolt. Under California archery laws, you can never use explosive heads, tranquilizers, or poisons. See 14 CCR § 354(c)-(d).

Resident Small Game Mammals

California archery laws for resident small game mammals, including red fox tree squirrel

Resident Small Game Mammals include Rabbits and Tree Squirrels. In general, you can use any arrow or crossbow bolt. However, you cannot use explosive heads, tranquilizers, or poisons. See 14 CCR § 354(c)-(d).

Sheep

See “Big Game” above.

Snipe

See “Migratory Game Birds” above.

Squirrel

See “Resident Small Game Mammals” above.

Tranquilizers

Under California archery laws, tranquilizers are NOT allowed with any arrow or crossbow bolt. See 14 CCR § 354(d).

Turkey

See “Resident Small Game Birds” above.

Vehicles

California archery laws for the use of vehicles, including ATV and OHV's.Under California archery laws, it’s illegal to “nock or fit the notch in the end of an arrow to a bowstring or crossbow string in a ready-to-fire position while in or on any vehicle.” See 14 CCR § 354(i).

Waterfowl

California archery laws for migratory game birds, including waterfowl.

Waterfowl includes Ducks and Geese. In general, you have to use arrows and crossbow bolts with flu-flu fletching. However, you can use any kind when shooting sitting waterfowl from a boat. See 14 CCR § 354(d) and 14 CCR §507(a)(2) [waterfowl].

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Boats

Waterfowl

California archery laws for the use of boats to take waterfowl, including ducks and geese.Waterfowl includes ducks and geese. In general, you have to use arrows and crossbow bolts with flu-flu fletching. However, you can use any kind when shooting sitting waterfowl from a boat. See 14 CCR § 354(d) and 14 CCR §507(a)(2) [waterfowl].

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Crossbow Restrictions

Archery Seasons

California archery laws for crossbows to take big game, including deer.Under California archery laws, crossbows are NOT allowed for hunting game birds and game mammals during archery seasons. There is an exception for disabled hunters with a Disabled Archer Permit. See 14 CCR § 354(a), (g) and (j).

Deer

Under California archery laws, crossbows are allowed for hunting deer during the regular season. See 14 CCR § 353(g) and 14 CCR § 354(b).

Wilde Pig

Under California archery laws, crossbows are allowed for hunting wild pig during the regular season. See 14 CCR § 353(g).

Also see arrows & Crossbow Bolts Restrictions above.

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Definitions

Archery Equipment

Under California archery laws, “archery equipment” includes Bows (see below). In general, it does not include crossbows. The only exception is when the crossbow is being used by a disabled hunter with a Disabled Archer Permit. See 14 CCR § 354(a).

Bows

Under California archery laws, a “bow” is “any device consisting of a flexible material having a string connecting its two ends and used to propel an arrow held in a firing position by hand only. Bow, includes long bow, recurve or compound bow.” See 14 CCR § 354(a).

Crossbows

California archery laws for crossbows during the deer season.Under California archery laws, a “crossbow” is “any device consisting of a bow or cured latex band or other flexible material (commonly referred to as a linear bow) affixed to a stock, or any bow that utilizes any device attached directly or indirectly to the bow for the purpose of keeping a crossbow bolt, an arrow or the string in a firing position.” In general, a crossbow is not archery equipment and cannot be used during the archery deer season. There is an exception for disabled hunters with a Disabled Archer Permit. See 14 CCR § 354(b) and (j).

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Disabled Hunters

Disabled Archer Permit

See Permits below.

Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit

A special permits is available to visually disabled hunters with a “muzzleloading rifle/ archery tag.” It allows qualified hunters to carry a bow at the same time as a muzzleloader. See Firearms During Archery Seasons below.

Mobility Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle License

California archery laws for mobility-impaired disabled hunters.A special license is available for mobility-impaired hunters. It’s called a Mobility Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle License. It allows the disabled hunter to use a vehicle during an archery hunt. It also allows them to bring a helper. The helper is not allowed to carry a bow or crossbow unless the person has his or her own license and tags. The helper can’t shoot from the vehicle, though. If the helper has a hunting license, the helper can kill wounded game that has moved out of range of the disabled hunter.  14 CCR § 251(b)(1)(B).


Dogs

Warning shot!!!  See 14 CCR §§ 265(a)(2) and our summary for the use of dogs for hunting and training.

Antelope

Dogs are NOT allowed for hunting Pronghorn Antelope, including the archery season. See 14 CCR § 265(a)(2).

Bear

Dogs are NOT allowed for hunting Black Bear, including the archery season. See 14 CCR §§ 265(a)(1) and 366(d).

Bobcat

Dogs are NOT allowed for hunting Bobcat. See 14 CCR §§ 265(a)(2).

Deer

Dogs are NOT allowed during the archery seasons for Deer. See 14 CCR § 265(a)(1).

Elk

Dogs are NOT allowed for hunting Elk, including the archery season. See 14 CCR § 265(a)(2).

Sheep

Dogs are NOT allowed for hunting Bighorn Sheep, including the archery season. See 14 CCR §§ 265(a)(2).

Training

California archery laws while training dogs.Under California archery laws, you cannot have Archery Equipment while training dogs during the seasons for (1) Gray Gox or (2) Raccoon. The only exception is for when the dog and equipment are secured and under control. See 14 CCR §§ 265(b)(6)(C) and (F).

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Education

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has a Bowhunter Hunter Program. They also have a program to teach archery to students in grades four through 12. You can also get educational materials from the National Bowhunter Education Foundation.

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Firearms & Hunting With a Bow

Big Game

“Big Game” includes pronghorn certain species of AntelopeBlack BearDeerElk, Bighorn Sheep, and wild Pig. (Follow the links for information about seasons and tags.)

Arhcery seasons

In general, archery are NOT allowed to carry a firearm while In the Field hunting during any archery. However, see Muzzleloader Exception below.  is an exception for certain Muzzleloaders (see below). See 14 CCR § 354(h).

Deer Seasons

Prior to any general deer season, there’s an archery season that is at least three days long. During those archery seasons, it’s illegal to carry a firearm of any kind. The only exception is that certain peace officers can carry a concealed firearm. See FGC § 4370 and Deer tag and seasons.

General Seasons

Under California archery laws, archers are NOT allowed to carry a firearm while hunting Big Game with an archery-only tag during any general season. See 14 CCR § 354(h).

Muzzleloader Exception

California archery laws for muzzleloader/archery tags.When hunting Big Game with a “muzzleloading rifle/archery tag,” you can carry Bow and Arrows at the same time as a muzzleloading rifles. In general, the muzzleloader sights have to be open or “peep” type sights. There is an exception for disabled hunters with a Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit.  See 14 CCR § 353(i)(h) and (l).

Migratory Game Birds

California archery laws for carrying firearms during seasons for migratory game birds, including snipe.Under California archery laws, it’s illegal to carry a firearm while In the Field hunting with Bow and Arrows during any archery season. See 14 CCR § 507(a)(2). In California, Migratory Game Birds include certain American Coots, certain DovesDucks and Geese (aka waterfowl), Common Moorhen, Common Snipe (Jacksnipe), and Band-tailed Pigeon.

Resident Small Game

California archery laws for carrying firearms during seasons for upland game birds, including chukar.Under California archery laws, it’s illegal to carry a firearm while In the Field hunting with Bow and Arrows during any archery season. See 14CCR § 311(k)Resident Small Game Birds are also referred to as Upland Game Birds. Those birds include Chukar, certain DovesGrousePheasants, White-tailed PtarmiganQuail, and wild TurkeyResident Small Game Mammals include Rabbits and Tree squirrels.

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Intoxication

Under California archery laws, it’s illegal to use Bow and Arrows while intoxicated. The same is true for crossbows. See Definitions above and FGC § 3001.

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Methods of Take

Under California archery laws, Bows may be used to hunt / Take the birds and mammals listed below. In some cases, Crossbows may be used as well.

Birds

License Game Bird Clubs

When hunting on a licensed game bird club, long bow and arrows are allowed for hunting domesticated Migratory Game Birds. See 14 CCR § 600.4.

Migratory Game Birds

California archery laws for using crossbows during archery seasons for migratory game birds, including doves.In general, Bow and Crossbows are allowed for hunting / Taking the Migratory Game Birds listed below. Warning shot!!! Crossbows cannot be used during archery season except with a Disabled Archer Permit. There are also restrictions related to arrowsCrossbow bolts, and Firearms. See 14 CCR § 354(g)14 CCR § 507(a)(2), and restrictions

Nongame Birds

In general, Bow is allowed for Taking / hunting American Crow. See 14 CCR § 472(d)(2).

Resident Small Game Birds

California archery laws for using crossbows during archery seasons for resident small game birds, including doves.In general, Bow and Crossbows  are allowed for hunting / Taking the Resident Small Game Birds listed below. Warning shot!!! Crossbows cannot be used during archery season except with a Disabled Archer Permit. There are also restrictions related to arrowsCrossbow bolts, and Firearms. See 14 CCR § 311(e) and (n) and 14 CCR § 354(d) and (g).

Upland Game Birds

Upland Game Birds include Resident Small Game Birds (see above). They also include some Migratory Game Birds, i.e. western and mourning doves, band-tailed pigeon, and snipe (see above).

Mammals

Big Game

California archery laws for using crossbows during big game seasons.In general, a Bow is allowed for hunting / Taking the Big Game listed below. In general, Crossbows are allowed to take deer and pigs only during the regular seasons. The only exception is with a Disabled Archer Permit. There are restrictions related to arrowsCrossbow bolts, and FirearmsWarning shot!!! You need a tag before hunting Big Game with a bow (e.g. bear). See FGC § 4750 [bear tag],  14 CCR § 353(g) and (i) and 14 CCR § 354(c).

Furbearing Mammals

California archery laws for using a bow and arrow to take furbearing mammals, including badger.In general, a Bow is allowed for hunting / Taking the Furbearing Mammals listed below. See FGC § 4002 and 14 CCR § 465.

Resident Small Game Mammal

California archery laws for using a bows and crossbows to take resident small game mammals, including tree squirrels.In general, Bows are allowed for hunting / Taking the Resident Small Game Mammals listed below. Warning shot!!! Crossbows cannot be used during archery season except with a Disabled Archer Permit. There are also restrictions related to arrowsCrossbow bolts, and Firearms. See 14 CCR § 311(e) and (n) and 14 CCR § 354(d) and (g).

Internet & Computers

Under California archery laws, it’s illegal to shoot birds or mammals with a Bow or Crossbow accessed through the Internet. It’s also illegal to use them through computer-assisted remote hunting. See FGC § 3003(f) and 14 CCR § 251.9.


Permits

Disabled Archer Permit

In general, it’s illegal to use a crossbow during archery seasons. However, hunters with certain disabilities may qualify for a special permit. It’s called a Disabled Archer Permit. It’s available from the CDFW.

Property Damage

California archery laws for using a bows and crossbows to take animals causing property damage.Sometimes, animals cause private property damage. For many of those animals, landowners and tenants can kill them in any legal manner, including Bows and CrossbowsWarning shots!!!  Only certain animals qualify. You may need a “Depredation Permit” from the CDFW. You may have to get it before killing the animal. See 14 CCR § 400 [deer] and 14 CCR § 401(d).

Sage Grouse

A permit is required to hunt sage grouse. See 14 CCR § 300(a)(1)(D)5.

Survival Training Permit

The Fish & Game Commission can issue a permit for survival training. The issue them to members of the US Armed Forces. The also issue them to elementary through high school students. If you get a permit, you’re not allowed to kill wildlife with a bow and arrow. See FGC § 312(e).

Wildlife Areas & Refuges

In general, it’s illegal to shoot a Bow or Crossbow on a California Wildlife Area or Refuge. It’s possible only with a permit or special authorization from the CDFW. See FGC § 10500(b).

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Archery Seasons & Limits

Follow the links below for archery seasons and bag limits.

Big Game

Big Game includes certain species of AntelopeBlack BearDeerElkPig, and Sheep.

Furbearing Mammals

Furbearing Mammals include BadgerBeaverGray FoxMinkMuskrat, and Raccoon.

Nongame Birds and Mammals

Nongame Birds and Mammals include, but is not limited to, BobcatCoyote, and American Crow.

Small Game Mammals

Small Game Mammals  include, but is not limited to, Rabbits and Tree Squirrels.

Upland Game Birds

Upland Game Birds include Chukar, some DovesGrousePheasantPigeonPtarmiganQuailSnipe, and wild Turkey.

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Shooting Accidents

Injuries

Under California archery laws, you’re required to take action if you accidentally shoot someone with a Bow or Crossbow. If you know you did it, you’re not allowed to leave the person. You’re also required to give them whatever help they need under the circumstances. See FGC § 3009.

Public Roads

 Under California archery laws, it may be illegal to shoot an arrow across a public road. It’s illegal if you intentionally do it in a reckless and unsafe way. The same is true for any other establish roadway that is open to the public. The same is also true for shooting a crossbow bolt. See FGC § 3004.


Target Practice

In general, target practice with a Bow or Crossbow is not allowed on California Wildlife Areas. However, it’s allowed at the Wildlife Areas listed below.

    1. Oroville Wildlife Area.
    2. San Luis Obispo Wildlife Area.
    3. Spenceville Wildlife Area..

See 14 CCR §§ 551(v)(2)(v)(3), and (v)(4).

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Wildlife Areas & Refuges

In general, Archery Equipment is NOT allowed on any CDFW land (e.g. National Wildlife RefugesWildlife Areas, and Ecological Reserves). The exceptions are listed below. See 14 CCR § 550(cc)(2).

    1. California archery laws for public land, including national wildlife refuges, wildlife areas, and ecological reserves.The CDFW has designated hunting areas.
    2. The CDFW has designated shooting sites.
    3. You have a permit from the CDFW.
    4. You have permission as part of a dog training (and only in that area).
    5. You’re fishing with a bow and arrow tackle (see 14 CCR 550(b)(9),
    6. When killing an animal that you legally trapped (see 465.5(g)(1) and 550(ee)).
    7. When traveling through a refuge with a bow that is unstrung or stored separately from any bow or bolt (see notice requirement in FGC § 10506).

Areas Where Archery is Prohibited

In general, Bows or Crossbows are NOT allowed at the areas listed below. The only exception is for authorized personnel.

    1. Battle Creek Wildlife Area. See 14 CCR §§ 551(o)(4) and 14 CCR § 551(r)(3).
    2. Collins Eddy Wildlife Area. See 14 CCR § 551(r)(6).
    3. Crescent City Marsh Wildlife Area. See 14 CCR § 551(o)(8) and 14 CCR § 551(r)(10).
    4. Elk Creek Wetlands Wildlife Area. See 14 CCR § 551(o)(11) and 14 CCR § 551(r)(14).
    5. Eureka Slough Wildlife Area
    6. Grizzly Island Wildlife Area: not allowed within the following units
    7. Hill Slough Wildlife Area. See 14 CCR § 551(o)(23).
    8. Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area: (Type C) not allowed within the following units or portions thereof
    9. Petaluma Marsh Wildlife Area, See 14 CCR § 551(o)(44).
    10. Santa Rosa Wildlife Area: not allowed within the following units. See 14 CCR § 551(r)(49).
      • Bahia.
      • Day Island.
      • Green Point.
      • Novato Creek.
      • Point Sonoma.
      • Rush Creek.
    11. Sacramento Bypass Wildlife Area (Type C). See 14 CCR § 551(r)(44).
    12. South Spit Wildlife Area (Type C). See 14 CCR § 551(r)(50).
    13. White Slough Wildlife Area: not allowed in Pond 9. See 14 CCR § 551(r)(54.

Ecological Reserves

In general, Bows or Crossbows are not allowed on Ecological Reserves. All exceptions are noted in Section 14 CCR § 630(d).

Type A and B Wildlife Areas

In general, archery NOT allowed while In the Field at any Type A or Type B area. Exceptions are listed below.

Los Banos Wildlife Area

In general, archery is allowed at the Los Banos Wildlife Area (Type A). However, it’s only allowed during waterfowl and pheasant seasons. (See 14 CCR § 550(cc)(4) and 14 CCR § 551(u)].

Volta Wildlife Area

Warning shot!!! Archery is no longer allowed at the Volta Wildlife Area (Type A). See 14 CCR § 551(u).

Type C Wildlife Areas

In general, hunting with a Bow is allowed on all Type C Areas. Warning shot!!! There are restrictions in certain hunting areas, units, and seasons.

    1. Bass Hill Wildlife Area: archery is only in the Egan Management Unit. See 14 CCR § 551(r)(2).
    2. Cottonwood Creek Wildlife Area: archery is allowed in the Upper and Lower units. However, it’s limited to Zone A from the beginning of the archery deer season until the start general deer season. See 14 CCR § 551(o)(7) and 14 CCR § 551(r)(8) and (9).
    3. Daugherty Hill Wildlife Area: archery is only allowed during spring turkey season. See 14 CCR § 551(r)(11).
    4. Hope Valley Wildlife Area: closed from February 1 until the opening of deer season. See 14 CCR § 551(o)(26).
    5. Horseshoe Ranch Wildlife Area: archery is only allowed during spring turkey season. See 14 CCR § 551(r)(23).
    6. Kinsman Flat Wildlife Area: archery is only allowed during spring turkey season. See 14 CCR § 551(r)(25).
    7. Lake Earl Wildlife Area: archery is only allowed during the regular waterfowl season. Warning shot!!! It’s only allowed (a) within the first 100 feet of land along the shoreline and (b) on the water surface of Lake Earl and Lake Tarawa. See 14 CCR § 551(r)(28).
    8. Putah Creek Wildlife Area: closed to hunting February 1 until the opening weekend of Zone A deer archery season per Sec. 360. See 14 CCR § 551(o)(45).
    9. Rector Reservoir Wildlife Area: closed to hunting from the day after spring turkey seasons to the opening of archery deer season. See 14 CCR § 551(o)(46).
    10. Red Lake Wildlife Area: closed to hunting from February 1 through August 31 except during the archery deer season. See 14 CCR § 551(o)(46).

National Wildlife Refuges

In general, Bows and Crossbow cannot even be possessed while In the Field at a National Wildlife Refuge. The only exception is for hunting Sacramento River National Wildlife RefugeWarning shot!!! It’s not allowed in areas closed to hunting. See 14 CCR § 552(6)(B), (F) and (G).

State Recreation Areas

In general, archery is NOT allowed at State Recreation Areas. There only exception is within in designated archery ranges. See 14 CCR § 4313(a).

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While we do our best to locate all California archery laws and summarize them accurately, we might miss some or make a few typos. If so, please let us know by leaving a comment or question below.

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