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How to Hunt Legally

Updated on February 27, 2019
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I am James Nelson, a survivalist, outdoor and hunting enthusiast. I have dedicated my time and effort to build a website that contains compr


How to hunt legally: Complying with equipment regulations while deer hunting

Hunting is a regulated sport because the government has the obligation to regulate wildlife. The initial step would be getting a hunting license or obtaining deer tags.

Hunting is one of the most thrilling sports that has ever existed. This is due to the element of unpredictability of the outdoors that always keeps you on your toes.

Deer hunting is especially popular for the many benefits that it brings which includes wildlife management.

Just like how every sport has regulations, there are also equipment regulations to keep in order to hunt deer legally in your state. This ensures your safety, the safety of others and maintains order. Each state has their own regulations that you will need to comply to accordingly.

In this article, I attempt to cover 3 different aspects: (1) how to hunt legally with firearms; (2) legal archery equipment for deer hunting and (3) regulations for hunting on a tree stand.

How to hunt legally with firearms

Firearms used for deer hunting are the shotgun, rifle, and handgun. Different states have allocated different seasons whereby these firearms are allowed to be used. There may also be different requirements on the number of cartridges, barrel lengths and size of firearm. These regulations differ greatly with each state.

Hence, before you purchase your gun for deer hunting, make sure to check your state’s requirements.

1. Shotguns

In Indiana, shotguns are required to be 10-, 12-, 16-, 20-, or 28-gauge in size or .410 bore loaded with slugs or saboted bullets. Rifled slug barrels are permitted in this state.

Combination rifle-shotguns are also allowed for hunting deer. On the other hand, only shotguns sized 20 gauge or larger that fire a single slug are legal in Oklahoma. In Alabama, shotguns are only allowed to be 10 gauge or smaller. Buckshot, slugs or single round ball may be used as projectiles.

In Virginia, shotguns also must not be larger than 10 gauge. However, their barrels must be 18 inches long or more. Shotguns with rifled barrels are allowed to be used where slugs are permitted.

2. Rifles

A hunter that uses a rifle needs to get one with a centrefire cartridge between .22 to .50 caliber in Nevada. The case length of the cartridge may not exceed 3 inches.

In Alabama, hunters using rifles are required to use those with mushrooming ammunition. That is, bullets that are designed to expand as it penetrates the target. The purpose is to make a quick kill on the target rather than wait for it to bleed out.

In Maryland, rifles legal for hunting deer are those that use ammunition developing a muzzle of energy with at least 1,200-foot pounds. Hence, you may need to consult an ammunition guide on this. This state only allows rifles to be used during the firearm seasons and junior deer hunt days.

3. Handguns

Handguns are only legal to be used for deer hunting during the firearms, reduction zone and special antlerless seasons in Indiana. They must have barrels of 4 inches long at minimum that fires a bullet of .243 inch or larger.

Certain handgun cartridges are illegal for deer hunting in this state, such as the .38 Smith and Wesson, .38 Special, .45 Auto Rim and others. Handguns used for deer hunting in Delaware on the other hand are limited to revolvers and single shot pistols.

They must have barrel lengths of at least 5.75 inches. They must also be carried openly either on a sling or holster and cannot be concealed. This state allows handguns to be carried in place of a shotgun during shotgun seasons with the condition that both handgun and shotgun are not carried at the same time.

4. Muzzleloaders

Muzzleloaders include any firearm whereby its projectile is loaded from the muzzle of the gun. In Oklahoma, muzzleloading rifles and pistols must be at least .40 caliber while muzzleloading shotguns must be at least 20-gauge.

This is the opposite in Florida whereby muzzleloading guns firing two or more balls must be at least 20-gauge while muzzleloading guns firing single bullets must be at least .40 caliber.

In Vermont, single shot muzzleloading rifles must have at least 20 inches of barrel length while single shot muzzleloading pistols must have at least 10 inches of barrel length. Both must have a bore diameter of at least 0.43 inches and cannot be loaded from the breach without using tools.

Legal Archery Equipment for Deer Hunting

The common archery equipment used for deer hunting are the compound bow, recurve bow and crossbow. There are usually requirements on the width of arrow or bolt used and the draw weights of bows depending on your state.

Arrows are used with the compound and recurve bow while bolts are the projectiles used for crossbows. Draw weight is the amount of force applied to hold the bow stationary at a full draw. Many states also strictly emphasize the prohibition of using arrows or bolts with tips that have poison, explosives or chemicals.

In Maryland, archery equipment is permitted for deer hunting throughout all deer hunting seasons. Arrows or bolts that are used for the hunt must have broadheads that are sharpened with metal points, having a width of ⅞ inches at minimum. The minimum draw weight for regular bows required is 30 lbs. The crossbow minimum draw weight, however, is 75 lbs. Crossbows must also feature working safety feature.

The crossbow draw weight requirement is a minimum of 100 lbs in Oklahoma. Bolts must also have 14 inches of length at minimum. The state legalizes the use of leverage gaining devices. These are basically cocking aids like cocking rope to help you cock your crossbow, which is the act of drawing your crossbow back and locking it in position before you shoot.

For compound bows, this state requires 30 pounds or more of draw weight while recurve bows are required to have 40 pounds or more. Broadheads also need to be ⅞ inch wide.

Crossbows are allowed for hunting in every state except Oregon. But some states only allow the use of crossbow during certain seasons or in fixed locations.

In New Hampshire, crossbows are allowed to be used to harvest deer during the regular archery season in wildlife management units only. In this state, it is a requirement for bowhunters to mark their name and address on their arrows or bolts. There is also a minimum draw weight which is 40 lbs. The width of fixed blade broadheads used must be between the limit of ⅞ inches to 1½ inches while retractable blade broadheads cannot be less than ⅞ inches when expanded.

In certain states, crossbows are only legal for people with disabilities. For example, in California, it is illegal to hunt deer with a crossbow unless you have a Disabled Archer Permit. If you have this permit, it is legal to use a crossbow for hunting during all gun seasons.

If you are a bowhunter from South Carolina, there is good news for you. There are no restrictions on the width or length of arrows or broadheads, nor are there requirements for draw weight. Crossbows area also allowed on private lands and wildlife management areas state-wide for all hunting seasons.

Regulations for hunting on a tree stand

Tree stands are set up as hideouts for hunters. In Indiana, tree stands are allowed to be used to hunt deer for all the deer hunting seasons. However, it is illegal to hunt from a permanent tree stand on state-owned lands. Instead, portable tree stands may be used.

It is also illegal to use fasteners that penetrate tree trunks more than half an inch. The good news is that you may leave your stand overnight from the noon of 15th September through the 10th of January. Tree stands that are placed on public land must also have the mark of the owner’s name, address and contact number in English.

Falling from tree stands is the main cause of injuries faced by hunters in Alabama. Therefore, there are Alabama regulations now that require all hunters that use tree stands to wear a full body harness. This prevents or lessens the seriousness of injuries due to falling. Permanent tree stands are allowed to be used in this state but with landowner permission. However, portable tree stands are still more recommended.


Remember, that ignorance of the law is no excuse. As a responsible hunter, you need to familiarize yourself with hunting regulations.

Failure to comply with these rules will result in punishment. Relying on the data provided by, a hunting law violation that is a Class 1 misdemeanor can get you fined up to $2,000, or imprisoned for up to one year, or both.

Be sure read-up regularly too because there may be updates on the law. If you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to comment below!


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