Question: There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding crossbow hunting in California. Are they legal for archery season? Some say only for handicapped hunters. Some say they are totally illegal for any game hunting whatsoever.

I know they are not considered archery equipment and therefore are not legal in place of a traditional bow during archery season. Does that include handicapped hunters? This leads me to believe they are legal for hunting during rifle season and can be used by all properly permitted hunters year-round for hogs as well as for turkey (in season) in cases where a shotgun would be legal.

What’s the minimum required bolt weight, fps or foot pounds of energy required for game hunting? I also see there are restrictions on broadheads. Could you please clarify those restrictions? Are those 4 inch wide bladed broadheads legal for turkeys? How about ducks?

I am actually looking to hunt feral hogs and turkey with a crossbow and want to be 100 percent legal. Can I hunt hogs with a crossbow during deer-archery season? Is it legal to carry a backup pistol while hunting with a crossbow? I am not handicapped, but my dad is. What rules apply to handicapped hunters with crossbows and what disability is required? (Mark, San Bruno)

Answer: You are correct that crossbows are not considered “archery” equipment in California hunting regulations, and they may not be used to take game birds and game mammals during archery-only seasons (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354(g)). But, there is an exception for holders of a Disabled Archer Permit. Regulation CCR Title 14, section 354(j) sets forth the process of obtaining a Disabled Archer Permit by a person with a disease or disorder affecting the hunter’s ability to draw and hold a bow in a firing position. This permit authorizes disabled archers to use a crossbow or device that holds a string and arrow in the firing position to assist in the taking of birds and mammals under the conditions of an archery tag or during archery season.

Crossbows are included as a legal method of take for turkeys (CCR Title 14, section 311(n)) and wild pigs (CCR Title 14, section 353(e)). Persons using a crossbow for taking big game species must use broadhead-type blades that can not pass through a hole 7/8 inches in diameter (e.g. the blade must be larger than 7/8 inches.) This minimum size requirement also applies to crossbow bolts when used for taking big game mammals. For additional requirements for taking pheasants and Migratory Game Birds, please review CCR Title 14, sections 354(d) through (g) and 354(i).

It is legal to take wild pigs with a crossbow (or firearm) in an area and during a time in which another big game species may only be taken with archery equipment.

Please go to DFG’s License and Revenue Branch website for information regarding the criteria related to Disabled Archers Permits.

Fish and Game regulations do not specify the maximum or minimum required bolt weight, fps or foot pounds of energy required for crossbows used for taking game. Even if your dad is hunting with a crossbow under a Disabled Archer Permit during the AO deer season, it is not legal to carry a backup pistol during this period.

Image courtesy California Department of Fish and Game

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