Do You Need a License for a Crossbow in the USA and Canada?

do you need a license for a crossbow
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It's common to ask, "Do you need a license for a crossbow?"

Although they are different from handguns and rifles, crossbows do require licenses in some areas.

Countries and states have different regulations for you to consider when applying.

Do You Need a License for a Crossbow?

It's highly likely that you need to apply for a license to use your crossbow lawfully.

This point is particularly true if you intend to hunt, regardless of the type of crossbow you use.

It can be challenging to find the correct information about regulations, primarily since crossbows can also be used for lethal purposes.

They are technically classified as firearms in some places, even if they don't require combustion to release a projectile.

Below, we'll go over the steps you need to take to apply for a crossbow license.

We'll also review the various state and provincial regulations to ensure you're within the law to own a crossbow.

How To Apply for a Crossbow License

The process for applying for a crossbow license may vary, depending on where you live.

With that said, there are a few steps that will likely be required, regardless of location.

Step 1: Choose the Correct Application

First, you have to determine which type of crossbow application you'll need to apply for.

In jurisdictions where disabled people can use firearms, they will require a separate application.

If you aren't disabled, you can use the generic permit form, but you will still need a doctor's certification.

Step 2: Get Supporting Documentation

You might often find that you'll need more than your general information to apply for a crossbow license.

Some residents may have to sign up for hunting licenses before receiving their crossbow permits.

You might also be required to register with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Be sure to research your local laws to see what other documentation you need before applying.

Step 3: Fill Out the Application

The next thing you'll need to do is inquire as to where you can find an application.

Typically, your Fisheries and Wildlife department will have them available on their website.

For example, disabled residents of Massachusetts can use this form to apply for a crossbow permit.

You will need to make sure that you fill out the application with current and valid information.

They will require your name, mailing address, date of birth, and your signature.

Many states also require you to receive a family physician's signature to declare if you have permanent disabilities.

Step 4: Read the Regulations

Your state will give you a small paragraph explaining your responsibilities as a crossbow owner at the bottom of your permit form.

You must read the regulations strenuously because you could lose your license if you do not follow them.

Also, you are legally responsible for following the regulations once you have signed and dated the paper.

Step 5: Submit the Application

The submission process may also differ based on how digitized the process is.

Some states allow you to submit the forms online, while others will require you to mail it.

For mail-in applications, the address should be noted on your forms.

You will then have to wait for the recommended processing time until you receive your license.

do you need a license for a crossbow

Crossbow Regulations in the USA

It's highly likely you'll have to get a crossbow license for the majority of states.

This point is especially crucial for disabled persons since there are stricter regulations to consider.

Let's get into the details of the crossbow regulations in the USA.

Regulations By State


  • During deer hunting season, crossbows are legal for all persons in Alabama.
  • Magnified scopes are permitted on crossbows.


  • Crossbows are illegal in bow-only hunting areas but can be used in areas where guns are legal weapons.
  • They are legal for disabled hunters during the archery season.
  • Disabled hunters must have a Methods and Means Exemption Form.


  • Disabled hunters crossbow permits are available on a restricted basis.
  • Crossbows are legal during the regular firearms season.



  • Crossbows are legal for all hunters during gun season.
  • Physically disabled individuals can use a crossbow for hunting with written disability verification.


  • All hunters can use crossbows during gun season, while disabled hunters can use crossbows during archery season.







  • You can hunt with a crossbow during any weapon hunting season.
  • You do not need a license aside from a hunting license and tag.
  • Crossbows are legal for disabled persons with a hunting permit.
  • You must acquire an archery permit as a disabled crossbow owner.



  • Crossbows are legal during archery season, but all devices require a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds.
  • Crossbows must also have a mechanical safety.


  • You may use a crossbow during the Muzzleloader season.
  • Residents over 70 may use a crossbow with an Anterless-only deer license.


  • Crossbows are legal to be used by all hunters during deer season.



  • You may use crossbows during bow-and-arrow-only seasons and special deer hunting season.


  • You must be 16+ to purchase a crossbow hunting permit.
  • Users must have a license to hunt big game or an archery license.
  • You must submit proof of completing an archery hunting course and a crossbow hunting course.
  • If you can't provide proof, a signed affidavit is required.
  • Crossbows are legal for disabled hunters.


  • You may use crossbows for hunting any game species during the open season and deer bow season in all counties.
  • Models must have a minimum draw weight of 75 pounds and functional safety.
  • Telescopic sights can be equipped, and hunters can use spotting scopes.



  • Residents 10+ can hunt with a crossbow in seasons where firearms are permitted.
  • Upper Peninsula hunters cannot use crossbows during late archery season and muzzleloader season.
  • Disabled hunters may use crossbows during archery and muzzleloader season.
  • Crossbows cannot be used in the Red Oak Unit during archery-only bear season.


  • Disabled hunters can use crossbows with a permit.
  • Crossbows are legal for any residents during firearms, turkey, and bear seasons.
  • They are legal for residents 60+ for rough fish, turkey, deer, and bear.





  • Crossbow hunters between 12 and 29 require Bowhunter Education certification.
  • Crossbows are legal for hunting big game, such as bighorn sheep, antelope, deer, elk, and turkey.


  • Crossbows can be used during "Any Legal Weapon" hunts, but not permitted during archery hunts.
  • Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds, draw length of 14 inches, and stock size of 18 inches.
  • Crossbows require functioning mechanical safety.
  • You may only use broadhead 16-inch arrows.

New Hampshire

  • Disabled hunters can use crossbows with a permit, and all hunters can use crossbows during the firearms season.
  • Long Island Deer Permits is required for Moultonborough and Long Island, and crossbow hunters require a crossbow hunting permit.

New Jersey

  • Crossbows are legal during the bow and arrow season and are also legal for all species during the said season.
  • Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 75 pounds, while the minimum stock length must be 25 inches.

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

  • Using crossbows is allowed when bows are legal.
  • Crossbows require a minimum draw weight of 100 pounds.

North Dakota

  • Crossbows are legal during the deer gun season.
  • Your crossbow must have a peak draw weight of 75 to 200 pounds and functional safety to prevent accidental firing.
  • The stock must be at least 14 inches long, and the bolts must be a minimum of 14 inches.





Rhode Island

  • Crossbows are no longer considered firearms but approved for use by archery hunters for deer season.
  • You must complete the Bow Hunter education course and acquire an archery deer permit.
  • Using a crossbow for hunting wild birds and turkey is illegal.
  • Adaptive Aids for archery hunting require special permits.

South Carolina

South Dakota

  • Disabled hunters may use crossbows during the archery season.
  • Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds and have functional mechanical safeties.




  • Using a crossbow for buck deer hunts require a permit.
  • You may use crossbows during rifle hunts but not during archery and muzzleloader hunts.




West Virginia

  • Crossbows are legal during archery season, except for McDowell, Mingo, Wyoming, and Logan County.
  • If you have a Y/YY permit, you can use crossbows in excluded counties.



  • You can use crossbows during the archery season.
  • Crossbows require a minimum of 90-pound draw weight and the maximum draw length is 14 inches.
  • You may shoot bolts with a 16" minimum length.
do you need a license for a crossbow

Can Felons Own a Crossbow?

Considering the law prevents felons from owning firearms, it's easy to wonder if they can own crossbows.

In some states, they are considered on the same playing field as firearms, though they're not restricted in others.

It is crucial you first consult your area's regulations before taking your chances and investing in one.

With that said, federally speaking, crossbows are not considered firearms by the 1968 Gun Control Act.

You could legally own a crossbow for hunting purposes, as long as you obtain the correct permits.

You will also want to make sure the design of the crossbow meets the specifications for your state.

A great example would be both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Both of these states restrict residents' rights to own a crossbow based on the felony you've committed.

However, in most areas, you could still be permitted to hunt with a crossbow even if you've been barred from owning a firearm.

Crossbow Regulations in Canada

Let's say you intend to take a trip to visit family and you want to go hunting.

You might be surprised to learn that Canada's crossbow regulations don't differ significantly from the USA.


  • You may use crossbows in all seasons except archery-only seasons.
  • Disabled hunters may use them during archery season with a license.
  • Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 100 pounds.

British Columbia


  • Crossbows can be used during big game rifle seasons and muzzleloader deer seasons.
  • Hunters cannot possess a crossbow during the archery season.
  • Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 150 pounds.
  • Must have broadhead arrows less than 7/8" in width.
  • Permanently disabled archers may use a crossbow during archery season.

New Brunswick

  • Certified hunters can use crossbows during all hunting seasons, but not for hunting migratory game birds.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Northwest Territories

Nova Scotia

  • Crossbows can be used in all hunting situations where conventional bows are allowed, except during bowhunting deer.
  • Crossbows must have a draw weight of 150 lbs or greater, while bolts must have heads larger than 2.2 cm.
  • Crossbow hunters must wear camouflage orange or hunter orange clothing.



Prince Edward Island


  • Disabled hunters can use crossbows during the bow season, but there are specific zones where you can't use crossbows.


  • Crossbows can be used during rifle and muzzleloader seasons, except in Moosejaw, Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, and Buckland.
  • Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 150 pounds, and broadheads must be at least 7/8" in diameter.


Final Thoughts

If you're wondering, "Do you need a license for a crossbow?", the answer is likely yes.

By following your state's rules and regulations, you can ensure you're ready to use crossbows for archery or hunting.

Without the appropriate certifications and permits, you could be in significant legal trouble.

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