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Crossbow Hunting


This page provides information on crossbow safety training and a summary of regulations on crossbow use.

General Crossbow Regulations

  • Age requirement: Crossbows may be used only by licensees who are 14 years of age or older.
  • Without landowner permission, crossbows may not be discharged within 250 feet of any home, school building or playground, public structure, farm structure in use, or occupied factory or church.
  • A crossbow may not be possessed in or on a motor vehicle unless it is un-cocked.
  • While on lands inhabited by deer or bear, and in or on a motor vehicle using artificial lights, a crossbow may not be possessed unless it is unstrung or taken down or securely fastened in a case or locked in the trunk of the vehicle.
  • Crossbows may not be used for hunting in Suffolk, Nassau, or Westchester counties.

Required Crossbow Hunting Qualification & Safety Training

There are 3 options to choose from in order to complete the required crossbow qualification & safety training. All must accompany a NYS hunting license and in some cases a muzzleloading privilege:

  • Option 1: Review the DEC online crossbow qualification training and complete the Crossbow Certificate of Qualification*.
  • Option 2: Review the DEC crossbow qualification training and complete the Crossbow Certificate of Qualification* found in the 2014-15 Hunting & Trapping Regulations Guide.
  • Option 3: Complete a Hunter Education course to receive a Hunter Education Certificate of Qualification. Certificates must be dated on or after April 1, 2014 to meet crossbow qualification and safety training.
    *Note: The Crossbow Certificate of Qualification from 2012-2013 is not valid.

Crossbow Specifications

  • A legal crossbow consists of a bow and string, either compound or recurve, that launches a minimum 14-inch bolt or arrow, not including point, mounted upon a stock with a trigger that holds the string and limbs under tension until released.
  • The trigger unit of such crossbow must have a working safety.
  • Minimum limb width: 17 inches (outer tip of limbs, excluding wheels and cams, uncocked)
    • Minimum peak draw weight: 100 pounds
    • Maximum peak draw weight: 200 pounds.
  • Minimum overall length: 24 inches from butt-stock to front of limbs.

Crossbow Regulations Per Hunting Season

Big Game

License requirement:

  • The new law essentially treats crossbows as a muzzleloader. Hunters must possess a muzzleloader hunting privilege to legally hunt with a crossbow during any muzzleloader season OR during open portions of the early bowhunting seasons. Muzzleloader privilege is not required when hunting with a crossbow during the early bear season or the regular firearms seasons.
  • Bowhunting privilege is not required for use of a crossbow at any time.

Crossbows may be used during the following seasons:

  • Crossbows may be used to take bear during the early bear season, early muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone, regular firearms seasons in the Northern and Southern Zones, and the late muzzleloader season in the Southern Zone.
  • Crossbows may be used to take deer during:
    • early and late muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone and late muzzleloader season in the Southern Zone using Bow/Muzz tags, DMPs, DMAP tags, or an unfilled Regular Big Game tag (late season only);
    • regular firearms seasons using a Regular Big Game tag, DMPs, or DMAP tags.
  • Crossbows may also be used to take deer or bear during limited portions of bowhunting seasons as follows, provided that the hunter possesses the muzzleloading privilege:
    • During the last 14 days of the early bowhunting season in the Southern Zone;
    • During the last 10 days of the early bowhunting season in the Northern Zone; this includes the 7-day early muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone;
    • Only Bow/Muzz tags, DMPs or DMAPs may be use during these times.
  • See Deer and Bear Hunting Season dates

    Crossbows may not be used under the following conditions:

    • To take deer or bear in the following areas of the state:
      • Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 4J in Albany County
      • WMU 8C in Monroe County
      • In the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, or Westchester
    • Junior big game hunters (age 14-15) may not use a crossbow to take a deer during the Youth Deer Hunt weekend. Adult mentors who accompany a junior big game hunter on the Youth Deer Hunt weekend may not possess a crossbow (or firearm) while afield on those days.

    Small Game

    License Requirements: A hunting license is needed to use a crossbow to hunt small game species. A turkey permit is also required to hunt turkeys. All crossbow specifications remain in effect.

    Crossbows may be used to take the following small game species during their respective open seasons.

    • Wild turkey.
    • Any other small game or upland game birds.
    • Unprotected wildlife (e.g. red squirrels and woodchucks) at anytime.

    Crossbows may not be used under the following conditions.

    • To take waterfowl or other migratory game birds.
    • While hunting with a dog for any small game (except for coyotes) in the Northern Zone.


    • Crossbows may not be used to take carp or any other fish species.

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