Modern Firearm Regulations for Big Game Hunting

When it comes to hunting big game in Washington, it's essential to be aware of the specific regulations regarding firearms. Here are the key regulations for various types of firearms:

RIFLES:

  • For big game hunting, with the exception of cougar, you must use a minimum .24 caliber (6mm) centerfire rifle.
  • Cougar hunting, on the other hand, allows for the use of a .22 caliber centerfire rifle.
  • Rimfire rifles are not legal for hunting big game.

HANDGUNS:

  • When hunting big game, except cougar, handguns must have a minimum barrel length of 4 inches as specified by the manufacturer and fire a minimum .24 caliber centerfire cartridge.
  • For cougar hunting, a .22 caliber centerfire handgun is permitted.
  • While modern handguns can be carried for personal protection, they cannot be used to hunt big game, except as described above.

SHOTGUNS:

  • Deer, bear, and cougar hunting allow the use of a 20 gauge or larger shotgun loaded with slugs or size #1 or larger (0.30 inches diameter or larger) buckshot.
  • Other big game hunting permits the use of a 10 or 12 gauge shotgun firing slugs.

CROSSBOWS:

  • Big game hunting with a crossbow is only legal during modern firearm season.
  • Crossbows used for hunting big game must meet specific requirements:
    • The crossbow must have a draw weight of at least 125 pounds.
    • It must have a properly functioning trigger safety.
    • Arrows or bolts used must weigh at least 350 grains.
    • Arrows or bolts must have a sharp broadhead with blades that are at least seven-eighths inch wide.
    • It is prohibited to discharge a crossbow from a vehicle or from, across, or along the maintained portion of a public highway.
    • There is an exception for disabled hunters who have been issued a Special Use Permit and are in compliance with specific regulations. Refer to Persons with Disabilities for more details.

SMALL GAME SEASONS:

  • Small game seasons and firearm regulations, including fall turkey hunting, are detailed in the Game Bird and Small Game Regulations pamphlet, typically published in June.

Muzzleloader Regulations for Big Game Hunting

When it comes to using muzzleloaders for big game hunting in Washington, it's essential to understand the specific regulations that apply. Here are the key regulations for muzzleloaders:

Muzzleloader Definition:

A muzzleloader is defined as a firearm that is loaded from the muzzle and uses black powder or a black powder substitute as recommended by the manufacturer for use in all muzzleloading firearms. A muzzleloading firearm is considered loaded if both a powder charge and a projectile (either shot or single projectile) are in the barrel, and the barrel or breech is capped or primed.

Muzzleloader Specifications:

  • A muzzleloading shotgun or rifle must have a single or double barrel, which can be rifled or smooth-bored.
  • For deer hunting, a muzzleloading shotgun or rifle must be .40 caliber or larger. Alternatively, buckshot size #1 or larger may be used in a smoothbore of .60 caliber or larger for deer.
  • For all other big game hunting, including elk, a muzzleloading shotgun, rifle, or handgun must be .45 caliber or larger.
  • A muzzleloading handgun must have a single or double barrel of at least eight inches and must be rifled. It must also be capable of being loaded with forty-five grains or more of black powder or black powder substitute, per the manufacturer's recommendations.

Restrictions and Prohibitions:

  • It is unlawful to carry or possess a modern firearm while in the field during a muzzleloader hunting season, except for modern handguns carried for personal protection.
  • Ignition for muzzleloaders during muzzleloader seasons must be by wheel lock, matchlock, flintlock, or percussion. Primers designed for modern cartridges are also legal.
  • Hunters using a double barrel muzzleloader may only keep one barrel loaded.
  • Sights on muzzleloaders must be open, peep, or other open sight design. Fiber optic sights are legal, but telescopic sights are prohibited.
  • Electrical devices attached to a muzzleloading firearm while hunting are unlawful.
  • During a modern firearm season, muzzleloading firearms are not required to meet ignition, sight, or double barrel restrictions.

Exceptions for Disabled Hunters:

Disabled hunters issued a Special Use Permit and in compliance with specific regulations (WAC 220-413-130 and 220-413-140) may have certain exemptions and allowances. Refer to Persons with Disabilities for more details.

Archery Regulations for Big Game Hunting

Archery hunting is a popular method for pursuing big game in Washington. To ensure a safe and legal hunting experience, it's important to be aware of the specific regulations that apply to archery hunting. Here are the key regulations:

General Archery Regulations:

  • Mechanical broadheads are legal to use for all archery hunting. This means hunters can use broadheads with mechanical or expandable blades.

  • It is unlawful for any person to carry or possess any firearm while in the field archery hunting during an archery season specified for that area. The only exception is for modern handguns carried for personal protection. However, modern handguns cannot be used to hunt big game or dispatch wounded big game during an archery big game hunting season.

  • It is unlawful to have any electrical equipment or electric device(s) attached to the bow or arrow while hunting. The only exception to this rule is illuminated nocks, which are allowed.

  • It is unlawful to shoot a bow and arrow from a vehicle or from, across or along the maintained portion of a public highway. This regulation is in place to ensure safety and ethical hunting practices.

  • It is unlawful to use any device secured to or supported by the bow for the purpose of maintaining the bow at full draw or in a firing position. This rule ensures that archery hunting is done with traditional techniques.

  • It is unlawful to hunt big game animals with any arrow or bolt that does not have a sharp broadhead, and the broadhead blade or blades are less than seven-eighths inch wide. This ensures that arrows used for hunting are effective and humane.

  • It is unlawful to hunt wildlife with any bow equipped with a scope. However, a verifier peep sight that magnifies the sights is not considered a scope and is lawful.

Specific Regulations for Longbow, Recurve Bow, and Compound Bow Archery:

  • It is unlawful for any person to hunt big game animals with a bow that does not produce a minimum of 40 pounds of pull measured at twenty-eight inches or at full draw. This regulation ensures that bows used for hunting are capable of delivering an ethical shot.

  • It is unlawful to hunt big game animals with any arrow measuring less than 20 inches in length. This rule helps ensure that arrows used for hunting have the necessary kinetic energy for a clean and ethical kill.

Dispatching Wounded Game in Washington

When it comes to dispatching wounded game in Washington, it's important for hunters to follow specific regulations that pertain to the equipment requirements of their hunting tag. Here's what hunters need to know:

  • A hunter can only use a hunting method that meets the equipment requirements of his/her tag to dispatch wounded game.

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Disclaimer:

The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.