General Information & Hunting Regulations

Hunting Hours

  • Sunrise-Sunset Table (PDF)
  • One-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset for nonmigratory birds and game animals except during spring turkey season.
  • One-half hour before sunrise until 12 noon during spring gobbler season, except the last 13 days when the hunting hours are ½-hour before sunrise until sunset.
  • One-half hour before sunrise to sunset for Youth/Apprentice Spring Turkey Hunting Weekend.
  • Hours for bear hound training season are from 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m daily, including Sundays.
  • Bobcats, foxes, raccoons, and opossums may be hunted by day or night during authorized seasons.
  • Nuisance species may be taken day or night.

Sunday Hunting

Hunting is allowed on Sundays under the following circumstances:

  • Any landowner or member of his family or any person with written permission from the landowner may hunt on the landowner’s property on Sunday, except within 200 yards of a place of worship or any accessory structure thereof.
  • Hunting for waterfowl (ducks, coot, geese, brant, and swan) and rails (including gallinules and moorhens) is allowed on Sundays (on private lands and on public lands as permitted by the landowner) subject to geographical limitations established by the Director of the Department and except within 200 yards of a house of worship or any accessory structure thereof.
  • Hunting is permitted on licensed hunting (shooting) preserves. Raccoons may be hunted on Sunday.

Other than these exceptions and other allowances that had been made specifically by law in the past, it will continue to be unlawful to hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including any nuisance species, with a gun, firearm, or other weapon on Sundays. It will also continue to be unlawful to hunt or kill any deer or bear with a gun, firearm, or other weapon with the aid or assistance of dogs on Sundays.

Blaze Colored Requirements

Requirements

When hunting any species during a firearms deer season and on youth/apprentice deer hunting weekend:

  • Every hunter (see exceptions below), or persons accompanying a hunter, shall wear a solid blaze colored (blaze orange or blaze pink) hat or solid blaze colored upper body clothing that is visible from 360 degrees or display at least 100 square inches of solid blaze colored material at shoulder level within body reach and visible from 360 degrees.
  • Hats may have a bill or brim color or design other than solid blaze color. Hats shall not be in “camo” style, since the latter is designed to prevent visibility. A logo, which does not detract from visibility, may be worn on a blaze colored hat.
  • Hunters using an enclosed ground (pop-up, chair, box, etc.) that conceals them from view shall display at least 100 square inches of solid blaze colored material, visible from 360 degrees attached to or immediately above the blind. This blaze color is in addition to any worn on the hunter’s person.
  • During the muzzleloader seasons for hunting deer with a muzzleloading firearm, every muzzleloader deer hunter and every person accompanying a muzzleloader deer hunter shall wear solid blaze colors as specified above except when they are physically located in a tree stand or other stationary hunting location.

Exceptions

  • Blaze colored clothing is not required of waterfowl hunters, dove hunters, individuals participating in hunting dog field trials, and fox hunters on horseback without firearms.
  • Hunters hunting with archery tackle during an open firearms deer season in areas where the discharge of firearms is prohibited by state law or local ordinance are exempt from the blaze color requirement.
  • Other than muzzleloader deer hunters, blaze colored clothing is not required of any hunters hunting during the muzzleloader deer seasons.

Hunting With Dogs

  • The hunting of deer or bear with a gun, firearm, or other weapon with the aid or assistance of dogs on Sunday is prohibited.
  • Dogs may be used to pursue wild birds and animals during hunting seasons where not prohibited.
  • Section 18.2-136 of the Code of Virginia decriminalizes trespass in certain instances related to dog retrieval. That section provides: “Fox hunters and coon hunters, when the chase begins on other lands, may follow their dogs on prohibited lands, and hunters of all other game, when the chase begins on other lands, may go upon prohibited lands to retrieve their dogs, falcons, hawks, or owls, but may not carry firearms or bow and arrows on their person or hunt any game while thereon. The use of vehicles to retrieve dogs, falcons, hawks, or owls on prohibited lands shall be allowed only with the permission of the landowner or his agent. Any person who goes on prohibited lands to retrieve his dogs, falcons, hawks, or owls pursuant to this section and who willfully refuses to identify himself when requested by the landowner or his agent to do so is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”
  • Tracking dogs maintained and controlled on a lead may be used to find a wounded or dead bear, deer, or turkey statewide during any archery, muzzleloader, or firearm season for these species, or within 24 hours of the end of such season, provided that those who are involved in the retrieval effort have permission to hunt on or to access the land being searched. Licensed hunters engaged in such tracking may possess any weapon permitted for hunting and may use such weapon to humanely kill the wounded bear, deer, or turkey being tracked, including after
    legal hunting hours. Such weapon shall not be used to hunt, wound, or kill any animal other than the animal being tracked, except in self-defense.
  • It is unlawful to use dogs when hunting any species with archery tackle during any archery season, except bear hounds may be used during the youth/apprentice bear hunting weekend.
  • It is unlawful to chase with dogs or hunt with dogs or to attempt to chase or hunt with dogs any wild animal from a baited site or to train dogs on any wild animal from a baited site. Furthermore, it shall be unlawful to place, distribute, or maintain bait or salt for any wild animal for the purpose of chasing with dogs, hunting with dogs, or training of dogs. When hunting or training with dogs, a baited site will be considered to be baited for 10 days following the complete removal of all such bait or salt.
  • It is unlawful to intentionally cripple or otherwise harm any game animal for the intent of continuing a hunt, or chase, or for the purpose of training dogs. Upon treeing, baying, or otherwise containing an animal in a manner that offers the animal no avenue of escape, the person or the hunting party shall either harvest the animal if within a legal take season and by using lawful methods of take or terminate the chase by retrieving the dogs and allowing the animal freedom to escape for the remainder of the same calendar day.
  • It is unlawful to dislodge an animal from a tree for the intent of continuing a hunt, or chase, or for the purpose of training dogs.

Training Dogs

The training of dogs on live wild animals is considered hunting and you must have a valid hunting license while training, and is unlawful during the closed season except as noted below.

  • You may train dogs during daylight hours on squirrels and nonmigratory game birds on private lands and on rabbits from 1/2 hour before sunrise until midnight on private lands. Participants shall have no weapons other than starter pistols in their possession and no wild animals shall be taken. Weapons may be in possession when training dogs on captive raised and properly marked mallards and pigeons so that they may be immediately shot or recovered, except on Sunday.
  • You may train dogs on National Forest or Department-owned lands only during authorized training seasons that specifically permit these activities.
  • You may train dogs on quail on the Amelia Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Dick Cross WMA, and on designated portions of the Chester F. Phelps WMA from September 1 to the day prior to the opening date of the quail hunting season, both dates inclusive. No weapons other than starter pistols may be in possession, and pen-raised birds may not be released.
  • Pen-raised quail may be released at any time on private land with landowner permission. However, birds can only be shot during the regular quail season. Regular bag limits apply.
  • You may train dogs during daylight hours on rabbits and nonmigratory game birds on the Weston WMA from September 1 through March 31, both dates inclusive. Participants in this dog training season shall have no weapons other than starter pistols in their possession, shall not release pen-raised birds, and must comply with all regulations and laws pertaining to hunting. No game shall be taken.

Special restrictions may apply to specific firearms use in some counties. See Local Firearms Ordinances for details.

  • No restrictions on shot size except for spring gobbler season when it is unlawful to have any shot in possession larger than number 2 fine shot while hunting.
  • Shotguns must not be larger than 10 gauge.
  • Unplugged shotguns are legal for hunting nonmigratory game and crows.
  • Shotgun barrels must be at least 18 inches long.
  • Shotguns with rifled barrels are permitted in areas where slugs may be used.
  • All game birds and animals, except deer, may be hunted with shotguns from boats. Hunters must have permission from the landowner to hunt/retrieve game located on private land.
  • Centerfire rifles used for deer or bear must be .23 caliber or larger.
  • Rifles (including air rifles) may be used for taking wild animals and wild birds, except migratory game birds and waterfowl, and where prohibited by local ordinances. Air rifles used for deer must be .35 caliber or larger. Bear and elk may not be taken with an air rifle.
  • Rifles (including air rifles), pistols, and revolvers may be used for hunting crows and turkeys, except where prohibited by local ordinances.
  • Arrowguns may be used for hunting wild birds and animals.
  • Pistols, revolvers, and muzzleloading pistols may be used for small game, except where prohibited by local ordinances.
  • Pistols and revolvers are lawful for deer and bear hunting only in those counties where hunting deer and bear with rifles is lawful. Cartridges used must be .23 caliber or larger and have a manufacturer’s rating of 350 footpounds muzzle energy or more.
  • Muzzleloading pistols of .45 caliber or larger (.50 caliber or larger is recommended) are permitted for hunting big game where and in those seasons when the use of muzzleloading rifles is permitted.
  • Muzzleloading shotguns, muzzleloading rifles, arrowguns, or archery tackle may be used to hunt during the firearms seasons where not prohibited.
  • Archery tackle may be used for hunting wild birds and animals.

Valid Concealed Handgun Permit Holders

Nothing in any Department regulation shall prohibit the possession and transport of a concealed handgun when the individual possesses a valid concealed weapon permit as defined in the Code of Virginia. The granting of a concealed handgun permit shall not thereby authorize the possession of any handgun or other weapon on property or in places where such possession is otherwise prohibited by law or is prohibited by the owner of private property. Furthermore, the possession of a concealed handgun permit does not authorize the use of the concealed handgun for hunting.

Unlawful Methods

Penalties for a violation may include hunting or trapping privilege revocation for one year to life and forfeiture of firearms.

A person found guilty of a violation a second time within three years of a previous conviction shall have their hunting or trapping privilege revoked by the court trying the case.

It is unlawful to:

  • Hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including any nuisance species, with a gun, firearm, or other weapon, or to hunt or kill any deer or bear with a gun, firearm, or other weapon with
    the aid or assistance of dogs, on Sundays. See Sunday Hunting on page 16 for exceptions.
  • Use antler traps.
  • Hunt migratory game birds with a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells in the magazine and chamber, combined, unless allowed by federal regulations and authorized by the Department.
  • Hold in captivity any live wild birds or wild animals outside the limits allowed by regulations without a permit.
  • Discharge a firearm, arrowgun, or archery tackle in or across or within the right-of-way of any public road.
  • Cast a light attached to a vehicle or from a vehicle beyond a roadway upon places used by deer without written permission of the landowner or at anytime while in the possession of a rifle, shotgun, pistol, arrowgun, archery tackle, or speargun.
  • Handle any firearm in a reckless manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.
  • Destroy, mutilate, or take down “posted” signs or litter.
  • Take or attempt to take wild animals and wild birds with the exception of bobcats, coyotes, crows, foxes, and raccoons by the use or aid of recorded animal or bird calls or sounds or recorded or electrically amplified imitation of animals or bird calls or sounds; provided, that electronic calls may be used on private lands for hunting bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, and foxes with written permission of the landowner and on public lands except where specifically prohibited.
  • Hunt adjacent to forest fires.
  • Willfully and intentionally impede the lawful hunting or trapping of wild birds or wild animals.
  • Kill or cripple and knowingly allow any nonmigratory game bird or game animal to be wasted without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the animal and retain it in possession.
  • Hunt under age 12 without being accompanied and directly supervised by a licensed parent, guardian, or other adult designated by the parent or guardian. The term “accompanied and directly supervised” means the adult maintains close visual and verbal contact, provides adequate direction to, and can immediately assume control of the firearm.
  • Hunt with an Apprentice Hunting License prior to completing hunter education unless accompanied and directly supervised by an adult over the age of 18 who has, on his person, a valid Virginia hunting license.
  • Shoot a rifle or pistol at wild birds or animals on or over the public inland waters of the state. However, licensed trappers may shoot a .22 caliber rimfire rifle or pistol on or over public inland waters for the purpose of dispatching trapped animals.
  • Carry a loaded rifle or pistol on a boat or other floating device on public inland waters for hunting wild birds or animals.
  • Shoot waterfowl or migratory game birds from a boat being propelled by a motor.
  • Hunt while under the influence of intoxicants or narcotic drugs.
  • Molest nest, eggs, den, or young of any wild bird or animal, except nuisance species, at any time without a permit as required by law.
  • Occupy any baited blind or other baited place for the purpose of taking or attempting to take any wild game bird or wild game animal or to put out bait or salt for the purpose of taking or killing any wild game bird or wild game animal, except for the purpose of trapping furbearing animals.
  • Shoot or attempt to take any wild bird or animal from any vehicle, except as otherwise provided by law.
  • Exceed the bag limit or possess over the daily limit of any wild bird or animal while in the forests, fields, or waters of this state.
  • Use vehicles or possess firearms (including concealed weapons) while retrieving dogs on private lands without permission of the landowner.
  • Use live birds or animals to decoy or call game.
  • Kill or attempt to kill any deer while in a boat or other type of watercraft.
  • Hunt or attempt to kill or trap any species of wild bird or wild animal after having obtained the daily bag or season limit during such day or season. However, any properly licensed person, or a person exempt from having to obtain a license, who has obtained such daily bag or season limit while hunting may assist others who are hunting game by calling game, retrieving game, handling dogs, or conducting drives if the weapon in possession is an unloaded firearm, unloaded arrowgun, a bow without a nocked arrow, or an unloaded crossbow. Any properly licensed person, or person exempt from having to obtain a license, who has obtained such season limit prior to commencement of the hunt may assist others who are hunting game by calling game, retrieving game, handling dogs, or conducting drives, provided he does not have a firearm, bow, or crossbow, or arrowgun in his possession.
  • Alter, change, borrow, or lend a hunting license or permit.
  • Hunt with explosive head arrows or arrows to which any drug, chemical, or toxic substance has been added.
  • Possess or transport any wild bird or wild animal or the carcass or the parts thereof, unless specifically allowed and only in accordance with regulations.
  • Hunt wild birds and wild animals with fully automatic firearms, (i.e., machine guns).
  • Sell or purchase any wild bird or wild animal carcass or parts thereof, except as specifically permitted by law.
  • Use radio tracking equipment, except on dogs or on raptors permitted by a falconry permit, to aid in the chase, harvest or capture of wildlife.
  • To possess or use deer scents or lures that contain natural deer urine or other bodily fluids while taking, attempting to take, attracting, or scouting wildlife in Virginia.

Unlawful Feeding of Certain Wildlife

Not only is it illegal to hunt, chase with dogs, or attempt to kill game birds and animals from a baited site, it is also illegal to feed some wildlife under certain circumstances. The Department does not encourage the feeding of wildlife at any time of the year. Feeding restrictions help control the transmission of diseases, nuisance problems, littering concerns, and enforcement issues about
hunting with bait.

  • It is unlawful to place or direct the placement of, deposit, distribute, or scatter food or salt capable of attracting or being eaten by bear, deer, or turkey year round on National Forest and Department-owned lands.
  • Cities and towns have the authority to prohibit the feeding of deer by local ordinance. Contact localities for details.
  • Department regulation makes it illegal to place, distribute, or allow the placement of food, minerals, salt, carrion, trash, or similar substances to feed or attract the following:
    • Deer and Elk:
      • September 1 – first Saturday in January; statewide
      • During any open deer or elk season; statewide
      • Year round in Buchanan, Clarke, Dickenson, Frederick, Shenandoah, Warren, and Wise counties (towns and cities within included).
    • Bears: year round; statewide
    • All species: Illegal to feed any wild animal when the feeding results in property damage, endangers people or wildlife, or creates a public health concern.

Upon notification by Department personnel, if anyone continues with any of these activities for any purpose and it results in the presence of species mentioned previously in this box, such person shall be in violation of the law and subject to a fine of up to $500. No part of this regulation shall be construed to restrict bonafide agronomic plantings (including wildlife food plots) or distribution of food to livestock.

Earn A Buck (EAB) Questions and Answers

  • What is EAB?
    • EAB is a regulation designed to increase the antlerless deer kill level in a county.
  • Where is EAB in effect?
    • All lands (public and private) in Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties.
    • All lands (public and private) in Prince William County (except on Department of Defense lands).
    • All private lands in the counties of Bedford, Clarke, Frederick, Rappahannock, Roanoke, and Warren.
  • When is EAB in effect?
    • During any open deer season (archery, muzzleloading, and firearms). Antlered bucks may not be killed during the special antlerless only deer season(s) but does killed during early antlerless only seasons do count toward EAB.
  • Has EAB been successful?
    • Yes, EAB has resulted in females composing =50% of the total deer kill in every EAB county almost every year since it was initiated in fall 2008.
  • Were there any changes made to EAB for fall 2015?
    • Yes, private lands in Rappahannock are now included in EAB.
  • Can I shoot an antlered buck first under EAB?
    • Yes, deer hunters in EAB counties may kill one antlered buck without having first killed an antlerless deer (doe or button buck).
  • How does EAB work?
    • EAB requirements are restricted to individual counties.
      • On private lands in in Bedford, Clarke, Frederick, Rappahannock, Roanoke, and Warren counties:
        • Prior to killing a second antlered buck on private land, deer hunters must kill at least one antlerless deer on private land before they can legally take a second antlered deer on private land.
      • On private lands in in Bedford and Rappahannock counties (where it is legal to kill three bucks per year):
        • Prior to killing a third antlered buck on private land, deer hunters must kill at least two antlerless deer on private land before they can legally take a third antlered buck on private land.
      • In Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William (except on Department of Defense lands) counties:
        • Prior to killing a second antlered buck, deer hunters must kill at least two antlerless deer before they can legally take a second antlered deer.
        • Prior to killing a third antlered deer, deer hunters must kill at least three antlerless deer before they can legally take a third antlered buck.
  • What does “restricted to individual counties” mean?
    • EAB only applies to deer killed within that EAB County in the same license year. Bucks and does do not “carry over” from county to county under EAB. Deer killed in an EAB county will not affect the type of deer you can kill in non-EAB counties or in other EAB counties.
    • For example, a deer hunter east of the Blue Ridge could kill one or two antlered bucks in non EAB counties and then go hunting in an eastern EAB county and kill his third antlered buck without having taken an antlerless deer. Similarly, killing one or two antlerless deer in a non EAB county would not “count” toward the antlerless deer requirement in an EAB county.
  • Do deer hunters have to kill an antlerless deer first in an EAB county?
    • No, in every EAB county the first deer killed in the county may be an antlered buck or an antlerless deer (a doe or button buck).
  • Does EAB impact the daily or season deer bag limit?
    • No. The normal deer daily and season bag limits still apply.
  • Why is the number of antlerless deer required for EAB higher in Northern Virginia?
    • To further increase the antlerless deer kill level within these four urban counties. A similar 2:1 EAB requirement for Fairfax County public land archery hunts has been very successful.
  • Will I have enough antlerless tags on my license to kill a 3rd buck in Northern Virginia?
    • Yes. There are three antlerless only deer tags on a big game license. Two antlerless deer must be killed before a second buck can be killed, but only one additional antlerless deer must be taken to kill a third buck.
  • Why require EAB?
    • The Department’s Deer Management Plan calls for deer populations to be reduced in all these counties, and traditional liberal deer regulations have not completely achieved that objective.
  • Can antlerless deer “carry over” from year to year?
    • No.
  • What should I do if I have additional EAB questions?

Earn a Buck (EAB)

For the purposes of this section, the term “license year” defines the period between July 1 and June 30 of the following year.

Arlington County (including the cities and towns within). During a license year, it shall be unlawful to take a second antlered deer in Arlington County prior to taking at least two antlerless deer in Arlington County, and it shall be unlawful to take a third antlered deer in Arlington County prior to taking at least three antlerless deer in Arlington County.

Bedford County on private lands (including the cities and towns within). During a license year, it shall be unlawful to take a second antlered deer on private lands in Bedford County prior to taking at least one antlerless deer on private lands in Bedford County, and it shall be unlawful to take a third antlered deer on private lands in Bedford County prior to taking at least two antlerless deer on private lands in Bedford County.

Clarke County on private lands (including the cities and towns within). During a license year, it shall be unlawful to take a second antlered deer on private lands in Clarke County prior to taking at least one antlerless deer on private lands in Clarke County.

Fairfax County (including the cities and towns within). During a license year, it shall be unlawful to take a second antlered deer in Fairfax County prior to taking at least two antlerless deer in Fairfax County, and it shall be unlawful to take a third antlered deer in Fairfax County prior to taking at least three antlerless deer in Fairfax County.

Frederick County on private lands (including the cities and towns within). During a license year, it shall be unlawful to take a second antlered deer on private lands in Frederick County prior to taking at least one antlerless deer on private lands in Frederick County.

Loudoun County (including the cities and towns within). During a license year, it shall be unlawful to take a second antlered deer in Loudoun County prior to taking at least two antlerless deer in Loudoun County, and it shall be unlawful to take a third antlered deer in Loudoun County prior to taking at least three antlerless deer in Loudoun County.

Prince William County except on Department of Defense (DOD) lands (including the cities and towns within). During a license year, it shall be unlawful to take a second antlered deer in Prince William County (except on DOD lands) prior to taking at least two antlerless deer in Prince William County (except on DOD lands), and it shall be unlawful to take a third antlered deer in Prince William County (except on DOD lands) prior to taking at least three antlerless deer in Prince William County (except on DOD lands).

Rappahannock County on private lands (including the cities and towns within). During a license year, it shall be unlawful to take a second antlered deer on private lands in Rappahannock County prior to taking at least one antlerless deer on private lands in Rappahannock County, and it shall be unlawful to take a third antlered deer on private lands in Rappahannock County prior to taking at least two antlerless deer on private lands in Rappahannock County.

Roanoke County on private lands (including the cities and towns within). During a license year, it shall be unlawful to take a second antlered deer on private lands in Roanoke County prior to taking at least one antlerless deer on private lands in Roanoke County.

Warren County on private lands (including the cities and towns within). During a license year, it shall be unlawful to take a second antlered deer on private lands in Warren County prior to taking at least one antlerless deer on private lands in Warren County.

All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Laws

No ATV shall be operated:

  • On any public highway, or other public property, except as authorized by proper authorities or to the extent necessary to cross a public highway by the most direct route.
  • By any person under the age of 16, except that children between the ages of 12 and 16 may operate ATVs powered by engines of no less than 70 cubic centimeters nor more than 90 cubic centimeters displacement.
  • By any person unless he is wearing a protective helmet of a type approved by the Superintendent of State Police for use by motorcycle operators.
  • On another person’s property without the written consent of the owner of the property or as explicitly authorized by law.
  • With a passenger at any time, unless vehicle is designed and equipped to be operated with more than one rider.

The above does not apply to members of the household or employees of the owner or lessee of private property on which the ATV is operated.