Bear

General Information

Bear License

To hunt bears, residents and nonresidents must purchase a bear license in addition to all other applicable licenses, permits or stamps, unless license exempt.

KEEP BEARS WILD!

Unlawful to Feed Bear

Unlawful to Shoot Without Intent to Retrieve the Bear

No person shall kill or cripple and knowingly allow any game animal to be wasted without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the animal and retain it in their possession.

Unlawful to Dislodge and Continue to Hunt

It is unlawful to dislodge an animal from a tree for the intent of continuing a hunt, chase, or for the purpose of training dogs.

Bag Limits

One per license year, at least 100 pounds live weight or 75 pounds dressed weight (all internal organs removed). Females with cubs may not be harvested.

Bear Checking

See Validation and Checking.

Look Up the Age of Your Harvested Bear Online!

The age of your harvested bear will be available online, 9 to 10 months after the hunting season ends.

Tracking Dogs

Allowed (see General Hunting Regulations for details)

Youth and Apprentice Bear Hunting Weekend

October 12 through 13

  • Hunting weapons legal during the firearms season are allowed on this weekend.
  • Statewide (Sunday hunting on private lands only)
  • Resident and nonresident youth hunters 15 years of age and under or holders of a valid apprentice hunting license, when in compliance with all applicable laws and licenses, may hunt when accompanied and directly supervised by an adult over the age of 18 who has a valid Virginia hunting license or is exempt from purchasing a hunting license. Nonresident youth of any age need to have the appropriate licenses (unless exempt from purchasing a license).
  • Bear bag limit, weight limits, and all other take restrictions apply. If a bear is taken on this weekend, the youth or apprentice hunter may not take another bear in any season.
  • Blaze color is required in areas with an open deer firearms season during this weekend. If hunting in an area with no open deer firearms season this weekend, blaze color is strongly recommended.
  • Bears may be taken with the aid of dogs on Saturday statewide except:
    • In the counties of Accomack, Campbell (west of the Norfolk Southern Railroad), Fairfax, Grayson (west of State Route 16), Henry, Loudon, Northampton, Patrick, Pittsylvania (west of the Norfolk Southern Railroad), Roanoke (south of I-81), Smyth (that part south of I-81 and west of State Route 16), and Washington (south of I-81) and the city of Lynchburg.
    • On the Amelia, Chester F. Phelps, Featherfin, G. Richard Thompson, Mattaponi, Mattaponi Bluffs, Merrimac Farm, Oakley Forest, Parker’s Branch on Big Woods, Pettigrew, Robert W Duncan, and Ware Creek Wildlife Management Areas.
  • Tracking dogs maintained and controlled on a lead may be used to find a wounded or dead bear.
  • Adult hunters accompanying youth or apprentice bear hunters:
    • do not need a bear license on this weekend.
    • shall not carry or discharge a firearm.
    • shall maintain close visual and verbal contact with, provide adequate direction to, and can immediately assume control of the firearm.

Archery Bear Season

Season Dates

October 5 through November 15: Statewide

Legal Methods and Restrictions

Special restrictions apply to archery tackle use during this season. See Legal Use of Firearms and Archery Tackle.

  • Archery tackle only, excluding slingbows.
  • Persons with a disability that prevents them from drawing a bow or crossbow may hunt with an arrowgun during the special archery season provided they have in possession an authorization form provided by the Department that has been completed by their physician.
  • Broadhead widths must be at least 7/8-inch wide or expand upon impact to 7/8-inch.
  • It is unlawful to use explosive head arrows or arrows to which any drug, chemical, or toxic substance has been added.
  • It is unlawful to use dogs, except that dogs may be used to track wounded or dead bear (see Hunting with Dogs) and dogs may be used by youth or apprentice bear hunters to take bears on October 12.
  • It is unlawful to have a firearm in possession, except that a muzzleloading firearm as defined in the muzzleloader bear season section may also be in possession when and where there is an overlap with a muzzleloading bear season where bear hunting with a rifle or muzzleloading firearm is permitted. (See exception for valid concealed handgun permit holders.)

Muzzleloader Bear Season

Season Dates

November 9 through 15: Statewide in all areas where hunting with a muzzleloading rifle is permitted.

Legal Methods and Restrictions

Special restrictions apply to specific firearms use during this season. SeeLegal Use of Firearms and Archery Tackle, and Local Firearms Ordinances for details.

  • Only muzzleloading firearms .45 caliber or larger loaded (propellant and projectile) from the muzzle of the gun.
  • Muzzleloading firearms must be single shot, capable of firing only a single bullet or saboted bullet (.35 caliber or larger).
  • Flintlock, percussion, or electronic ignitions are permitted.
  • It is unlawful to have in immediate possession any firearm other than a muzzleloading firearm while hunting with a muzzleloader. (See exception for valid concealed handgun permit holders.)
  • Smokeless powder is allowed in muzzleloading firearms designed for it. Never use smokeless powder of any type in any quantity in a muzzleloading firearm that is not specifically designed for it.
  • Scopes are permitted.
  • For the purposes of transportation in a vehicle, muzzleloading firearms are considered “unloaded” when all powder has been removed from the flashpan, or the percussion cap, primer, or battery has been removed from the firearm.
  • Arrowguns are allowed.
  • It is unlawful to use dogs, except that dogs may be used may be used to track
    wounded or dead bear (see Hunting with Dogs).

Early Firearms Bear Season

September 30 through October 2: In the counties (including the towns and cities within) of Albemarle, Alleghany, Amherst, Augusta, Bath, Bedford, Bland, Botetourt, Buchanan, Clarke, Craig, Culpeper, Dickenson, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Giles, Greene, Highland, Lee, Loudoun, Madison, Montgomery (northwest of I-81), Nelson, Page, Prince William, Pulaski (northwest of I-81), Rappahannock, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Russell, Scott, Shenandoah, Smyth (northwest of I-81), Stafford, Tazewell, Warren, Washington (northwest of I-81), Wise, Wythe (northwest of I-81).

Closed: certain counties, see map

Firearms Bear Seasons

October 1 through January 4: In the cities of Chesapeake, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach.

November 25 through January 4: In the counties of Albemarle, Alleghany, Amherst, Arlington, Augusta, Bath, Bedford, Bland, Botetourt, Buchanan, Caroline, Chesterfield, Clarke, Craig, Culpeper, Dickenson, Fairfax, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Frederick, Giles, Goochland, Greene, Hanover, Henrico, Highland, Lee, Loudoun, Louisa, Madison, Montgomery, (northwest of I-81), Nelson, Orange, Page, Powhatan, Prince William, Pulaski (northwest of I-81), Rappahannock, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Russell, Scott, Shenandoah, Smyth (northwest of I-81), Spotsylvania, Stafford, Tazewell, Warren, Washington (northwest of I-81), Wise, Wythe (northwest of I-81), and on the Clinch Mountain and Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Areas and Channels State Forest. December 2 through January 4: In the counties of Carroll, Floyd, Franklin, Grayson, Henry, Montgomery (southeast of I-81), Patrick, Pulaski (southeast of I-81), Smyth (southeast of I-81), Washington (southeast of I-81), Wythe (southeast of I-81).

December 2 through 21: In the counties of Amelia, Appomattox, Brunswick, Buckingham, Campbell, Charles City, Charlotte, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Essex, Gloucester, Greensville, Halifax, Isle of Wight, James City, King and Queen, King George, King William, Lancaster, Lunenburg, Mathews, Mecklenburg, Middlesex, New Kent, Northumberland, Nottoway, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward, Prince George, Richmond, Southampton, Surry, Sussex, Westmoreland, and York.

Closed: In the counties of Accomack and Northampton.

Cities and Towns: Bears may be harvested using any lawful weapon within the incorporated limits of any city or town that allows bear hunting from October 5 to January 4. This season will not supersede local ordinances with respect to hunting or use of weapon.

Legal Methods and Restrictions

Special restrictions apply to specific firearms use during this season. See Legal Use of Firearms and Archery Tackle and Local Firearms Ordinances for details.

  • Modern firearms
  • Arrowguns are allowed
  • Archery tackle (excludes slingbows)
  • Muzzleloading firearms

Bear Hound Training/Chase Season

NO BLACK BEAR MAY BE TAKEN DURING THIS SEASON.

Hours

4:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., including Sundays. See maps for dates and locations.

Licenses Required

Same for hunting seasons where bears can be taken. See licenses, stamps, and permits section for appropriate required licenses.

Unlawful Methods

  • It is unlawful to have in possession a firearm, archery tackle or any weapon capable of taking a black bear while participating in the bear hound training season. The meaning of “possession” for the purpose of this section shall include, but not be limited to, having a firearm, bow, crossbow, or any weapon capable of taking a black bear in or on one’s person, vehicle, or conveyance. (See exception for valid concealed handgun permit holders.)
  • 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.

Dogs May Not Be Used to Hunt Bears

  • During the firearms deer season in the counties west of the Blue Ridge and during the first 16 days of the deer open season in the counties of Amherst (west of Rt. 29), Bedford, and Nelson (west of Rt. 151).
  • During the first 14 hunting days of the firearms deer season in Madison and Greene counties.
  • During the firearms bear season in the counties of Campbell (west of Norfolk Southern Railroad), Carroll (east of the New River), Fairfax, Floyd, Franklin, Grayson (east of the New River), Henry, Loudoun, Montgomery (south of I-81), Patrick, Pittsylvania (west of Norfolk Southern Railroad), Pulaski (south of I-81), Roanoke (south of I-81), and Wythe (southeast of the New River or that part bounded by Rt. 21 on the west, I-81 on the north, the county line on the east, the New River on the southeast and Cripple Creek on the south), and in the city of Lynchburg.
  • On the Amelia, Chester F. Phelps, Featherfin, G. Richard Thompson, Mattaponi, Mattaponi Bluffs, Merrimac Farm, Oakley Forest, Parker’s Branch Tract on Big Woods, Pettigrew, Robert W. Duncan, and Ware Creek Wildlife Management Areas.
  • When hunting during the archery or muzzleloading bear seasons, except in certain counties during the youth/apprentice bear hunting weekend.
  • On Cavalier WMA dogs may only be used during the Bear Hound Training Season from August 17 through 31
  • On Sundays while in possession of a weapon. The meaning of “possession” for the purpose of this section shall include, but not be limited to, having a firearm, bow, crossbow, or any weapon capable of taking a black bear in or on one’s person, vehicle, or conveyance. (See exception for valid concealed handgun permit holders .)