Bear Hunting Regulations

Hunting Regulations Icon Virginia Hunting

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 Bears

See General Hunting Information for details.

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 Tag Validation & Checking Requirements.

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 at www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/bear/age.

Tracking Dogs

Allowed (see General Hunting Information for details).

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 & Archery Tackle for details.

  • 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, General Hunting Information) 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 on Legal Use of Firearms & Archery Tackle.)

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. See Legal Use of Firearms and Archery Tackle, Legal Use of Firearms & 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 on Legal Use of Firearms & Archery Tackle.)
  • 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 to track wounded or dead bear (see Hunting with Dogs, General Hunting Information).

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.


Q: Why do you collect a tooth from harvested bears?

A: The premolar from a bear is used to determine the age of the bear. The age structure of the annual harvest is used to analyze trends and is an important tool needed to manage bear populations in Virginia.


Q: Are bear attractant scents legal in Virginia?

A: Yes and no. They are illegal if they are used in a way that a bear can consume it. A good rule of thumb about these products is if a bear can only smell it, it is considered just a scent and is legal. If a bear can consume it or whatever it is applied to can be consumed, it is considered bait and is illegal.