General Hunting Information
- 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 1/2 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.
- Raccoons may be hunted until 2:00 a.m. on Sundays. No other Sunday hunting of raccoons is permitted.
- Nuisance species may be taken day or night.
Hunting is allowed on Sundays under the following circumstances:
- Allows a landowner and his family or a person with written permission from the landowner to hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including nuisance species, on the landowner’s property on Sunday, except within 200 yards of a house of worship or any accessory structure thereof.
- It also allows for waterfowl and rail hunting on Sundays subject to restrictions imposed by the Director of the Department and except within 200 yards of a house of worship or any accessory structure thereof.
- Continues to allow raccoon hunting until 2 a.m. Sunday mornings.
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.
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 blaze colored (blaze orange or blaze pink) hat or 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 ground (pop-up, chair, box, etc.) or tree stand blinds that conceal them from view must display a minimum of 100 square inches of blaze colored material, visible from 360 degrees, on the OUTSIDE of such blinds. 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 blaze colors as specified above except when they are physically located in a tree stand or other stationary hunting location.
- 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.
- 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 or deer statewide during any archery, muzzleloader, or firearm bear or deer hunting season, 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 and do not have any weapons in their possession.
- 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 the 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.
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 thru 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.
Hunting On Private Property
Trespass violations, posting property, and access issues are all concerns that affect a landowner’s decision to allow hunting.
Hunters are reminded that it is unlawful to hunt on private property without the permission of the landowner, and hunters must have the permission of the landowner to track or retrieve wounded game on private property.
On Posted Property
It is unlawful to hunt without written permission of the landowner and is punishable by a fine of up to $2500 and/or 12 months in jail.
On Unposted Property
It is unlawful to hunt any unposted property without permission of the landowner and is punishable by a fine of up to $500.
Landowners may post their property by any of the following methods:
- Using an aluminum or purple color paint, paint a vertical line at least 2 inches in width and at least 8 inches in length, no less than 3 feet and not more than 6 feet from the ground or normal water surface and visible when approaching the property.
- Signs that specifically prohibit hunting, fishing, or trespassing on the property.
What Landowners Should Know
For landowners, finding responsible hunters can provide many benefits for both the landowner and sportsmen allowed access to the property. There are benefits of having responsible hunters included as an important part of the landowner’s wildlife management plan, especially if they are absentee or do not hunt themselves. There are many in-kind benefits of such relationships including road maintenance, habitat improvement, security, and safety. Hunt clubs are also helpful, and lease fees can offset property taxes. Information on locating responsible hunters can be found by contacting local civic groups like Ruritans, or 4-H Clubs, sporting goods shops, and area landowner contacts that participate in Tree Farm or Stewardship Programs. Members of sportsmen’s conservation organizations that are dedicated, reputable partners with DGIF promote safety, ethical practices, habitat improvement, and scientific management of wildlife.
Concern about legal liability for recreationists prevents some landowners from permitting hunting on their property. However, the Virginia General Assembly has addressed this concern in Virginia Code Section 29.1-509. Amended in 1982, this law exempts landowners who provide recreational opportunities to the public from liability for injury or damages, provided:
- the landowner does not charge a fee.
- there is no gross negligence or “willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition, use, or structure” on the property.
The property owner should eliminate obvious hazards such as open wells and falling down buildings, or fence off and identify with warning signs any hazard that cannot be eliminated, such as a rock quarry. The landowner may wish to consider insuring the property subject to casualty and obtain comprehensive liability insurance. These are relatively inexpensive additions to standard and homeowner insurance policies. Sportsmen can be asked to help provide financial or other support in return for permission to use the lands.
Fundamentally, sportsmen are responsible for their own safety and for any damages they cause to the property of others. Lease agreements and individual permit cards (samples available here and on the Department website) include codes of ethical conduct while the holders are on the property.
Furthermore, landowners can require sportsmen to show proof of insurance. Sportsman insurance is available through insurance companies and national sportsman organizations.
Special restrictions may apply to specific firearms use in some counties. See Local Firearms Ordinances, pg. 22 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.
- 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 foot-pounds 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, 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.
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.