General Hunting Information
(See Sunrise-Sunset Table)
- 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 turkey season, except the last 20 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.
- Nuisance species may be taken day or night.
Hunting is allowed on Sundays during the regular hunting seasons 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.
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 blind (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.
- 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, 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 30 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; it 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.
- 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), Cavalier WMA, Chickahominy WMA, Dick Cross WMA, Mattaponi WMA, and White Oak WMA, and on designated portions of the C. 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.
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.
A landowner may post their property by any of the following methods:
- Using 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 their property.
- Placing signs that specifically prohibit hunting, fishing, or trespassing on their property.
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 DWR 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 consider insuring their property subject to casualty by obtaining 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 access private property.
Fundamentally, sportsmen are responsible for their own safety and for any damages they cause to the property of others. Individual permission cards (see below and bottom pg. 20) include codes of ethical conduct while the cardholders 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.
Sale and Purchase of Legally Harvested Game
It is unlawful to sell, barter, or purchase any wild bird or wild animal carcass or parts thereof. There are exceptions and a general representation of these are listed below for your reference and is not intended to be all-inclusive. Specific exceptions and requirements are identified in the Code of Virginia and the Virginia Administrative Code.
- Except for taxidermy mounts referenced below, no portion of a black bear may legally be bought or sold.
Deer and Elk
- The hair, hide, tail, sinew, skull, antlers, bones, and feet as well as products made from these parts may be bought and sold.
Furbearers (beaver, bobcat, coyote, fisher, fox, mink, muskrat, nutria, opossum, otter, raccoon, skunk, and weasels)
- Any hunter, trapper, or person engaged in the business of fur farming can sell raw pelts and unskinned carcasses of legally taken and possessed furbearers at any time.
- Any person who purchases, consigns, or trades in raw pelts and unskinned carcasses of furbearers is required to have a Fur Dealer Permit, except when the pelts or carcasses are to be tanned or used in taxidermy mounts for personal use and not for resale, trade, or other commercial purposes.
- Any person can buy or sell tanned pelts, skinned carcasses, taxidermy mounts, or other furbearer parts (skulls, teeth, claws, bones, glands, secretions, etc.) at any time.
- Legally harvested opossums and raccoons may be bought and sold during the open hunting season.
Migratory Game Birds (brant, coots, doves, ducks, gallinules, geese, mergansers, moorhens, rails, snipe, swans, and woodcock)
- No portion of a migratory game bird may be bought or sold.
Small Game (bobwhite quail, pheasants, rabbits, ruffed grouse, and squirrels)
- The skins, pelts, skulls, bones, teeth, claws, feet, tails, hair, feathers, taxidermy mounts, and other non-meat parts as well as products made from these parts may be bought and sold.
- Legally harvested rabbits and squirrels may be bought and sold during the open hunting season.
- Carcasses, and portions thereof, can be used to make turkey calls for sale and purchase.
- Under specific conditions, unclaimed mounts of native wildlife or their processed hides may be sold by a Virginia licensed taxidermist with the exception of migratory waterfowl, migratory birds and state and federally listed threatened and endangered species.
- A licensed Virginia auctioneer or licensed auction firm may sell wildlife mounts and processed hides (including bears, but not migratory game birds) which have undergone the taxidermy process.
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:
- Hold in captivity any live wild birds or wild animals outside the limits allowed by regulations without a permit.
- Hunt adjacent to forest fires.
- Use antler traps.
- 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 while under the influence of intoxicants or narcotic drugs.
- Take or attempt to take wild animals and wild birds 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.
- Destroy or harass the 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.
- Destroy, mutilate, or take down “posted” signs or litter. Conviction of littering can result in loss of hunting license.
- 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 live birds or animals to decoy or call game.
- 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.
- Sell or purchase any wild bird or wild animal carcass or parts thereof, except as specifically permitted by law.
- Offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, or purchase a hunt guaranteeing the killing of a deer, bear, or wild turkey. This law doesn’t prevent a landowner from leasing land for hunting.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hunt or assist another to hunt during any open season on the same calendar day and the same property where a drone (unmanned aerial vehicle) was used to locate or scout for any wild animal.
- 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 said person does not have a firearm, bow, crossbow, or arrowgun in their possession.
Training Dogs on Military Bases
For training dogs on military bases contact the appropriate base:
Fort A.P. Hill Game Check Station(804) 633-8984
Fort Belvoir Outdoor Recreation(703) 805-3969
Ft. Pickett Game Check Station(434) 292-2618
Quantico Game Check Station(703) 784-5523/5329
Quail Management Assistance Program
Q: Is it true that I must wear a blaze color during the muzzleloading seasons for deer when hunting with a muzzleloading rifle?
A: Yes, you and anyone accompanying you. It must be worn to and from your stand or while moving. Once you get to your stand you may remove the blaze colored clothing.
Q: In Virginia, is it legal to buy or sell a mounted deer head, deer antlers, or craft items made from a deer?
A: Yes. It is now legal to buy and sell the hair, hide, tail, sinew, skull, antlers, bones, and feet of a legally possessed deer or elk carcass or carcass part, any products made from these carcass parts, and deer or elk mounts. Deer or elk meat (venison) organs, etc. cannot be bought and sold.
Q: Is it legal to kill snakes in Virginia?
A: No, under normal circumstances. Snakes can only be killed when their presence represents an immediate human health hazard or they are creating some other type of nuisance issue. State or federally protected species (e.g. canebrake rattlesnake) may never be killed under any circumstance. The indiscriminate killing of snakes is contrary to the Department’s conservation ethic.
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, wildlife conflicts, 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. Attractants must be removed by September 1.
- During any open deer or elk season; statewide
- Year round in Buchanan, Dickenson, and Wise counties as well as those counties listed on Deer Hunting CWD which are associated with the management of CWD in Virginia (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.
- Deer and Elk:
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.