Do You Know West Virginia Hunting Laws?

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A buck walking through the woods during hunting season.

With the holidays upon us, many West Virginians will take to the woods for recreation and nutrition.  No matter how veteran of a hunter you are, it is never a bad idea to brush up on law.  The following are some areas of hunting law that are either obscure or generate frequent questions:

Spotlighting and Night Vision Technology:  It remains a crime to hunt with artificial lighting, commonly known as spotlighting.  It is also a crime to hunt using night vision technology, thermal imaging or other such enhancements.  Exception:  It is lawful to hunt coyote, fox, raccoon, opossum and skunk using any type of lighting or vision enhancement that you want. W.Va. Code § 20-2-5(3).

Drone Usage:  Who says that West Virginia is behind the times? In West Virginia it is a crime to hunt using drones or other types of unmanned aircraft.  This includes that you cannot herd or drive animals using a drone.  W.Va. Code § 20-2-5(5).

Sunday Hunting:  You cannot hunt on Sundays after five o’clock.  Exception:  You can hunt after five o’clock on Sundays on private land, but only with the written permission of the landowner. W.Va. Code § 20-2-5(11 and 27).

Open Kill Birds:  The following species of bird may be killed without limitation:  English sparrow, starling and cowbird. W.Va. Code § 20-2-5(17).

Crossbow Usage: Crossbows are now approved in West Virginia during big game firearm season.  You can hunt with a crossbow during big game firearm season in any manner that is lawful for a firearm, provided that you possess a Class Y permit.  Your crossbow must meet the following requirements:  (1) a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds; (2) a working safety; and, (3) the bolts must be no shorter than 18” and equipped with broad heads having at least 2 blades, each of which is at least ¾” wide. W.Va. Code § 20-2-5g.

Crossbow Deer Season:  Opens on the last Saturday in September and closes on the last day in December. WV CSR § 58-45-3.4.

Crossbow Hunting for the Disabled:  If you qualify for a special Class Y crossbow permit, you can use a crossbow to hunt during all established archery and firearm seasons.  To qualify you must: (1) hold a Class Q permit; (2) have a physician find that you have a substantial loss of function in one or both hands or (3) one or both shoulders.  You must also have a valid statewide regular hunting license. W.Va. Code § 20-2-42w.

Gun or Bow?:  It is a crime to enter the fields or woods with both a gun and a bow or a gun and an arrow at the same time. W.Va. Code § 20-2-5(19).

Arrow Requirements:  Hunting arrows must have at least two blades and all blades must be larger than ¾ of an inch wide. Explosive and poisoned arrows are prohibited. W.Va. Code § 20-2-5(21 and 22).

Proximity Issues:  It remains a crime to: (1) shoot across a road; (2) near a park or gathering place; and (3) within 500 feet of a school or dwelling. Exceptions are made for gun shop owners. W.Va. Code § 20-2-58.

Required Attire:  Only when hunting deer is a hunter required to wear fluorescent (blaze) orange.  The orange must cover at least 400 square inches of the hunter’s person. W.Va. Code § 20-2-60.

Lifetime Exemption:  Any person who was a United States prisoner of war may hunt and fish in any manner that is otherwise lawful without obtaining a permit to do so. W.Va. Code § 20-2-62.

No Ferret Hunting:  It is a crime to hunt or injure a wild animal or bird with the use of a ferret.

No matter how you choose to enjoy hunting this year, safety will always be the primary concern.  If you have questions about hunting or fishing regulations, please do not hesitate to call us at The Miley Legal Group.

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Written by
Tim Miley
Tim Miley is the founder of The Miley Legal Group. After earning his undergraduate degree in finance at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, Tim attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, where he received his Juris Doctorate. Tim is admitted to practice in all courts in West Virginia and is currently a member of the American Association for Justice, the West Virginia American Association for Justice, the West Virginia Bar Association and the Harrison County Bar Association.
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