California Archery Laws

NOTE: This website exists as a reference only, and is not to be taken as legal advice. Always read the laws yourself. There may be other laws than the listed laws, and the interpretations here may not be correct.

California Archery Laws and Regulations


It seems that bows of all types are legal In California, but there is no rule stating that localities cannot pass harsher rules than the state, therefore it is possible that municipal and county rules may exist. Beware also that California law is convoluted and changes rapidly; therefore this information could easily be wrong or out of date. Beware also that there is likely case law which may have lead to strange readings of these codes that differ greatly from my own. This page is meant only as a starting place for future research of your own. Beware also that the courts in California sometimes interpret laws to be stricter than the wording of the law would indicate to the average reader. For instance, I have heard of cases regarding firearms laws where courts did not find that someone met an exception for private property because the court decided that private property is not private if it is open to the public.

Here are some California laws and a quick description of its relevance to archery (you can find the actual wording on this website: Ca Laws )

Penal Code

  • 16460 - Defines explosive/incendiary projectiles as destructive devices.
  • 18710-18780 - Limits locations where explosive/incendiary projectiles can be possessed and used.
  • 18720- You need a permit to make explosive/incendiary arrows.
  • 19100- You cannot conceal explosive arrows.
  • 18250- If there is domestic violence incident, police will seize your bow if they find it.
  • 19405- It is illegal to sell a bow to a minor.
  • 16XXX- Firearm defined. If the bow fires a projectile in a barrel using combustion or explosives, it is a firearm, not a bow.
  • 20010- Blow guns are illegal.
  • 21110- Ballistic Knives are illegal (Basically, these are knives that fire like a projectile.)
    (8) As used in this section, a "ballistic knife" means a device that propels a knifelike blade as a projectile by means of a coil spring, elastic material, or compressed gas. Ballistic knife does not include any device which propels an arrow or a bolt by means of any common bow, compound bow, crossbow, or underwater spear gun.
  • 22610/17230- Stun guns are legal. Your bow might be a stun gun if it fires an arrow capable of immobilizing someone with a shock.
  • 16780- A bow designed to fire arrows does not qualify as a "less lethal weapon" (because it is a deadly weapon.)
  • 17510- It is illegal to picket while in possession of a bow.
  • 16570/30210- Flechette Darts are illegal. A flechette dart is defined as a dart that is designed to be fired out of firearm. If you had a crossbow capable of firing darts, you should not use darts meant to be loaded into firearm ammunition.
    a "flechette dart" means a dart, capable of being fired from a firearm, which measures approximately one inch in length, with tail fins which take up five-sixteenths of an inch of the body.
  • 22810 - No tear gas darts or other gas weapon darts are allowed (there is an exception for veterinary practice.)

Fish and Game Code

  • 4370- If you are bowhunting during the archery season, it is illegal to have a firearm.
  • 3001- If you are intoxicated, you can't use your bow to hunt birds or mammals.
  • 3003- It is illegal to shoot birds or mammals with bows via an internet connection
  • 3004b- It is illegal to fire arrows across a road or public way in an unsafe or reckless manner
  • 3004a- While hunting with a bow, it is illegal to shoot arrows within 150 yards of a building.
  • 2005 - Shining artificial lights at onto any highway, field, woodland or forest where mammals are commonly found, while in possession of a weapon capable of killing those mammals at the same time, is illegal, unless if the artificial light is provided by a non-directional lantern, or a flashlight no brighter than a 2-Cell 3 Volt Flashlight. Also, the headlights of a car can be used in an ordinary manner not for purpose of hunting while in possession of a weapon.
  • 10500-10506 - It is illegal to possess a bow in a game refuge, unless the bow is unstrung or stored separate from arrows... additionally if you aren't traveling a public highway, you have to give 24 hours advance notice to Fish and Wildlife Department that you are passing through.
  • There may also be a rule that you cannot use an arrow against fish during certain survival training exercises, but I can't find the specific code.

Licenses are generally required to hunt, but even if you aren't hunting a lot of "hunting" rules may apply depending on the area.

Also, there is the California Code of Regulations

California Codes of Regulations Rules:

  • 14 CA ADC § 1.23 - Bow and Arrow Fishing Tackle - Arrow point must be connected by line to the bow or reel
  • 14 CCR § 2.25 Bow fishing fish type regulation
  • 14 CA ADC § 2.45 & 14 CA ADC § 251.9- No computer assisted bow fishing or hunting
  • 14 CA ADC § 28.95 - No bows and arrow fishing tackle within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream in any ocean waters north of Ventura County, nor aboard any vessel on any day or on any trip when broadbill swordfish or marlin have been taken.
  • 14 CA ADC § 354 - No explosive, tranquilizing, or Poisoning darts may be used, no arrows fired on or across roads, no crossbows too weak to send arrow 130 yards except with flu-flu arrows (while hunting?), no making bow ready to fire in a vehicle by notching an arrow
  • 14 CA ADC § 507 - Only flu-flu arrows for hunting migratory birds
  • 14 CA ADC § 550 Areas where hunting and possession of firearms and archery equipment are prohibited.
    No person, except authorized personnel, shall possess or discharge a firearm, bow and arrow, air or gas gun, spear gun, or other propulsive device of any kind in the following areas: Battle Creek, Crescent City Marsh, Elk Creek Wetlands, Eureka Slough, and Hill Slough wildlife areas; Cordelia lough and Montezuma Slough management units of Grizzly Island Wildlife Area; White Slough Unit of Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area; and Bahia, Day Island, Green Point, Novato Creek, Point Sonoma, and Rush Creek units of the Petaluma Marsh Wildlife Area.
  • 14 CA ADC § 551 - some areas specified where firing arrows is illegal. No bows at all allowed at Santa Rosa Wildlife Area
  • 14 CA ADC § 630 - Bows are generally illegal in ecological reserves
  • 14 CA ADC § 632 - Bows prohibited at Punta Gorda State Marine Reserve
  • 14 CA ADC § 1413 - No shooting bows within 150 yards of designated camping areas.
  • 14 CA ADC § 4313 - Within units of the Parks and Recreation Department, no bows allowed except in vehicles and stored to prevent ready access.
  • 15 CA ADC § 5302 - Civil addict parolees cannot have bows.
  • 5 CA ADC § 41301 No weapons at CA state University
  • 5 CA ADC § 100015 No weapons at University of CA

I recall an internet discussion recently where someone was saying there was a restriction against broad-head arrows in some areas. I'm not sure whether there is validity to that.

These are the laws and codes I was able to find searching the California law books. However, California also has many regulatory agencies, which may create further restrictions. Other agencies like those in charge of state parks may have their own rules. Localities may have their own rules. The most common rules that localities like counties and cities have is rules dictating where bows can be shot but in theory it is possible a locality may ban bows entirely.

California law is very complicated compared to the law in states like Nevada, so I apologize in advance for any outdated or missing information.