Are Compound Bows Legal in New York City?

It’s important for the traveling archer to be aware of weapons laws in the various places he travels to. This is especially true if he prefers a compound bow, which is likely to catch the eye of the security officer as it passes through the x-ray machine.

So, what if you’re traveling to New York City? Are they legal there? Compound bows are legal in New York City, but this doesn’t mean that carrying one around in the Big Apple won’t attract attention from the authorities. The laws involving the use of compound bows in NYC are tricky, but essentially, they are not considered weapons unless the owner intends to use it to harm someone.

Obviously, that’s a pretty ambiguous standard for defining a weapon, and it can be difficult to tell whether someone truly intended to harm someone or not. If you’re set on bringing your equipment to NYC but don’t want to end up in the police station because of a miscommunication, here are some tips on making sure your visit goes as planned.

Making Sure Your Compound Bow is NYC Legal

New York City laws state that a bow can be classified as a “dangerous instrument,” and officers will determine whether your instrument is dangerous or not mainly based on how you’re handling it.

Because they’re in charge of keeping the public safe, they will likely seem you a safety hazard if they see you carrying a bow of any kind, especially a compound bow. That’s why most of the legal restrictions in New York City have to do with proper concealment.

One of the best ways to make it clear that you’re not trying to menace anyone is to conceal your bow safely in a nondescript case. It’s pretty hard to menace people with a hunk of plastic. You can even stow it in your luggage. As long as it’s not readily accessible (like, in your hand) you should be able to travel with your bow without any hiccups.

If you want to go the extra mile, carrying your bow unstrung is a great way to show any suspicious officers that you’re not intending to use your bow in public.

As for arrows, the rule of concealment usually applies here also. Authorities ask that you conceal your arrows and sometimes even disconnect the heads. If an officer asks you to do this, it’s best to comply, and comply graciously.

If you’re in New York City for an extended period of time or are looking to move there, it may also be a good idea to attend some safety training courses, which you can learn more about this at

Where Can I Legally Use My Compound Bow in NYC?

It’s best to shoot your compound bow in an archery range, but if you’re looking for another place to shoot, New York has a few restrictions you’ll want to be aware of. Here are places/conditions in which it is illegal to shoot a firearm, bow, or crossbow:

  • if the arrow passes over a public highway
  • within 150 feet of a school, playground, or occupied factory or church
  • within 150 feet of a dwelling, farm building or structure that is occupied or in use unless you own or lease it or are an immediate family member or employee of the owner or you have their permission
  • you may hunt waterfowl within 500 feet of a dwelling or public structure as long as it is not within 150 feet of the direction you are aiming your bow

If you need clarification on any of the structures listed or want more information on hunting regulations in New York, you can find it at

For residential shooting, say, in your back yard, you’ll need to be extra careful not to aim at any structures you don’t own. Even if you have your neighbor’s permission, things can still easily go wrong and land you in a lawsuit.

If you don’t have an inside space or a large backyard with plenty of space to shoot in, you’re better off finding an archery range to practice your bowhunting skills.

Are There Age Restrictions For Using a Bow in NYC?

It’s not clear if NYC has laws restricting how old one must be to carry a compound bow, but New York State law says that hunters must be at least 12 years old. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation also offers a Bowhunter Education Course for which the minimum age is 11 years old.

Hunters younger than 12 years old can accompany licensed hunters but cannot take part in the hunt in any way.

Do I Need a License to Buy a Bow in NYC?

Compound bows can be bought in-store and online without a license, but if you want to shoot one in New York, you need a license to do it. There are two courses that need to be taken in order to obtain a license: a bowhunter education course, and an approved hunter education course. This second course is to help familiarize you with the specific bowhunting laws in New York, and both courses can be taken online by anyone over the age of 11.

You do not need to be a resident of New York to take these online courses, but you will need about six hours to complete each.

There’s no limit to the number of times you can take the course, and you only have to pay the $30 fee once you pass.

Once you have your license, make sure you’re familiar with the bowhunting laws New York enforces. It is illegal to hunt wildlife:

  • on or in a motor vehicle without the proper permit
  • with the help of vehicle lights
  • on or from a public road
  • With a bow equipped with any mechanical device which is attached to the bow (other than the bowstring) for drawing, holding or releasing the bowstring except for a person with a physical disability in possession of a Modified Longbow Authorization (compound bows are legal)
  • With an arrow with an explosive head or shaft
  • With any device designed or intended to deliver drugs to an animal

Be aware also that your hunting license does not allow you to hunt any kind of wildlife. There are lists of protected and unprotected wildlife, and only the unprotected may be shot or taken without limit at any time. These include porcupine, red squirrel, woodchuck, chipmunk, English sparrow, starling, rock pigeon, and monk parakeet.

In New York, many species, especially endangered species, are protected. These include but are not limited to songbirds, hawks, and owls.

For game species such as deer, they may only be taken or shot during their hunting seasons or as summarized by hunting guides. When taking wildlife on licensed shooting preserves, hunters must comply with the regulations set down by the shooting preserve.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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