When Does Hunting Season Start in Virginia?

By Teo Spengler

Hunting for hunting season regulations in Virginia

When Does Hunting Season Start in Virginia?

Hunters have to be well organized in Virginia, since the state sets not one hunting season, but dozens. The seasons in which you can hunt game are different for each species, and, even within a species, there are different periods to hunt with different weapons and different times in different regions. Here are some frequently asked questions about hunting in Virginia.

Q: What big game can you hunt in Virginia?

A: In Virginia, you can hunt several types of big game. The most popular are white-tailed deer and bear.

Q: What small game can you hunt in Virginia?

A: Small game you are allowed to hunt in Virginia includes wild turkey, migratory birds, rabbit, crows, squirrel, woodcock, quail and doves. Each has its own regulations that merit careful study.

Q: What game is protected and off-limits for hunting?

A: You are not allowed to hunt big game species or small game species that are not on the list of game that can be hunted. Some game that is hunted in one county may be off-limits in another, so check before you go.

Q: What is the hunting season for deer?

A: The legal times for hunting deer in Virginia are quite complex, and you'll need to consult the regulations and study them carefully. The state sets different hunting seasons for taking deer by archery weapons and taking deer with muzzleloaders. Archery season is divided into early (October 7 through November 17) and late seasons (different times in December through April). The time period differs in different counties and regions around the state. The seasons differ as well for deer with and without antlers. In some urban areas, you can hunt deer from early September through early October and early January through March. The exact dates for all seasons are set annually, so check early and often.

Muzzleloading firearms are those loaded from the muzzle of the gun. They can also be used to hunt deer in Virginia as long as they fire only a single bullet at a time. Like archery season, muzzleloader deer season is divided into early (November) and late (December through early January) with different periods in different areas.

Q: What is the hunting season for bear?

A: You can hunt bear in Virginia by archery or firearms, and the seasons differ around the state. Generally, archery season runs from early October through mid-November. Muzzleloader season generally is in mid-November. However, in some areas around the state you can hunt bear with firearms at different times between October and January, depending on the location and the type of firearm.

Q: What about wild turkey?

A: There is both a spring season and a fall season for hunting wild turkey, with different timing in different areas. Different seasons also apply depending on whether you are using archery or firearms to hunt the birds. Spring season runs for a specified period in April and May, while fall season can run for different dates in October to January.

Q: What kind of license do you need to hunt in Virginia?

A: To hunt game in Virginia, residents and nonresidents must obtain the appropriate licenses unless they are exempt. Purchase either a resident or nonresident license. To hunt deer or turkey, you'll also need a deer/turkey license. For bear, you need a bear license. To hunt with a bow, you need an archery license. To hunt with a firearm or muzzleloader, you also need the appropriate license.

You qualify as a resident if you have lived in the state for six months, have established Virginia as a domicile for two months, are Virginia voters, military personnel stationed in Virginia, landowners or students. Licenses to purchase depend on the type of game you are hunting, but you'll need a basic hunting license, a bear license, a deer/turkey license, as well as an archery license or a muzzleloader license.

Those who are exempt include landowners and their families hunting on their own land, and tenants on their rented land. All Virginia residents over 65 years old or under 12 years old are also exempt. Being exempt means that you do not have to obtain a basic hunting license or a bear license, deer/turkey license, archery license or muzzleloading license. However, seasons and game limits still apply.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Spengler splits her time between French Basque Country and California.