Can you hunt with a bow in the UK?

Hunting deer with a bow of any description in the UK is illegal. In fact, it has been illegal to hunt deer with a crossbow, compound bow or any bow whatsoever, whether in the wild or within private deer collections or park environment, since 1965. In the most up-to-date Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 its legal status remained unchanged. It is, however, legal in most other countries in the world including the EU, where modern Bowhunting continues to be pursued as an effective means of wildlife management alongside firearms. Go figure!

Bow Hunting Licensed 1

Although it is illegal to hunt deer in the UK with a bow, it is completely lawful to hunt deer with a rifle, provided you comply with UK legislation. You can find out more about UK legislation concerning the hunting of wild deer here: deer-stalking-uk-legislation 

If you would like to learn how to hunt and harvest wild deer in the UK, the Proficient Deer Stalker Certificate Level 1, PDS1, is a nationally recognised course that is accredited & approved by the UK’s largest, land-based awarding bodies; LANTRA and UK Rural Skills and is acknowledged as the crucial first step in becoming a trained hunter.

Delivered online throughout the United Kingdom via the 'Shooting & Hunting Academy', the PDS1 ensures high standards in UK deer management and is perfect for those that wish to become proficient trained hunters. In relation to firearm applications, the PDS1 is also of significant value in demonstrating an applicant’s suitability to be entrusted with a firearm.  

To take the first step in becoming a Trained Hunter follow this link: deer-stalking-course

lf however, you'd like to hunt with a bow you will need to travel abroad. One such country where bows are in use for hunting, is the United States, which has a large bow hunting fraternity, with rules and regulations concerning what, when and where you can hunt, including rules that designate bow draw weight, type of arrow and shooting distance.

Experienced hunter James Schneider reports back from Southwest Florida where he has taken up crossbow hunting for Whitetail deer.

The end of July in Southwest Florida welcomes early bow season for Whitetail deer, and I am enjoying the new and exciting adventure of stalking these prized beasts with a crossbow.

Crossbow hunting UK

And what a beast of a crossbow it is! My Caliburn of choice is the Centerpoint Amped 425 boasting a draw weight of 200 lbs., and bolt velocity of 425 feet per second delivering 160 ft. pounds of blistering kinetic energy. The attached 100g Muzzy broadhead is wicked sharp, but even with all that power it sounds like a whisper when shot and has less recoil than my air rifle. Another incredible bit of modern kit.

Now regarding the quarry. To say these resident Odocoileus virginianus are switched on is a strong understatement. Pressure from natural predators that include panther, bobcat, coyote, and even invasive python all contribute to the jittery nature of the local herd. Combine this daily existential threat with seasonal pressure from an active resident hunting population, and the result is one of the more unforgiving fieldcraft tests I’ve experienced in quite a while.

For example, opening morning I bumped a doe that was seconds away from moving into my sightline.   After a long, dark, and motionless wait in the high seat, I gently leaned forward to readjust my back as the sun finally crested the horizon. Slow, quiet, and disciplined as if in Hampshire and BAM she was off, sneezing and snorting and I never even saw her! Ugh!!! What happened? I was a Church mouse! To quote a locale friend and fellow hunter when told the story, “Yeah, it’s REAL easy to get busted down here…”

Bow Deer Hunting UK

Another enjoyable aspect is the proximity to one’s quarry this method of pursuit demands. Of course, in the UK we shoot plenty of deer at proximity when stalking on foot or in a high seat. However, glassing and rifle optics (and rifles) ensure more opportunities for success, and clarity of purpose at much longer distance. Here, and for this discipline, not so much.

In contrast, while modern crossbows are deadly out to 100 yards, for obvious ethical and forest-density reasons, most shots occur well within 40 yards. One certainly gets up close and personal with the target, and this immediacy is a highlight.

I gain much satisfaction in achieving closeness to something so wild. After a pure shot and resultant venison on the table, my connection with hundreds of years of hunting tradition and heritage in my family is renewed. It is especially important to pass it on to the younger generation, with my 12-year-old son taking his first ever deer with the crossbow opening weekend.

In summary, hunting with a crossbow has been a fun and challenging way to further pursue my passion for field sports. And learning how to do so in this unique environment has certainly added spice to the experience. I have acquired an entirely new lexicon of hunting knowledge that builds upon decades of experience in the UK, and I continue to learn more every day. Great fun, indeed. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

Open Sights Highland Stalker 555

For more on hunting a great platform is the 'Shooting & Hunting Academy' where you can learn a host of hunting skills that range from how to become a trained hunter to how to butcher and cook your shot game. Follow this link for more: huntingacademy

Alternatively, to watch more from James Schneider follow this link to an article, in which we look at hunting deer with a rifle with open, iron sights. Now that’s something you can do in the UK! hunting-deer-with-open-sights

If you'd like to go deer hunting in the UK call us on 0203 981 0159 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 




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