Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

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  Hunting Safety 
  Hunting Facts 
  Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 

Hunting Law

Hunting in Washington State can be an adrenaline pumping sport; it brings friends and family together for some quality bonding time, and a chance to escape from daily life. All hunters in the state must have a current hunting license along with tags and permits for the species they plan to hunt.

Anyone wanting to hunt in the State of Washington must show proof that they have completed a hunter education class the first time they purchase a hunting license. If they have purchased a license in the past, their information is stored in the computer's network and becomes legal proof that the person has completed the class. There is no minimum age requirement to enroll in hunter education classes, but if the student is 12 years old or younger the instruction may require their parent or guardian to attend the classes too. Hunter education classes focus on firearms, outdoor safety, wildlife management, and hunter responsibilities. Classes can last anywhere from 4-6 days with a total of 16+ hours of class time. Students must pass a written test at the end of the week to complete the hunter education class and be eligible for a hunting license. The Department of Fish and Wildlife certifies all instructors of hunter education classes.

Big game hunting in Washington State has many requirements and regulations. Big game includes deer, bear, elk, cougar, goat, bighorn sheep, and moose. Under all circumstances it is illegal to fire a weapon from a vehicle. A lot of people hunt big game with modern firearms. The minimum size rifle to hunt deer, elk and bear is a 24 caliber or 6mm center fire. Rimfire rifles are illegal to use for hunting big game. Handguns must have a minimum four-inch barrel and fire a minimum of a 24 caliber center fire bullet. Deer, bear, and cougar may be hunted with 20 to 10 gauge shotguns shooting a #1 or larger buckshot. Other big game may be hunted with 10 to 12 gauge shotguns shooting slugs.

Persons wishing to hunt big game during archery season must use a bow that has at least 40 pounds measured at 28 inches or less draw length or a greater than 65% let off in holding weight at full draw. All hunting arrows must have a minimum length of 20 inches, weigh less than six grains per pound of draw weight, and have a minimum arrow weight of 300 grains. It is illegal to have any firearm in your possession while hunting during archery season.

Hunter orange, also known as blaze or florescent orange, is required to be worn by all hunters during most hunting seasons. A minimum of 400 square inches must be worn on the exterior clothing of a hunter. The orange must be worn above the waist and be visible from all directions.

Hunting is one way to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors with friends and family. Everyone must realize that hunting is a privilege and not a right. Anyone who does not follow hunting laws could lose their license and receive multiple fines. Have fun and hunt safely.