Weapons for Big Game Hunting

Regulation Number: 
Regulation Type: 
Firearm Restrictions
General Open Season
Limited Entry Hunting
Elk, Deer, Moose, Caribou, Mountain Sheep, Mountain Goat, Bison, Bear, Cougar, Wolf, lynx, bobcat, or wolverine
Closing Date: 
January 19, 2020 at midnight
Decision Statement: 

This regulation was approved as proposed and is included in the 2020-2022 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Synopsis.

Current Regulations: 

Big game is defined as elk, deer, moose, caribou, mountain sheep, mountain goat, bison, bear, cougar, wolf, lynx, bobcat, or wolverine.

There are regulations in place that state what type of firearm or bow can be used for hunting big game. For example, if a hunter is hunting with a firearm, there are regulations in place regarding what type of firearm may be used to hunt specific species (for example, it is an offence to hunt moose with a rim-fire .22 calibre rifle). Likewise, if a hunter is hunting with a bow, there is a set of criteria that the bow must meet which is specific for different species.

There are no prohibitions in place for hunting big game with alternative or primitive weapons; hunting big game (except for bison) with air guns, slingshot, spear, bolos, blowguns, atlatl, etc. is not currently prohibited.

For bison it is an offence to hunt with a weapon other than a centrefire rifle and ammunition other than ammunition constructed with a 175 grain or larger bullet which retains 2 712 joules (2 000 foot pounds) or more energy at 100 metres, or a bow having a pull greater than 22.6 kg within the archer's draw length, an arrow greater than 26 grams in weight and a broadhead greater than 8.1 grams in weight and 2.2 cm in width at its widest point. Unlike other big game, the use of alternative weapons is prohibited for hunting bison.

Proposed Regulations: 

Prohibit the use of any weapon other than a rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, or bow (includes longbow or crossbow) to hunt big game.


This proposed regulation has been requested by the Provincial Hunting and Trapping Advisory Team. For more information on the process that led to the request refer to the “Additional Information” section at the bottom of this page.

The use of these alternative/primitive weapons is considered by stakeholders to have a higher likelihood of unnecessary suffering and reduced likelihood of a hunter being able to track, dispatch, and retrieve wounded big game.

Additional Information: 

A sub-committee of the Provincial Hunting and Trapping Advisory Team (PHTAT) with representatives from the B.C. Wildlife Federation, Guide Outfitters Association of B.C., B.C. Trappers Association, Wild Sheep Society, Wildlife Stewardship Council, and United Bowhunters of B.C., conducted a review of various hunting practices (methods, tools, and tactics), evaluated those practices against a set of criteria that reflect the principles of fair chase, and recommended management actions for specific hunting practices. These recommendations were accepted by PHTAT and were forwarded to the Province for consideration.

Factors that influenced or informed the Management Action Recommendation included:

  1. Does the hunting method, tool, or tactic:
  • Negate wildlife’s ability to avoid detection?
  • Negate wildlife’s ability to escape once it has detected a threat?
  • lead to an inhumane treatment of wildlife?
  • lead to increased wounding loss/jeopardize a hunter’s ability to retrieve the wildlife?
  • jeopardize public acceptance of hunting?
  • result in higher harvest rates/reduced opportunity in the future?
  1. Estimated difficulty in enacting a regulation.
  2. Regulatory enforceability.

The Management Action options available for each hunting practice included:

  1. Encourage/discourage the hunting practice through education and/or training
  2. Regulate the hunting practice through legislative prohibitions
  3. Monitor the hunting practice over the coming years to see if it becomes an issue in B.C.
  4. Defer; not of concern and no specific management action or monitoring is required.