A new law in Vermont allows bowhunters to carry a handgun for self-defense—but not for taking game—for the first time. Previously, Vermont law and hunting regulations prohibited the carrying of a firearm while engaged in bowhunting or dog training. House Bill 129, an NRA-supported bill introduced by state Representative Patrick Brennan (R-Chittenden-9-2) changed that, allowing bowhunters and dog trainers to carry a handgun for self-defense while engaged in those outdoor activities.
With the passage of The Sportsmen's Act of 2013 in Vermont, the number of states that still do not permit bowhunters to carry firearms for protection is down to 16.
In a press release issued last week, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department reminded bowhunters that handguns may not be used to take game while archery deer hunting.
"This provision was passed to create more consistency with rights currently afforded to hikers, wildlife watchers and others," said Col. David LeCours, head of law enforcement for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. "However, it was not intended to supplement a bow and arrow for legally taking other game during the archery season. Handguns may not be used for taking deer, bear or any other game animal while archery deer hunting, including downed deer."
Because sportsmen of various pursuits are often in remote rural areas, lawmakers in a growing number of states understand they are left vulnerable by the prohibition on carrying a handgun for self-defense. With outdoor crime being a true threat, as well as the possibility of an encounter with dangerous wildlife, sportsmen should not be left defenseless.
Similar bills introduced into the Senate and House at Maryland's General Assembly to allow bowhunters in Western Maryland to carry handguns for protection from bears have failed for the past two legislative sessions.
In 2011, Alabama bowhunters were permitted to carry handguns for personal protection during archery-only seasons. That same year, North Carolina regulations allowed archery hunters "to carry, but not hunt with, a concealed handgun with valid concealed carry permit or an open carry handgun, as long as it is not in conflict with any other regulations in that jurisdiction."
In addition, the 2011 archery season marked the first time bowhunters in Missouri were allowed to carry handguns for personal protection. In 2010, Tennessee and Kentucky each liberalized handgun-carry regulations for archery hunters.