An Open Letter To The Pennsylvania Game Commission
Pennsylvania Archaeologists have long known of the use of the atlatl in Pennsylvania’s prehistory. The atlatl and dart were used by the native population for hunting and fishing for longer than 13,000 years. It is therefore likely that more game has been taken in Pennsylvania using atlatls and darts than with modern weapons including guns and compound bows. It is an accident of history that the cultures that used the atlatl were displaced by European immigrants causing the use of them to be lost and nearly forgotten. It was only in the distant backwaters of our planet that vestiges of the atlatl’s use were still found by anthropologists. Even with this knowledge the atlatl was largely a mystery with no one knowing and understanding its usefulness as a superb hunting and fishing weapon.
In recent years there has been a resurgence in the use of the atlatl, but most people have used it for target shooting. The atlatl has provided Pennsylvanians and many other people who have traveled to Pennsylvania from as far away as Europe to enjoy this unique outdoor activity. Pennsylvania atlatlists count themselves as some of the highest scoring atlatl contestants in the world at the many atlatl meets that take place.
Meanwhile atlatl enthusiasts have also redeveloped atlatls for hunting and fishing. There are a few places where the atlatl is currently legal for hunting and fishing. Various hunting and fishing expeditions to these places in the spirit of rediscovering atlatl hunting and fishing techniques have proven the effectiveness of the atlatl in these sports. Hunting and fishing atlatl gear has been developed and tested that has proven to be effective for harvesting big game, small game, and rough fish.
Many atlatlists dream of a day when The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allows the use of the atlatl during the archery seasons, with its status the same as a bow and arrow. Because of its similarity to the bow and arrow the atlatl would fit in with the archery seasons without causing any harm to the repose of the archery hunters and fishers.
Our task is to help educate and expose the public to this intriguing weapon and to ask Pennsylvanians to support us in our endeavor to bring back the atlatl to the fields and forests where it has been absent for so many years.
State Hunting laws concerning the atlatl and dart
Alabama: The use of an atlatl to throw a spear is permitted. The regulation only requires the spear to be hand thrown. Hope this answered your question. If I can be of any further assistance please contact me.
Craig Hill, Assistant Chief
Law Enforcement Section
Alaska: I have been asked to respond to your question concerning the use of an atlatl to take game in Alaska. After reviewing hunting regulations, I do not believe there is a prohibition on using an atlatl. While an atlatl can be used statewide in hunts without weapons restrictions, all other hunting statutes and regulations do apply and I recommend you review our regulations to determine the species, season and location you would like to hunt. Once you have decided when, where and what you want to hunt, you can determine if an atlatl is an appropriate and legal method for taking the game.
If you have additional questions or I can be of further assistance, I can be reached by reply email or by phone at (907) 465-6197.
Arizona: please refer the Hunting Regulations Manual at the following link (go to pages 61-62 for legal methods of take R12-4-304): www.azgfd.com/pdfs/h_f/fa…t_regs.pdf
You may also refer the Fishing Regulations booklet at the following link: (refer to page 47, R12-4-313, lawful methods of take) www.azgfd.com/pdfs/h_f/fi…w_maps.pdf
Hope this helps. Thank you.
Arkansas: The state of Arkansas does not have any regulation or season where using an atlatl is legal, so therefore it cannot be used as hunting/fishing equipment in the state.
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
#2 Natural Resources Drive
Little Rock, Arkansas 72205
California: There is no direct reference in the Code to use of an atlatl. But essentially, the atlatl would be considered a spear.
Hunting opportunities in this state with a spear (atlatl) are limited. No big or small game species could legally be taken with one. However, animals that are classified as “non-game” species could be (coyotes, rodents, opossum, etc). You would first need to obtain a non-resident hunting license.
Spear fishing is allowed in ocean waters. Spear fishing is restricted in inland (fresh) waters. I’ve included the appropriate code section regarding spearfishing in inland waters for your reference. Again, you would need the appropriate license before doing any fishing in CA. Good luck.
Lieutenant Liz Schwall
DFG/ Enforcement Branch
Investigations Unit/CalTIP Program
Colorado: Thank you for taking the time to research the legal use of atlatls in Colorado prior to venturing into the field on a hunting trip here. The atlatl is not a legal method of take for nearly every species of game or fish in Colorado. Our hunting and fishing regulations state that only those methods of take specifically authorized by regulation or statute are allowed in Colorado. The atlatl is not specifically listed and is, therefore, not legal as a hunting weapon in Colorado. The specific regulations in question are #103(A)(fishing); #203(A)(big game); and #302(small game). These regulations are available on the internet for your review at the following link: wildlife.state.co.us/regulations/
Again, thank you for your inquiry.
Colorado Division of Wildlife
Policy and Regulation Section
Connecticut: In Connecticut the method of taking wild birds and wild quadrupeds by hunting is defined in our hunting regulations. The regulations restrict hunting to firearms, high velocity air guns using a single ball or pellet type projectile, and compound, long, or recurved bow. As a result, the use of an “atlatl” would not be permitted under our regulations.
Captain Raul Camejo
Connecticut State Environmental Conservation Police
Delaware: According to our regulations you would be o.k. to use your atlatl to fish but would be illegal for hunting in Delaware. Our code is fairly specific as to the method of take for hunting.
Florida: The only legal methods of taking game in Florida are rifles, shotguns, pistols, longbows, compound bows, recurve bows, crossbows and birds of prey. I checked with my Law Enforcement officers and they are familiar with the atlatl, but it cannot be used legally in the state. I hope this helps answer your question. Please contact me if you have additional concerns.
Public Information Coordinator
Georgia: The spearing of fish, other than game species and all catfish species, is legal in Georgia waters; “….provided the person engaged in the act of spearing is completely submerged.” Therefore, the use of an atlatl is legal for some fish species provided that you are submerged. Thanks for contacting WRD with your question.
Alfred C. Mauldin II
Region III Fisheries Supervisor
Georgia Dept of Natural Resources
Wildlife Resources Division
2123 Hwy 278 SE
Social Circle, GA 30025
Idaho: You would be limited in what you could use the atlatl for in Idaho. It could be used to spear tag carp, which is allowable during a regular fishing season. You will need a fishing license to do that. It would not be legal to use it for big game hunting, but you could use it for hunting forest grouse. You would need to have a small game-hunting license to do that. Please check the regulations for seasons in the area you will be in.
Illinois: It would be an illegal hunting weapon in Illinois. It could be used to spear rough fish, which include carp, carpsuckers, buffalo, sucker, gar (except alligator gar) and bowfin. Spear fishing is not allowed in waters listed as “two pole and line fishing only” in our fishing digest. If you would like a digest, send me your mailing address and I’ll put one in the mail. –
Duty Officer, IDNR, Office of Law Enforcement.
Indiana: In hunting, it is permissible to use atlatl for those species for which legal hunting equipment is not set by rule. For example, a person cannot use atlatl to hunt deer, turkey or waterfowl. For a list of our hunting regulations, please see the following link: www.wildlife.in.gov
Thank you for your interest with the Indiana DNR and Division of Fish and
Division of Fish and Wildlife
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Iowa: It would be legal in Iowa to use the device/weapon you described (atlatl) for small game and fish only. Small game and fishing licenses would still be required of course.
Waterfowl; deer and turkey have specific weapon requirements and as a result the “atlatl” would not be legal for hunting these species.
Kansas: An atlatl would be defined as a spear, so it would be legal for non-sport fish – carp, gar, buffalo, etc. – but not sport-fish or hunting.
Kentucky: It is illegal to hunt with and you could only use it for fishing during the gigging season. Fish gigging season for rough fish is February 1 through May 10th.
Ky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Resources
1 Game Farm Road
Frankfort, Ky 40601
1-800-858-1549 ext 324
Louisiana: It is not legal in LA to hunt with this or a any other type of spear. We really have not had requests for this. I think Alabama allows it during their archery season.
Maine: This would not be legal in the State of Maine.
Maryland: Hello Jack, I wasn’t sure what a atlatl was so I had to pass your question around. The following link will take you to a summary of our tidal water regulations/rules concerning fishing in tidal waters.
If you need any additional information, please feel free to contact Dianne Samuels directly. Her info follows
MD Dept of Natural Resources
Fisheries Service B-2
580 Taylor Ave
Annapolis MD 21401
In Tidal Waters: 1. Between June 15 and December 31 of each year, for an individual to take or shoot fish, within specific seasons and limits established by the Department, with a spear gun and spear.
2. To take or shoot, carp, garfish, skate, bull fish, shark, oyster toads, or swelling toads (blowfish), American eel, sea lamprey, stingrays or other ray fish with a spear gun or spear at any time.
Massachusetts: Our hunting and fishing laws are posted on our agency website. Suckers, carp, and snapping turtles are the only species, which may be taken with “spears” in Massachusetts
Michigan: No, such device or a spear or dart is not legal for the taking of game in Michigan. The only legal means of taking game is by firearm, bow and arrow or slingshot. In addition, handicapped persons with a permit may use a crossbow and anyone 14 and older may hunt deer with a crossbow during the November firearm deer season.
*Minnesota: Hello Jack, Sorry for the long delay. But Minnesota only allows for firearm and archery. Not atlatl and unfortunately there are no plans to add that weapon.
DNR Information Consultant
500 Lafayette Rd Box 40
St Paul Mn 55155
Mississippi: No. The Atlatl is not currently listed as a weapon legal for hunting or fishing in Mississippi.
Missouri: The Wildlife Code www.sos.mo.gov/adrules/cs…r/3csr.asp does not mention that implement as a legal method for hunting or fishing. Thanks for your interest in conservation.
573/552-4115, ext. 3848
Montana: Game animals, by law and rule in Montana, can only be hunted by licensed hunters with certain, specified weapons – and an atlatl is not one of them. However, non-regulated wildlife may be taken with any type of weapon, any time of year, and no license is required. These include squirrels, porcupine, raccoon, coyote, weasel, skunk, badger and red fox. Fish that you could take with an atlatl would be carp and sucker. Almost all birds are either game animals or protected under federal regulation with the exception of rock dove (pigeons), European sparrows and eastern starlings. I hope this answers your question.
Nebraska: Depending on what you are hunting—it would be legal for rabbits or squirrels. I don’t believe it would be legal device for fishing. You may wish to call me at 404-471-5003. I will also check a couple more regulations out and get back to you—-mj
Nevada: Thank you for your email. You can only use the atlatl to hunt unprotected species in Nevada (such as coyotes or blacktailed jackrabbits) You can find legal weapons listed on page four on this PDF of this section of our Hunt Book www.ndow.org/about/pubs/p…/sec5.pdf.
If you have any other questions, please let us know.
Nevada Department of Wildlife
1100 Valley Road
Reno, NV 89512
New Hampshire: Pursuant to the law here in NH, wildlife may only be taken by “gun fired at arm’s length or bow and arrow, unless otherwise specifically permitted” (trapping is the other method). Fish may only be taken by angling, with the exceptions of:
1. Carp may be taken by bow and arrow with cord attached in the Merrimack River and Mascoma Lake
2. Suckers may be taken between March 1 and May 31 by bow and arrow with cord attached, or spears (in hand)
The atlatl would not be a legal weapon for taking either wildlife or fish here in NH. There would have to be a change in current law through the NH Legislature to allow its use.
I hope this was helpful.
Sgt. Bruce Bonenfant
New Jersey: Since a license is required for hunting, and only firearm and archery licenses are issued, I would presume it is illegal to hunt with an atlatl. I would consider it spear hunting. I’m not sure if it would take legislation or a change in the Game Code to allow it, but either would be unlikely at this point in my opinion. To garner support for it I would suggest becoming involved with the State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs (www.njsfsc.org) or other group and submit comments to the Fish and Game Council and address the council at the public Game Code hearing held each year. Watch our homepage for an announcement. PT
Paul Tarlowe, Wildlife Education Specialist
The N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife is a professional, environmentalagency dedicated to the protection, management and wise use of the
state’s fish and wildlife resources.
New Mexico: This weapon is NOT allowed in NM, the chance of it being legal is slim, sorry!
New York: An atlatl, or spear, is currently an illegal implement for use to take fish or wildlife within New York State. There are no current proposals for the DEC to legalize this implement. You may contact the Bureau of Wildlife at firstname.lastname@example.org to make such a proposal and supply the appropriate justification and documentation. Thank you for your inquiry to what appears to be an interesting device. If I can be of any additional assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at 518-402-8814 Sincerely, Colonel Robert T. Lucas Assistant Director
North Carolina: It is not legal to use an atlatl to hunt or fish with in North Carolina. I have not heard of any movement to make them legal. This is not a rule that the North Carolina Wildlife Commission can enact; it would have to be done by the North Carolina General Assembly.
North Dakota: Atlatl’s are not currently useable in ND. I doubt they will become a legal “weapon” .
Ohio: No, it is not legal to fish with an atlatl in Ohio. There are no plans to change this rule. Thank you.
Div. of Wildlife
Oklahoma: As long as it is legal to use a spear for specific species, it is legal to use an atlatl. Ex.: with rabbits and squirrels, you can use a hand propelled missile (spear) so you can use an atlatl. With deer, you cannot use a spear, etc.
Oregon: The atlatl can not be used to harvest game fish in the State of Oregon. It is also not a legal weapon to harvest game animals. However, it could be used to hunt “predatory” animals in the State of Oregon such as coyote, rabbit, feral pig and exotic sheep.
Pennsylvania: It is not legal to use in Pennsylvania.
*Rhode Island: unavailable
South Carolina: As far as opportunities to use one in SC. There are 11 Game Zones in the state and the laws establishing season in 8 of the zones specify the weapons that can be used, e.g. bow and arrow or firearms. However, in Zones 3, 6, and 11 (the lower coastal plain) there is no mention of specific weapons, only the season dates. Therefore, it would not be a problem using the atlatl in those zones. You may get some funny looks but that is not the question.
South Dakota: An atlatl could be used to spear fish where and when the spearing season is open as spears are legal. But as far as for small or big game, they would not be allowed. There are restrictions on pull and etc on archery seasons, muzzle energy on firearms and these devices do fit any of that. SDCL 41-8 is pretty clear on how most critters can be taken. I attached the law on small game. There are several laws that pertain to big game for each type of allowed weapon type.
41-8-31. Hunting methods restricted–Violation as misdemeanor. No person may at any time hunt, catch, take, attempt to take, or kill any small game or game animal in any other manner than by shooting the same with a firearm, except:
(1) Game birds and animals may be taken with birds trained in falconry or with bow and arrow;
(2) A disabled person who is missing an upper limb, physically incapable of using an upper limb, or confined to a wheelchair and who has obtained a disabled hunter permit may use a crossbow to take game birds and animals; and
(3) A legally blind person, who is legally licensed, possesses a disabled hunter permit, and is physically present and participates in the hunt but cannot safely discharge a firearm or bow and arrow, may claim game birds and animals taken by a designated hunter in accordance with the license possessed by the legally blind hunter. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Thank you for your question.
South Dakota Division of Wildlife
Dept. of Game, Fish and Parks
Tennessee: An atlatl is not considered a legal weapon for hunting and/or fishing in the State of Tennessee. If you have further questions, please feel
free to respond to the e-mail.
Law Enforcement Division
Texas: Hello and thanks for your interest. The atlatl is legal for non-game animals and exotics (feral hogs), but it is not a legal means of take for deer. A hunting license is still required. Let me know if you need anything else.
Wildlife/ Public Hunting Info
Texas Parks and Wildlife
Utah: No, atlatl is not a legal weapon in Utah. Thank you for contacting us! State of Utah Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division
1594 W North Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84116
Vermont: It would not be legal in Vermont to use an atlatl for hunting.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
103 South Main Street, 10 South
Waterbury, VT 05671-0501
Virginia: VA law prescribes specific weapons that may be used to take wildlife, and prohibits those that are not specified by law. The atlatl would be unlawful for hunting in VA.
Washington: Thank you for your email correspondence to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Fish Program. Evan Jacoby in our Enforcement Division has provided the following response for you:
The atlatl is not a legal hunting method in Washington State. It is also not a legal fishing method, except, possibly, for carp. It is lawful to take carp by spearing. Since there is no restrictive description of the spear, the atlatl dart could be construed to be a spear. This is, however, problematic, as I am unaware anyone has ever speared carp with an atlatl.
Evan Jacoby, Counsel
Fish and Wildlife Legal Services
West Virginia: There is not currently an atlatl season in WV. However, I am unfamiliar with this instrument. If you would care to further describe this instrument it would be very helpful. Please provide your proposal to our wildlife resources general mailbox for their consideration.
Lt. Colonel Bill Daniel, Deputy Chief
WVDNR Law Enforcement Section
Bldg. 3, Capitol Complex
Charleston, WV 25305
Wisconsin: There will be a Conservation Congress advisory question again on the ’05 Spring Hearing questionnaire. The question has failed on two other statewide votes. Currently they are illegal.
Tia N. Kropf
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Internet Manager, Bureau of Wildlife Management
101 S. Webster Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53707