Large game legal to bowhunt in Finland

As of 20th of June 2017 the Finnish parliament has approved of amendments in the hunting law which also include important changes related to hunting with bow and arrow. This is the final step in a constructive cooperation and effort of the Finnish Hunting Association and the Finnish Bowhunters Association to inform the authorities about the scope and goals of this respective change.

In the initial hearing papers it was noted that all deer species except moose and no large predators will be possible to bowhunt. This will make the following species possible to hunt in the coming hunting season: white tailed deer, forest reindeer, fallow and red deer, mouflon and wild boar.

With this amendment of the hunting law, the Finnish hunting society and legislative voting power are acknowledging the fact, that modern day bowhunting has access to significantly improved bowhunting equipment, has good educational standards, and is as such meeting all requirements of today’s wildlife and ethical hunting standards. This challenging and ancient old hunting method is a traditional way of hunting worthy to be preserved as part of human hunting cultural heritage similar to other traditional hunting methods like falconry and trapping. In addition, examples show that bowhunting can be effectively used in areas which are often off-limit for firearm hunting due to safety concerns. The decision to expand bowhunting to include larger game species will allow wildlife managers to utilize the possibility of this safe short range hunting tool in case the need arises.

It is now up to the authorities to work out the specific regulations and official paperwork governing the mandatory large game proficiency test for the bowhunters. The proficiency test will be needed for all hoofed animals, roe deer will be exempt from the proficiency test until 1 January 2018.

The regulations will be implemented later in this year.

Background information

Finland is one of the European Nations where bowhunting has been a hunting method practiced without any interruption through centuries. However the legislation concerning bowhunting is fresh. The legislation before 1993 didn’t govern bowhunting. And according to the legislative system Finnish hunters were always allowed to use a bow. The development of hunting legislation however changed the bowhunting status. Due to the fact that the bow was not an important means of hunting anymore, the legislative power made big game (moose, deer, bear) regulations on the principle, that rifle is the only legal big game weapon. At the time there were no bow hunter organizations to protect bowhunting. So, at the dawn of Finnish Bowhunting Association at the beginning of 1980’s bowhunters were allowed to hunt small game only.

The Finnish Bowhunting Association was established in 1982. At the time bowhunters kept a rather low profile, enjoying the possibility to hunt small game. At first hunters actually didn’t know if it was legal or not. They contacted some hunting authorities to find out how they interpret the law. There was nothing that would prohibit bowhunting except for big game (through a minimum energy requirement of the projectile) .

In 1993 Finland adopted a new hunting law and statutory regulations.

Finnish authorities decided to include bow and bowhunting in the new regulations, though only small game was allowed.

 Present situation

Just before new hunting regulations in 1993 Finnish bowhunters started to hunt big game abroad. First a handful of enthusiasts. Bowhunters were successful in big game hunting in various faraway countries – Africa, USA, Canada, New Zealand etc. These bowhunting pioneers wrote adventure stories for Finnish Bowhunting Association’s magazine “Jäkkärä”. And the news were rolling that modern bowhunting equipment is easily capable to humanely harvest all type if big game, significantly larger than Finnish moose. There are currently 300.000 hunters in Finland and the Finnish Hunting Association has estimated that 20.000 of them are among other hunting methods also using bow and arrow for hunting.

 Finnish Bowhunting Association decided to appeal to forest and agriculture ministry to liberate hunting regulations and allow more game species for bowhunters. A short and simple letter with supplements was sent to ministry and forwarded to game management districts and other hunting organizations at the end of 2000. The timing was good. Roe deer population was rapidly proliferating and already causing problems in certain parts of Finland. Canadian beaver was also a hot wildlife management topic at that time. After a couple of months the new statutory hunting regulation draft was ready. April the 1st 2001 Finnish hunters were allowed to use bow and arrow for roe deer to harvest both Canadian and European beaver.

About European Bowhunting Federation: The European Bowhunting Federation (EBF –  promotes high ethical standards in a form of hunting that is tens of thousands of years old. Our mission is to inform the public and to provide a base of knowledge for guiding governmental and supporting non-governmental organizations toward effective implementation of the art of hunting with the bow and arrow. EBF is federating 28 European national bowhunting organizations.

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