Lighted Nocks | Legal for Bow Hunting Except One State

Lighted Nocks | Legal Status, Controversy, and the Debate

Feature Photo: John Arman

Lighted nocks were introduced to archers in 2002, but the innovations’ popularity didn’t automatically take off as a bow hunting favorite. There was controversy from the beginning that the addition of this new technological innovation constituted a violation of the Pope and Young Club By-laws of the principle of fair chase. The Pope and Young Club coined a standard ethical term of hunting as “Fair Chase,” as well as bow hunting equipment definitions to meet the fair chase standard. Until 2014, the Club prohibited lighted nocks, but the amended Club’s By-laws read:  

“The term ‘Fair Chase’ shall NOT include the taking of animals under the following conditions: By the use of electronic devices for attracting, locating, or pursuing game or guiding the hunter to such game, or by the use of a bow or arrow to which any electronic device is attached with the exception of lighted nocks and recording devices that cast no light towards the target and do not aid in range finding, sighting or shooting the bow.” 

Why are these by-laws so important? The Pope and Young Club is the registry and recordation of national trophy harvests, therefore the Club’s By-laws govern acceptability of animals into the record books. This fact alone was enough to make many hunters refrain from using lighted nocks when they were prohibited because that once-in-a-lifetime trophy would be disqualified from being recognized in the Club’s record book.

 Photo: Flatline Whitetails

The Controversy and Debate of Lighted Nocks

Traditional archers favor the argument against lighted nocks, weighed on preserving the heritage of traditional archery hunting. For many, traditional bow hunting is an invigorating challenge of pursuing game with basic necessities; of which lighted nocks are often shunned upon. Another reason lighted nocks were not favored by archers is the fact that the earlier designs did not work flawlessly and were often very hard to turn off after being engaged. The earlier designs often added more than 20 grains to the trailing end of arrows affecting its flight out beyond 30 yards. Many bow hunters experienced the nocks illuminating in the quiver when stalking or movement of the quiver. There were also instances of hunters experiencing total failure of the nock illuminating at all after the shot. Advanced technology and design have solved many of the issues that were previously plaguing the interest in lighted nocks. 

Compound bows and crossbows have come a long way over the past two decades, and pin sights, energy storing cams, technical releases, and crossbow scopes have increased the odds for hunters. The argument by proponents of lighted nocks has always been that, before the actual shot, lighted nocks do not provide a favorable condition to archers that would give the archer an unfair advantage. Even with that fact, many states stood by their decision to not legalize the use of lighted nocks for hunting game animals until the controversies were combed over and a debate resolution was on the horizon.

A major breakthrough for the legality of lighted nocks occurred in August of 2014 when the Pope and Young Club amended its by-laws. The “Fair Chase” definition above was amended to include lighted nocks and recording devices and the Club’s definition of bow hunting equipment was amended to read: 

“Section II. Definition of a Hunting Arrow, Subsection B. Exclusions, Item 1. No electronic or battery-powered devices shall be attached to the arrow, with the exception of lighted nocks.” 

Lighted Nock Legal Status By State 

Before 2015, there were five states that prohibited the hunting of game within the state with lighted nocks. Those states were: 

  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Oregon
  • Washington 

In 2014, the Colorado Parks & Wildlife considered a Citizen-Proposed Issue for the “legalization of the use of lighted nocks on arrows and recording devices on bows,” and the proposal was accepted, legalizing the use of lighted nocks in the state of Colorado beginning in 2015. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife followed suit, adopting the 2016 big game hunting regulations that “Archery hunters may use lighted nocks which have no other function other than to increase the visibility of the arrow and help hunters track wounded game.”


Photo Credit:  Steven Badar & Daniel Merrell


This year, Montana and Washington both legalized the use of lighted nocks after several years of the issue being proposed in both states and presented to the state agencies for commission review and consideration. The recent legalization in both these states leaves just one state that has not accepted the use of lighted nocks to hunt game animals; that state is Idaho 

Idaho is the only state that currently does not accept the use of lighted nocks to hunt game animals.


Lighted Nock Advantages 

The advantages of lighted nocks are a huge asset in assisting you as a bow hunter in tuning arrows during practice for precision shooting. It is much easier to notice fish-tailing and porpoising when you can visually see the arrow’s flight. Lighted nocks also assist in determining the placement of your shot on wild game. If there is a pass-through, lighted nocks can assist you in quickly locating the arrow for inspection of body fluids such as blood, bile, or bowel matter; this information is critical to the plan of retrieval of game. Without a full pass-through, the small beacon of light emitted from a lighted nock can truly be a saving grace for retrieving game; particularly in high grass, thick brush, or thickly wooded areas.

With advanced technological innovation and designs, such as that of Nock Out® Lighted Nocks, you can trust that you will have a frustration-free experience using lighted nocks. The high-quality, aircraft aluminum design adds a minimal amount of weight to the trailing end of arrows, and the polycarbonate nock is durable in the toughest of conditions. With a fail-proof performance, archers are sure to favor Nock Out® Lighted Nocks in assisting in the tuning of bow and arrow combinations during practice, and in assisting in planning game retrieval in the field. The advantages of lighted nocks far outweigh any disadvantages, technically and particularly on an ethical level. 

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