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Hunting Regulations

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This page provides a summary of general hunting regulations.

For complete reference consult the following:
- New York State Environmental Conservation Law (ECL)
- Volume 6 of the New York State Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR)

Game Species Regulations

See current hunting seasons


Air gun - a firearm that uses spring or compressed air (not gunpowder) to propel a single projectile that is .17 caliber or larger and produces a muzzle velocity of at least 600 feet per second. Smooth or rifled bore air guns are allowed.

Bow - includes long (stick), compound, or recurve bow.

Crossbow - consists of a bow, a string, and either compound or recurve limbs with minimum width of 17 inches (outer tip of limbs excluding wheels and cams, uncocked), mounted on a stock. The stock that holds the string and limbs under tension until released. It shall have a minimum overall length from butt of stock to the front of the limbs of 24 inches and be able to launch a minimum 14 inch arrow/bolt, not including the legal arrowhead. It shall have a draw weight of 100 to 200 pounds.

Furbearer - Coyote, red and gray fox, bobcat, raccoon, skunk, mink, weasel and opossum.

Handgun - is any pistol or revolver intended to be aimed and fired with one hand, and having a barrel length not exceeding 16 inches.

To hunt - means to pursue, shoot, kill or capture (other than trap) wildlife and includes all lesser acts that disturb or worry wildlife whether or not they result in taking. Hunting also includes all acts to assist another person in taking wildlife.

Motor vehicle - means every vehicle or device operated by any power other than muscle power including but not limited to automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, tractors, trailers, motorboats, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles whether operated on or off public highways.

Muzzleloading Firearm - is a firearm loaded through the muzzle, shooting a single projectile and having a minimum bore of .44 inch.

Public Highway - means any road maintained by a state, county or town. A private road is one maintained by a person or corporation.

Rifle - is a firearm with a barrel length of at least 16 inches with rifling in the barrel that uses metallic cartridges.

Shotgun - is a firearm with a barrel length of at least 18 inches that uses shells that are nonmetallic except for the base.

Small Game - Upland and migratory game birds, small game mammals (red squirrel, rabbit, hare, porcupine and woodchuck) and certain frogs and turtles.

To take - means to pursue, shoot, hunt, kill, capture, trap, snare or net wildlife and game-and all lesser acts that disturb or worry wildlife-or to place or use any net or other device commonly used to take wildlife.

To trap - means to take, kill or capture wildlife with traps, deadfalls and other devices commonly used to take wildlife, including the shooting or killing of lawfully trapped animals. It also includes all related activities such as placing, setting, staking or checking traps or assisting another person with these activities.

Discharge of Firearms, Crossbows and Bows

For information on where various legal implements may be used in the state, see Rifle, Shotgun, Crossbow and Bow Areas.

It is illegal to discharge a firearm, bow or crossbow:

  • so that the load or arrow passes over any part of a public highway,
  • within 500 feet (for a firearm), 250 feet (for a crossbow) or 150 feet (for a bow) of any school, playground, or an occupied factory or church,
  • within 500 feet (for a firearm), 250 feet (for a crossbow) or 150 feet (for a bow) of a dwelling, farm building or structure in occupation or use unless you own it, lease it, are an immediate member of the family, an employee, or have the owner's consent.
  • You may hunt waterfowl with a firearm or bow, over water, within 500 feet of a dwelling or public structure as long as neither are within 500 feet (for a firearm) or 150 feet (for a bow) in the direction you are shooting. You may not hunt waterfowl with a crossbow.

For the purpose of these laws, definitions are as follows:

Dwelling houses -- a permanent place where people live and sleep. Excluded are temporary residential units including camping trailers, motor homes or other portable shelters. Also excluded are abandoned dwellings, detached garages, tree houses, "playscapes", decks, pool areas, storage sheds and out-buildings - even when/if they are temporarily occupied. A permanent camp or cabin may qualify as a "dwelling house".

Farm building, farm structure that is either occupied or used -- these structures are largely determined on a case-by-case basis. To qualify, the premises alleged to be a farm must be utilized principally for agricultural production for commercial purposes, including but not limited to crops, fruit, hay, livestock, production of dairy products, nurseries/greenhouses. There is no minimum number of acres that must be either owned or farmed to qualify. To receive protection the farm building or farm structure must be either occupied by people or livestock or used in some, even small, degree for storage of farm related tools, equipment or livestock. Excluded would be structures and out-buildings on acreage or lands that are not a "farm" even if they are temporarily occupied.

School building, school playground -- a school building is any building owned by a school district. A school playground is interpreted to mean any area that is maintained by the school including mowed lawns and fields, athletic fields, playgrounds, and/or other areas where students engage in school sponsored activities. Excluded are school parking lots. A maintenance building or bus garage owned by a school district is not a "school building" but would be a "factory" as discussed below.

Factory or church -- A factory is interpreted to mean any building or structure used for commercial purposes. The discharge of a firearm or longbow within 500 feet of a factory or church is prohibited only when such building is occupied at the time of discharge.

Manner of Taking

It is illegal to take or hunt wildlife:

  • while in or on a motor vehicle (except by the holder of a Non Ambulatory Hunter Permit).
  • with the aid of a vehicle's lights.
  • on or from any public road.
  • with any firearm equipped with a silencer.
  • with any firearm which continues to fire as long as the trigger is held back (an automatic firearm).
  • with a spear or spear gun.
  • with a bow equipped with any mechanical device which is attached to the bow (other than the bowstring) for drawing, holding or releasing the bowstring, except for a hunter with a disability who is in possession of a Modified Longbow Authorization (or valid Modified Archery Permit).
  • with a modified crossbow except for a hunter with a disability who is in possession of a Modified Crossbow Permit.
  • with an arrow with an explosive head or shaft.
  • with any device designed or intended to deliver drugs to an animal.
  • with any semi-automatic firearm with a capacity to hold more than 6 rounds, EXCEPT the following semi-automatic firearms:
    1. firearms using .22 or .17 caliber rimfire ammunition, or
    2. firearms altered to reduce their capacity to no more than 6 shells at one time in the magazine and chamber combined, or
    3. autoloading pistols with a barrel length of less than eight inches.
  • with a crossbow if you are under the age of 14 years old.

Back Tags

Back tags must be visibly displayed on the middle of your back while hunting, except in the Northern Zone and Catskill Park.


It is illegal to hunt with the aid of bait, or over any baited area when hunting big game, upland game birds, turkey or waterfowl.

Artificial Lights

It is illegal to hunt deer or bear with the aid of any artificial light including laser sights.


You may use lights to observe deer and bear under the following conditions:

  • You are not within 500 feet of a home or farm building, unless you have permission from the owner or lessee.
  • While in or on a motor vehicle and operating a light and no person has a firearm or bow unless:
    • the firearm is taken down or the bow is unstrung, or
    • the firearm is securely fastened in a case, or
    • the firearm is locked in the trunk of the vehicle, or
    • the firearm is a handgun.
  • For information on hunting furbearers at night, see the Small Game and Furbearer Regulations.

Possession of Firearms and Crossbows

During the open season for deer, it is illegal to:

  • possess shotgun shells loaded with slug or ball, unless holding a valid license or permit to take deer or bear, or
  • possess a rifle larger than a .22 rimfire (muzzleloading rifles excepted) in areas where rifles are banned for taking deer.

In Westchester County and on Long Island it is illegal to use any rifle or crossbow for hunting, or to carry one afield.

In the Northern Zone it is illegal to carry a rifle larger than .22 rimfire or a shotgun loaded with slug, ball or buckshot afield if accompanied by a dog, except when coyote hunting under permit from the local Environmental Conservation Officer.

Possession of handguns in New York State requires a NYS Pistol Permit. New York does not recognize permits issued by other states.

Transportation of Firearms

A person may not transport or possess a shotgun, rifle or crossbow in or on a motor vehicle unless the firearm is unloaded in both chamber and magazine or the crossbow is unloaded or taken down. A loaded firearm may be carried or possessed in a motorboat while legally hunting migratory game birds.

A muzzleloader is considered unloaded when the cap is off the nipple, the primer is removed, the primer powder is removed from the flintlock pan, or the battery is not in an electric-fired muzzleloader.

A crossbow is considered unloaded when it is uncocked. A crossbow is considered taken down when the limbs have been removed from the stock, securely fastened in a case, or locked in a trunk.

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