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Little John Wildlife Management Area

Little John WMA locator map

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Little John Wildlife Management Area (WMA) The primary purposes of the Little John WMA is for wildlife management, wildlife habitat management, and wildlife-dependent recreation. This WMA totals some 7,918 acres. Little John lies on the northwest slope of the Tug Hill Plateau. Most of the area lies between 1400 and 1500 feet above sea level. The result is a gently rolling topography never quite flat and transected by many long, narrow serpentine swampy areas and numerous small depressions. The soils are generally acid in nature being derived from shale and sandstone. Precipitation ranges between 45 and 55 inches per year with an average annual snowfall above 170 inches. Drifts as deep as 15 feet are common occurrences, and snow lies five to six feet deep in the woods during an average winter.

Grouse on a gravel road at Little John WMA

Featured Activities

Hunting and Trapping
Little John WMA is located in Wildlife Management Unit 6N. White-tailed deer, waterfowl and a variety of small game species offer ample hunting and trapping opportunities (View hunting seasons and trapping seasons).

Little John WMA is open to fishing, please visit Dec's website for more information about fishing.

Wildlife Viewing
Wildlife associated with wetlands dominate this area as all species of waterfowl that migrate up and down the Atlantic coast occur here either as a resident species or a visitor during the spring and fall migrations. The generally unbroken forest canopy provides habitat for a variety of wildlife species. Use the Wildlife Management Area Mammal Checklist (PDF 453 KB) and the Wildlife Management Area Bird Checklist (PDF 240 KB) as a wildlife viewing guide.

Little John Brown Sign


Located in Oswego and Jefferson Counties approximately 45 miles north of Syracuse and 25 miles south of Watertown. The easiest access to Little John is from Exit 38 off Interstate 81 via County Route 15 east to County Route 17. The 7 1/2 minute topographic maps covering the area are Boylston Center and Worth Center.

All Google links leave DEC's website.

Rules, Regulations & Outdoor Safety

Activity Rules & Regulations:

The following activities are not permitted in Little John WMA:

  • Unless specifically stated, using motorized vehicles, including:
    • all-terrain vehicles
    • snowmobiles
    • motorboats
  • Swimming or bathing
  • Camping
  • Using metal detectors, searching for or removing historic or cultural artifacts without a permit
  • Damaging or removing gates, fences, signs or other property
  • Overnight storage of boats
  • Cutting, removing or damaging living vegetation
  • Construction of permanent blinds or other structures such as tree stands
  • Littering
  • Storage of personal property

Outdoor Safety Tips:

NOTE: Ticks are active whenever temperatures are above freezing but especially so in the late spring and early fall. Deer ticks can transmit Lyme and several other diseases. More information on deer ticks and Lyme disease can be obtained from the NYS Department of Health (Leaves DEC's Website). Also, practice Leave No Trace (Leaves DEC's website) principles when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts.

wildlfie restoration

How We Manage

Like most of the state's Wildlife Management Areas, Little John Wildlife Management Area is managed by DEC's Division of Fish and Wildlife for wildlife conservation and wildlife-associated recreation (hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing/photography). Funding to maintain and manage this site is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration or "Pittman-Robertson" Act, which is acquired through excise taxes on sporting arms, ammunition and archery equipment.

Management techniques at Little John include mowing and development of mowable areas, pothole development, slash openings or clearcuts, water level control through beaver management, access control, and area identification to name a few. Additional creation, improvement, and maintenance of wildlife habitat and timber stand improvement is carried out through wood product sales for firewood, pulp, logs, etc. Thus, both wildlife values and the forestry resource are enhanced.

The system of town and state roads provides for a variety of activities compatible with the area. Small game, big game, and waterfowl hunting and fishing and trapping activities are permitted and regulated by Statewide Fish and Wildlife Law and do not require special permits. Permits are issued for primitive camping (no water, sanitation, or garbage facilities), but camping can be uncomfortable during the summer months because of insects. Permits are available from the regional wildlife office listed above.


The Little John area was settled in the early 1800's, and by 1850 general farming with heavy emphasis on dairying had been established. Agricultural activities peaked around 1910 after which they declined. In 1928, some 4250 acres belonging to the Cleveland Estate became the Little John Game Refugee and Demonstration Forest. Acquisition of abandoned land adjacent to the Area by the Federal Resettlement Administrator became part of Little John when it was later transferred to the State.

Truck trails were constructed; winter shelter (conifer plantations) and fall feeding grounds (conifers and shrubs) were established for grouse; and slashings (clearcuts) were carried out primarily through public work projects such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). From World War II through the mid-sixties, maintenance of roads, boundaries, bridge repair, etc. were the basic activities.

Historically native stands of hemlock and spruce covered most of the drier areas. Logging and farming activities have changed the vegetation to species such as: sugar maple, beech, black cherry, red maple, yellow birch, and hemlock in descending order of occurrence. About 60 percent of the management area is in mature forest with less than two hundred acres in openings such as open water or grassy or brushy fields.

Since the mid-sixties, increasing emphasis has been placed on providing habitat for a variety of wildlife species found in a forested/wet area situation. Management practices to provide for wildlife requirements are carried out with funds from hunting license fees and federal taxes on sporting arms and ammunition channeled through the Conservation Fund.

Tourism Information for Nearby Attractions, Amenities & Activities

Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

Web links below can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

DEC Lands and Facilities