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Deer and Bear Hunting Regulations

The following is a summary of hunting laws and regulations for big game hunters. For complete reference consult the New York State Environmental Conservation Law and Volume 6 of the Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York.

Hunting Hours

Big game hunting hours are sunrise to sunset. Sunday hunting is allowed in all areas of New York. There are some local exceptions. Check the area that you hunt carefully. For hunting on state parks, confirm regulations with the park before hunting.

Legally Antlered Deer

A legally antlered deer must have at least one antler that is three inches or longer measured from the base of the burr. Special regulations apply in the Antler Restriction area.

"Early" and "Late" Seasons for Deer and Bear

When you see the term "early" muzzleloader or archery season, it means before the regular deer season for that particular zone. "Late" means after the regular deer season for that zone.

Rifle, Shotgun and Bow Areas

The portions of New York where rifles, shotguns, and bows may be used during the regular firearms seasons are set in law by the state legislature. See Rifle, Shotgun, and Bow Areas for a map of where various hunting implements may be used in the state.

Bag Limits

Bear

Resident and Nonresident hunters may take one bear by gun or bow each license year.

In the Southern Zone, you may not shoot a cub or a bear that should be known to be a cub, shoot any bear from a group of bears, or shoot or take a bear from its den.

Deer

The number of deer a hunter may take depends upon the licenses and privileges purchased. Here is a description of the tags received with each license type. Refer to the chart below for a description of how each tag can be used.

Resident Hunters:
If you purchase:

  1. Hunting License --
    • You will receive a Regular Season Deer Tag.
  2. Muzzleloading or Bowhunting Privilege*--
    • You will receive a Bow/Mz Season Either Sex Deer Tag.
  3. Muzzleloading and Bowhunting Privilege*--
    • You will receive one Bow/Mz Season Either Sex Deer Tag and one Bow/Mz Season Antlerless Deer Tag, both of which may be used in either season.

* A hunting license must be purchased to be eligible for Bowhunting and Muzzleloading Privileges.

Nonresident Hunters:
If you purchase:

  1. Nonresident Hunting License--
    • You will receive a Regular Season Deer Tag.
  2. Nonresident Muzzleloading or Nonresident Bowhunting*--
    • You will receive a Bow/Mz Season Either Sex Deer Tag.
  3. Nonresident Muzzleloading and Nonresident Bowhunting*--
    • You will receive one Bow/Mz Season Either Sex Deer Tag and one Bow/Mz Season Antlerless Deer Tag, both of which may be used in either season.

* A hunting license must be purchased to be eligible for Bowhunting and Muzzleloading Privileges.

Deer Tag Types and Privileges

Deer Tag Types and Privileges
Tag Type Valid For Can be used during
Regular Season Deer Tag Antlered Deer Only

Exceptions:
Antlered or Antlerless
  1. During the regular season in Westchester Co. and during any season in Suffolk Co.
  2. In Areas restricted to longbow hunting only
  3. During late season (with bow or muzzleloading privilege)
Regular Seasons
  • Northern Zone
  • Southern Zone
Late Seasons
  • Bowhunting (with Bow Privilege)
  • Muzzleloading (with Muzzleloading Privilege)
Bow/Mz Season Either Sex Deer Tag Antlered or Antlerless Deer
Cannot be used for Antlerless deer during muzzleloading seasons in certain Northern Zone WMUs that are for Antlered Deer only
Bowhunting or Muzzleloading seasons only (including the regular season in Westchester County and any season in Suffolk County), corresponding to the privileges purchased. Junior Bowhunters may use the Bow/Mz Either Sex tag during the Bowhunting and Regular Seasons.
Bow/Mz Season Antlerless Deer Tag Antlerless Deer Only
Cannot be used during muzzleloading seasons in certain Northern Zone WMUs that are for Antlered Deer only
Bowhunting or Muzzleloading seasons only (including the regular season in Westchester County and any season in Suffolk County), corresponding to the privileges purchased, Junior Bowhunters may use the Bow/Mz Antlerless Only tag during the Bowhunting and Regular Seasons.
Deer Management Permit Antlerless Deer Only
Valid only for the WMU specified on the DMP
Valid during all deer hunting seasons (with appropriate privileges).

Deer Management Permits

Hunters may apply for Deer Management Permits (DMPs) at all license issuing outlets, by phone, by mail or via the internet when you purchase your hunting license (see Buy A Sporting License for license issuance information) by October 1. For more information on DMPs see our Deer Management Permit Page. DMPs are the only hunting tag that is transferrable from one hunter to another. Hunters can receive and use up to two transferred DMPs in addition to any DMPs they were originally issued. See Consignment of DMPs for details.

Manner of Taking

It is unlawful to:

  • Take big game while the deer or bear is in water.
  • Possess a firearm of any description when bowhunting or when accompanying a person bowhunting during special archery seasons.
  • Make, set, or use a salt lick on land inhabited by deer or bear.

It is unlawful to hunt big game with:

  • A firearm or bow aided by any artificial light or a laser that projects a beam toward the target.
  • An autoloading firearm with a capacity of more than 6 shells (one which requires that the trigger be pulled separately for each shot), except an autoloading pistol with a barrel length of less than 8 inches.
  • A firearm using rimfire ammunition.
  • A shotgun of less than 20 gauge or any shotgun loaded with shells other than those carrying a single projectile.
  • A bow with a draw weight of 35 lbs or less.
  • Arrows with barbed broadheads; arrowheads less than 7/8 inches at the widest point or with less than 2 sharp cutting edges.
  • Dogs.
  • Aircraft of any kind.
  • Bait.
  • An air gun or air bow.

Tagging, Transporting, and Reporting

Deer and bear are in legal possession only when tagged with the appropriate portion of the hunting license, deer management permit, or other license provided for that purpose.

Tagging

Here's what you must do immediately upon killing a deer or bear:

  1. Fill in all information on the carcass tag and report tag with ink that won't erase.
  2. Detach the carcass tag from the report tag. Once filled in, the tag may not be altered.
  3. Keep the report tag; you will need it when you report your deer or bear.
  4. The month and date must also be cut or marked in ink on the margin of the carcass tag.
  5. You do not need to attach the tag to the carcass while it is being dragged or physically carried from the place of kill to a camp or point where transportation is available.
  6. Once you get to the camp or vehicle, attach the tag to the deer or bear immediately.
  7. Keep the tag attached to the carcass until it is cut up and prepared for consumption.

You may continue to assist other hunters after you have filled all of your tags, as long as you do not shoot or attempt to shoot a deer. "Being afield with slugs after filling your big game tags is illegal; carrying a centerfire rifle may be considered evidence of attempting to shoot deer."

Transporting

Deer and bear may be transported either inside or outside the vehicle.

  • A deer carcass with head and deer carcass tag attached may be transported with the taker in attendance.
  • If someone other than the taker is transporting the deer, an additional tag supplied by the taker bearing the names and addresses of the consignee and taker must be attached to the carcass.
  • All portions of deer or bear meat being transported by the taker shall be individually tagged and the tags shall include the name, address, hunting license number, the date that the portions were cut, and the signature of the taker. Packaged or boxed portions of venison need only one tag and must be labeled "venison" on the outside of the box. If someone other than the taker is transporting the portions, an additional tag signed by the taker with the names and addresses of the consignee and taker is required for each portion.
  • Non-resident hunters: If your home state prohibits the importation of whole deer carcasses from NY, you will need to follow the above guidelines for transportation of individual or packaged portions of deer meat while in New York State
  • A deer carcass minus the head may be transported as above, but evidence of the sex of the deer must be intact. The deer carcass tag must be affixed to the carcass, and a tag supplied by the taker must also be attached showing the name and address of the taxidermist where the head was sent.
  • Heads of male deer may be transported to a taxidermist only if a tag supplied by the taker is attached bearing the taker's signature, address, hunting license number, number of points on each antler and the name and address of the taxidermist.
  • The head of a doe with antlers that are 3 inches or more can be removed for mounting. Follow the same procedure that you would use for a buck you are having mounted. (See above.)

Reporting

Deer or Bear -- Hunters who harvest a deer or bear are required by law to report their take within 7 days via the DECALS Online Harvest Reporting System or by calling 1-866-426-3778 (1-866-GAMERPT). It will be helpful to have your deer or bear report tag with you when making this call. You will be asked for information from this tag during the report call. See our Reporting your deer, bear, or turkey take for further reporting details.

Hunters who harvest a bear in New York are asked record the dressed weight of the bear and to submit a premolar tooth or part of the lower jaw of the bear for DEC to determine the age of the bear (see Bear Tooth Collection). A collection packet including a postage paid return jaw envelope and information explaining collection will be mailed to each hunter that reports a bear. There are many cooperating taxidermists within New York that can remove and submit teeth, so check with your taxidermist. Generally, taxidermists do not use teeth or the lower jaw for their mounts. All successful hunters are still required to report their bear harvest even if a taxidermist submits samples on their behalf.

Bowhunting

Bowhunting opportunities include both the regular and bowhunting seasons.

  • Hunters must possess a current bowhunting or junior bowhunting privilege to participate during the bowhunting seasons.
  • The bowhunting privilege is not required to hunt with a bow during regular seasons, but hunters must possess proof of eligibility (either a valid bowhunter education certificate or prior bowhunting license).
  • Bow/Muzz either-sex or antlerless-only tags may not be used during the regular seasons except by junior bowhunters or in WMUs 1C and 3S.
  • In WMUs 4J and 8C, only bows may be used to take deer during the regular and bowhunting seasons.
  • Suffolk (WMU 1C) and Westchester counties (WMU 3S) have separate regular seasons restricted to bows for taking deer (either sex).
  • See Legal Implement Descriptions for definitions of a legal bow.

Barbed Broadheads Prohibited for Big Game

Barbed broadheads are illegal for hunting big game. A barbed broadhead is one in which the angle formed between the trailing or rear edge of any blade and the shaft is less than 90 degrees. A notch at the base of the blade extending no more than 2 millimeters from the shaft shall not be considered a barb. Broadhead examples on the right compare one that is barbed to three that are legal. Broadheads with retractable blades are legal. Broadheads with mechanical blades are legal if the blades DO NOT form a barb or hook when the arrow is pulled from the flesh of a deer or bear.

Illustration of which barbed broadheads are legal.

Muzzleloading

Muzzleloading firearms may be used during the muzzleloader and regular seasons for deer and bear, the early bear seasons, and during the January Firearms season in Suffolk County.

All hunters participating in the muzzleloading season must follow these requirements in addition to the other regulations in this guide.

  • Hunters must possess a current muzzleloading privilege to participate during the muzzleloader seasons.
  • The muzzleloader privilege is not needed for hunters to use a muzzleloading firearm during the regular seasons.
  • Muzzleloaders may not be used in WMUs 3S, 4J, or 8C, and may only be used in WMU 1C during the January Firearms season.
  • Bow/Muzz either-sex or antlerless-only tags may not be used during the regular seasons except by junior bowhunters or in WMUs 1C and 3S.
  • Hunters shall not have in their possession, or be accompanied by a person who has in his or her possession, a bow or firearm other than the legal muzzleloading firearm.
  • Double-barreled muzzleloaders or percussion cap revolvers may not be used during the special muzzleloading seasons.
  • See Legal Implement Descriptions for definitions of legal muzzleloading firearms.

Long Island Opportunities

Deer hunting from October-December is bowhunting only. All hunting on state land requires a DEC permit. During the January firearms season, shotgun and muzzleloader are the only legal implements, and a special permit is required. For exact dates and permit information, send a self-addressed envelope to Deer Info, NYS DEC, SUNY Bldg. 40, Stony Brook, NY 11790-2356 or visit our Long Island Hunting Page.

Small Game

Big game hunters who wish to hunt Small Game species may do so with a current hunting license. When hunting bobcat, remember that bobcat pelts must be tagged according to procedures described under Pelt Sealing.

Sale of Deer or Bear Meat Prohibited

It is unlawful to sell deer or bear flesh. Other than flesh, the parts from legally taken and reported deer and bear may be sold only if tagged prior to sale. Tag shall be provided by the hunter or the buyer and include the hunter's license number, date of birth, signature, printed name and the town and county location of kill.

Possession and Sale of Bear Gall Bladders and Bile

Bear gallbladders and bile shall not be possessed or sold unless a valid bear tag (original or copy of bear carcass tag) is attached. A new law now also requires taxidermists to keep records of all bear gallbladders and bile received or sold.


More about Deer and Bear Hunting Regulations:

  • Rifle, Shotgun, and Bow Areas - Descriptions of where shotguns, rifles, bows, crossbows and muzzleloaders can be used for big game hunting, and definitions of legal shotguns, rifles, bows, crossbows and muzzleloaders.
  • Big Game Importation Restrictions - Due to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease within the United States and Canada, special restrictions have been place on the importation of carcasses and parts of big game animals hunted outside of New York State.
  • Legally Defined Areas for Big Game Hunting - Written descriptions of Legally Defined Areas for Big Game Hunting