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Hunting on Long Island

Long Islanders have historically enjoyed a rich abundance of natural products found upon the island's land and water. The rural eastern half of the island and the extensive bays and tidal wetlands surrounding the island provide excellent hunting opportunities. As with any outdoor activity, finding available land and obtaining permission may be difficult; however, some excellent hunting can be had by those interested and willing to invest time and effort to locate landowners and to obtain permission. The following is a brief summary of what Long Island has to offer:

Small Game

Small game hunting consists primarily of a two-month season for pheasant and quail, which runs from November 1 through December 31, and a four-month season for cottontail rabbits and squirrels from November 1 through the end of February. Seasons are also open at varying times for woodcock, crow, fox and raccoon. Consult your hunting guide for specifics on the various season dates and bag limits.

Perhaps the most abundant and sought after game species is the cottontail rabbit. The thick cover in many areas makes it difficult to move and even more difficult to get a clear shot. However, good shooting may be had with dogs.

In 2009, Long Island had its first wild turkey hunting season. The opening of the season is a direct result of over a decade of wild turkey re-introduction efforts by the Department. The season is limited to a five-day fall hunting season in November.

Long Island's wild turkey population is a relatively recent phenomenon. Populations of wild turkey on Long Island disappeared in the late 19th century due to a reduction of forested habitat, as these environments were cleared for colonial farms and firewood. In the early 1990s, the DEC trapped approximately 75 wild turkeys in upstate New York and released those birds at three locations in Suffolk County. The Long Island turkey populations is now estimated at more than 3,000 birds and growing. Wild turkeys are becoming a common sight at many locations in Suffolk County.

Pheasants are a popular species with some locally abundant populations, particularly on the South Fork. Populations are low elsewhere due to the marginal habitat, but on NYSDEC-managed hunting areas, these populations are supplemented annually with approximately 3,000 stocked birds. These birds are stocked throughout the season.

Squirrels are present throughout much of Long Island with locally abundant populations in mature woodlands predominated by oaks. At the present time, use of this resource by hunters appears low.

The woodcock is also only locally abundant. It is basically a migratory species, although a few still nest in undisturbed areas, often near wetlands. Large flights stop off to feed on areas with moist, rich soil where there is adequate cover and where earthworms are abundant.

Each small game species offers a different challenge, and those familiar with a species' habits and habitat requirements will be most successful. A well-trained dog is also a beneficial companion and is almost a necessity for some species.

Waterfowl

Long Island holds the majority of New York's wintering waterfowl. Tens of thousands of ducks and geese of at least 28 species are available to Long Island's waterfowlers. The various seasons run from early October through mid-February. The early sea duck season offers generous limits and a long season to those hunting scoters, eiders and long-tailed ducks in Long Island Sound and the Peconic Bays.

Many duck hunters pursue the dabbler species, rigging primarily for the prized black duck, with mallards, pintail, widgeon, gadwall and green-winged teal filling out the bag limit. Those that seek out the diving duck species generally set for broadbill (greater scaup) and are rewarded with a variety of other open water species, including bufflehead, goldeneye and redhead. Most waterfowlers hunt on the tidal marshes, bays and creeks found along our shores; Canada geese and brant are popular in the western bays of the south shore.

Most tidal areas are publicly owned and can be hunted without special permission; access, however, is often difficult. The successful hunt generally requires a seaworthy grassboat, well-camouflaged with salt hay, or a scooter painted to resemble waves or ice for open bay broadbill rigs. For the hunter willing to scout for land, some good freshwater shooting of puddle ducks can still be found in eastern Suffolk. The east end also provides excellent goose shooting from leased lands or guided blinds. Consult regulations for the current year for restrictions on certain species. See the brochure An Introduction to Waterfowl Hunting on Long Island, available from the DEC Region 1 office in Stony Brook, for more information.

Big Game

Big game hunting is still available on Long Island with an abundant population of white-tailed deer in much of eastern Suffolk County. Public hunting is a needed management tool as serious depredation problems occur annually in agricultural fields, nurseries, and to many gardens and ornamental plants. Some areas also have problems with car-deer collisions.

Present hunting opportunities exist in the form of an archery season from October 1 to December 31, and a three week shotgun and muzzleloader season in January. The shotgun season is closely regulated with special town permits and written landowner permission required of each hunter in addition to his or her big game license. Annually, more than 2,000 deer are taken during these two seasons.

Public Hunting Areas

As you can see, Long Island still offers a variety of species to the hunting enthusiast. Each species also offers its unique flavor, and can provide a rewarding change to one's table fare. Consult a game cookbook or fellow hunters for recipe ideas. Access to the resource is a major difficulty confronting would-be hunters. Many acres of public land do exist, but not all are open to hunters. Waterfowl hunters will find many acres of tidal wetlands and bays available; however, access or boat launching sites are limited. Upland game hunters will find access even more limited. Public hunting opportunities are provided by the Department of Environmental Conservation on state owned land (permit required), and through cooperative agreements with private landowners, federal, state and county parks. Programs exist to assist new hunters in finding hunting opportunity.

Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Conservation (631-854-4949) offers waterfowl and deer hunting programs in some of its parks. The county waterfowl program at South Haven County Park is especially geared toward the novice waterfowler. The National Park Service (631-281-3010) permits waterfowl hunting from the Fire Island National Seashore.

Special access permits are required for all of these controlled hunting areas. Private lands are often posted; however, with some work, open areas can be found. Searching county tax maps for landowners may be a necessary step. In all cases, an individual should obtain landowner permission prior to hunting on an area. It is also recommended that one check with local officials to determine what local ordinances, if any, may exist.

As Long Island becomes increasingly developed, the resulting loss of habitat will continue to take its toll on wildlife and hunting opportunities. It is critical that each hunter act conscientiously while afield, respecting the rights of landowners and other recreationists. Hunters should be aware that their actions will not only affect their opportunity to hunt, but will reflect on all sportsmen and women. For further information on the use of NYSDEC lands in Suffolk County, consult the Wildlife Office at (631) 444-0310.

Individuals can visit their local Wal-Mart, Sports Authority, Town Clerk's Office as well as many other local sporting goods stores to purchase hunting and fishing licenses. Individuals can also visit the Department of Environmental Conservation Automated Licensing System (DECALS) page. Please click on the following link to download a DEC Three-Year State Lands Seasonal Access permit application (PDF) (463 KB)


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