Law Enforcement FAQs
This page contains answers to the questions Environmental Conservation Police Officers are most often asked.
Sporting License Issues
Question: Where can I take a Hunter Safety course?
Answer: Call the Sportsmen Education Office at your local New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) regional office for a recording of all the local courses being offered or check the Sportsman Education Classes page which is updated frequently.
Question: At what age can an individual hunt?
Answer: Restrictions apply to young hunters, but the age minimums are 12 years old for a small game license including turkey and 14 years old for archery and regular big game. See the Junior Hunter Mentoring Program for additional information.
Question: At what age does an individual need a fishing license?
Answer: 16 years and older.
Question: Who may a 12-year old child hunt small game with legally?
Answer: 12 and 13 year-old youngsters who have an appropriate hunting license may be supervised while hunting by a parent, legal guardian or designated "youth mentor" over the age of 21. The "youth mentor" person would need written permission from the parent or legal guardian - an example of the permission slip is listed in the Hunting and Trapping Guidebook . Any of these individuals accompanying the child would also need a current hunting license.
Question: Who may a 14-year old hunt big game with and what type of license does he/she need?
Answer: 14 and 15-year old youngsters may hunt big game during: 1. The regular deer season under the Junior Hunter Mentoring Program pursuant to a Junior Hunting license with several restrictions. See the Junior Hunter Mentoring Program for complete information. 2. The special archery season pursuant to a Junior Archery license, and during the regular season with bow only, while accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or an adult over 18. If other than the parent or guardian, the person over 18 would need written permission from the parent or legal guardian. The person accompanying the child must have a current bow hunting license and one year's experience.
Question: My son is fourteen years old and has a small game hunting license. May he accompany me in the woods while I am hunting big game?
Answer: As long as he does not actively participate in the big game hunt, including driving, he may hunt small game while accompany you in the woods while you are hunting big game.
Lost tags/License/Hunter Safety Certificate
Question: What do I do if I lose my wallet containing my hunting, fishing or trapping license?
Answer: If you lose your hunting, fishing or trapping license, you may go to any license issuing outlet to have it replaced. This also applies for lost carcass tags. There is a replacement fee for licenses and tags, except the back tag (see below).
Question: I lost my back tag holder and all of my back tags, what do I do?
Answer: Lost back tags (the small numbered portion only) may be replaced by any license issuing agent. There is no replacement fee for back tags.
Question: I took my hunter training course a few years ago and I can't find an old hunting license or a copy of my training certificate. Is there anything I can do to get a copy of an old hunting license?
Answer: DEC keeps computer records of all licenses sold after September 2002. If your last license was obtained before that date, the person who sold the license may have a record of it. See a license issuing agent for details.
If no record of a previous license is on file, applicants can use a hunter education certificate as proof of eligibility. If you took your hunter education course in 1980 or later, license issuing agents may have a record of this on file. If it is not on file, you may contact the person who taught the course, or the NYSDEC sportsmen education program in Albany, telephone 1-888-HUNT ED 2 (1-888-486-8332) and ask for help locating a record of the course.
Question: Am I required to carry my hunting or fishing license on my person while engaged in these activities?
Answer: You must have your license on your person while exercising any privilege of that license. You are required to exhibit it on demand to any police officer, peace officer or owner, lessee or person in control of the lands or waters or the designees of the owner, lessee or person in control of the lands or waters on which the license holder is present.
Question: Will I get a ticket for carrying my license/tags in the holder on my back?
Answer: The Environmental Conservation Law requires hunters outside of the Northern Zone and the Catskill Park to display the numbered back tag in the middle of their back. However, carrying your license or carcass tags in the back tag holder is not recommended because a significant number of licenses and carcass tags are lost each year along with the back tag holder. For that reason, the DEC strongly recommends that licenses and carcass tags be carried in secure interior pockets, safe from loss.
Legal Hunting Implements
Question: What legal hunting implements may I use and what number shot is legal to hunt turkeys?
Answer: You may use a bow, any size shotgun or a handgun, but you may not use a rifle. If you are using a shotgun or handgun you must use shot. Shot size can not be larger than # 2 or smaller than # 8.
Question: What legal hunting implements may I use and what type of shot is legal to hunt migratory waterfowl?
Answer: You can use an shotgun 10 gauge or smaller. The shotgun can only be capable of holding 3 shells at a time. It may be "Plugged" to reduce its shell holding capacity to 3 shells. Only approved types of nontoxic shot maybe used.
Loaded Guns, Discharge Distances, Lights, and Guns
Question: How far from a building do I have to be to discharge my firearm?
Answer: You cannot discharge a firearm or bow within 500 feet of any school, playground, occupied factory or church. You cannot discharge a firearm or bow within 500 feet of a dwelling, farm building, or structure unless you own it, lease it, are an immediate member of the family, an employee, or have the owner's consent. This does not apply to the discharge of a shotgun over water when hunting migratory game birds and no dwelling, public structure, livestock, or person is in the line of fire.
Question: How far off the highway must I be before I can discharge my firearm or longbow?
Answer: The Environmental Conservation Law prohibits you from discharging the firearm or longbow in such a manner that the arrow, bullet or load of shot passes over any portion of the highway. In order to safely meet this requirement, you need to be off of the maintained highway right of way, which may include the shoulder and drainage ditches, etc.
Question: Can I use a light at night to "spotlight"or look for deer from my car?
Answer: It is legal in New York to use artificial light to spot deer as long as those firearms, not possessed pursuant to a handgun permit, are locked in the trunk, completely secured in a case, or broken down. Compound bows, long bows and crossbows are broken down if unstrung. You may not operate an artificial light within 500' of a dwelling without consent of the owner/lessee.
Question: Can I carry my handgun while hunting?
Answer: In some cases, yes, provided that you possess a valid New York State pistol permit. New York state does not recognize pistol permits from other states. You cannot carry a handgun if you are archery or muzzleloader hunting during those special seasons. Contact an ECO for more detailed information.
Question: I hold a New York State Pistol Permit, can I carry my handgun while bow hunting or muzzleloader hunting?
Answer: No, even though you possess a valid pistol permit to carry the handgun, the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) prohibits it.
Question: Can I carry a handgun while hunting with a bow during the regular big game season?
Answer: Yes. You may not however, carry a firearm while archery hunting during a special archery season.
Question: Can I use a scope on a muzzle loader?
Answer: It is legal to use an optical sight on a muzzleloader during any muzzleloader season.
Question: Can I use the Fiber Optic sights on my Muzzleloader?
Answer: Yes, fiber optic sights can be used at any time.
Question: Are "in-line" muzzleloaders legal implements during the muzzle loading season?
Question: If I'm transporting my muzzleloader in a motor vehicle, do I have to remove the charge from the barrel?
Answer: No. However, you do have to remove the priming cap/priming powder/primer from the firearm.
Question: Are double barrel muzzleloaders legal to use during the muzzle loading season?
Answer: No. Only a muzzle loader capable of firing a single projectile is legal to use.
Question: Is it legal to use a bow or muzzleloader during the regular northern zone "rifle" season or southern zone "shotgun" season?
Answer: You may use a bow or muzzleloader during the regular big game season. However, if using a bow, you must have completed the bowhunter training course and carry with you during the hunt either a valid bow stamp or the bowhunter training course certificate.
Question: What are the legal hunting hours?
Answer: Legal hunting hours vary by species being hunted. Check the Hunting and Trapping Guidebook for specific legal hunting hours. As a general rule, sunrise to sunset are the legal hunting hours for most species. Turkey hunting hours vary according to season, ½ hour before sunrise to 12 noon during the spring, sunrise to sunset during the fall. Migratory waterfowl are from ½ hour before sunrise to sunset. Some furbearers can be hunted 24 hours a day while in season.
Question: I have to submit for my vacation one year in advance. Is there some way I can determine when the regular big game season will begin next year?
Answer: Yes. The season dates for the following year are now published in the hunting guide. See Future Big Game Hunting Seasons for next year's dates.
Question: Is it legal to put out apples or grain to feed deer?
Answer: No, it is not legal to feed deer. Concern for the potential introduction and transmission of Chronic Wasting Disease in our deer population has resulted in a complete prohibition of all deer feeding activities.
Question: Can I use bait for hunting?
Answer: It is illegal to hunt with the aid of bait, or on or over any baited area when hunting big game, upland game birds, turkeys or waterfowl. NOTE: There are many products on the market that can legally be sold, but are illegal to hunt over. If the product is meant to be eaten by the animal it is considered a bait and would be illegal to hunt over. Any product containing salt would be prohibited to hunt deer over.
Question: May a young child or other person without a hunting license accompany me while I am hunting?
Answer: With restrictions, yes. The child or unlicensed person cannot take part in any aspect of the hunt, including calling, driving/scaring game or possessing a firearm.
Question: Are portable radios or cell phones legal while I am hunting in the woods?
Question: When do I have to tag my deer, bear or turkey?
Answer: You must immediately fill in all information in indelible ink on the carcass tag. The month and date must also be cut or marked in ink on the margin of the carcass tag. The tag does not have to be physically attached to the deer or bear until you reach your vehicle or camp.
Question: I have taken a deer. I would like to take the deer carcass to a meat processor and the head to a taxidermist. What part of the deer does the carcass tag go on? What do I legally need to attach to the other part?
Answer: The carcass tag must remain with the carcass of the deer. Evidence of the sex of the deer must not be destroyed and a tag listing the name and address of the taxidermist handling the head must be attached to the carcass. Requirements for the head are as follows: You must create an additional tag to be attached to the head of the deer. This tag must have your signature, address and license number, the name and address of the taxidermist, and the number of points on each antler if it is a male deer.
Question: I am a bowhunter. May I use my bow during regular big game season?
Answer: Yes, you may use a bow, but would only be allowed to take antlered deer during the regular big game season. Additionally, you must possess a valid big game tag and hunting license and either a current bowhunting stamp or valid bowhunter education course certificate.
Question: Do I need a fishing license to fish in New York State waters?
Answer: Most people age 16 or over will need a fishing license to fish in NY waters. NY waters include the Hudson River, Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean within three miles from shore. Currently there is a Freshwater Fishing license and a Recreational Marine Fishing Registry. Information on all fishing licenses, including free licenses and exemptions can be found at the Fishing Licenses page.
Question: How do I use the fishing regulation guide book to determine the fish size and creel limits?
Answer: The information is located in two areas of the booklet. The general fishing regulations are located in the front of the booklet and appear in a table by fish species. There are also sections which contain regulations governing the Great Lakes, Finger Lakes and water bodies that border neighboring states. Once you have looked at these regulations you need to review any special regulations which may be specific to the body of water that you would like to fish. These special regulations are listed by Region, then County and then body of water. These specific regulations would supersede the general regulations.
Question: Where can I find regulations for the local lakes and streams in my area?
Answer: Any regulation specific to only one body of water can be found in the NYSDEC Fishing guide book that you receive when you buy your fishing license. These special regulations are listed by Region, then County and then by body of water within the County. If there is no special regulation listed then the general angling regulations would apply.
Question: Where can I go fishing?
Answer: Generally, fishing is allowed in any water where access can be obtained legally. Fishing access is often obtained from publicly owned lands, public fishing access sites or public boat launches. Legal access is also commonly obtained by permission or payment of a fee to private landowners or marinas.
Question: How many fishing rods may I use?
Answer: An angler may operate no more than two lines, with or without a rod, and each line is limited to five lures or baits. In addition each line shall not have more than fifteen hook points. This regulation does not apply when fishing in the marine and coastal district.
Question: I plan a fishing trip to Lake Ontario and the Salmon River each year. Is there someone I can call to find out when the fish are "in"?
Answer: Yes. In the fishing guide you will find a listing of the "FISHING HOTLINES" for several areas of the State. You may also call the regional fisheries' office that covers the area you are planning to go to.
Question: I was at a market and saw black bass for sale, is this legal?: In late 2012, the DEC passed regulations allowing the sale of black bass (largemouth) for food from permitted hatcheries to distributors and retailers. They may not be sold to a customer live. These regulations are in addition to those for stocking largemouth and smallmouth bass. More information may be found by searching this site for "Part 155", which contains the text of the regulation. It is not legal for recreational fishermen to sell black bass.
Question: Do I need an additional license to fish in NY City Reservoirs besides a NY State fishing license?
Answer: Yes. You need a NYC reservoir permit, available at 1250 Broadway & 32nd Street, 8th Floor, NY, NY. Phone: 212-643-2201
Question: What are the "POSTED" signs requirements?
Answer: The posting law specifies the maximum distance between signs is 660 ft., the minimum size of the signs is 11 inches square and the area covered by the printing is a minimum of 80 sq. inches. Signs can be no more than 660 feet apart. The signs should, however, be placed close enough together to be seen and at a height that is easily visible. Posted signs must have the name and address of the person authorized to post the property. Each side of all corners of the property must be marked with posted signs, so that corners can be reasonably ascertained. The posting of signs is a tool found in the Environmental Conservation Law that landowners can use to make their wishes plainly known to those who seek to use their land. There is no requirement that signs be "seen," and in fact, the land is still posted for a period of one year even if the signs are illegally removed by unauthorized persons the day they are put up. This illustrates the importance of seeking permission to enter private land, regardless of whether of not it is posted.
Question: Can I be arrested for trespass if I didn't see any posted signs?
Answer: Yes. Your hunting license does not give you the right to trespass on private property. It is your responsibility to find out who the land owner is and ask their permission whether the property is posted or not. The New York State Penal Law makes it an offense to enter any land without permission.
Question: If a property is not posted, does that mean I can hunt there?
Answer: All property is owned by somebody. Just because there are no signs does not necessarily mean you can hunt there. To be legally posted, the law requires it to be posted with signs and checked once a year by the person posting it. Perhaps the signs were torn down or fallen off due to deterioration a month before you arrive to hunt. Legally, may still be posted. There is also a general trespassing on improved lands written in the Penal Law. "Improved Lands" are any lands that have been altered in such a way by man so that they are not "wild." This can be (but is not limited to) mowing of grass/brush hogging, farming (i.e. plowing fields and growing crops), re-grading, etc. The best rule of thumb is to knock on some doors and talk with property owners. That way, it is clear if you are welcome on the property or not. That also shows common courtesy, and it also shows that you respect their rights as a property owner.
Question: If I shoot a deer and it runs onto posted property, do I have the legal right to go on the property to retrieve it?
Answer: No. the DEC recommends that hunters finding themselves in this predicament seek out the landowner, explain the situation, and ask permission. If the landowner refuses, the hunter will not be able to enter the property, and the DEC cannot compel a landowner to grant access. If the hunter has reason to believe that the landowner intends to illegally possess the deer, it should be reported to the nearest Environmental Conservation Officer. This situation illustrates the need for hunters to establish good landowner relations prior to going afield, and to take only good clean kill shots when hunting for any game.
Question: Where is a good place to hunt New York public lands?
Answer: Land that is owned by the State of New York and managed by DEC (marked with DEC signs) is usually open to hunting. For state held lands open to hunting see Places To Hunt or the current Hunting and Trapping Guidebook.
Injured, Nuisance, Rabid, or Endangered Wildlife
Question: Who do I call regarding a suspected rabid wild animal?
Answer: Rabies cases are handled by your local County Health Department. If you have had contact with a suspected rabid animal, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Question: If I have nuisance or injured wild animal in my yard, who should I contact?
Answer: Contact the New York State Environmental Conservation Police Hotline at 1-877-457-5680.
Question: "Can you please remove a raccoon from my property, or can I do it myself?"
Answer: The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation does not remove wild animals, but the department's Bureau of Wildlife can refer you to a nuisance wildlife trapper. These licensed professionals will charge for their services. Nuisance wildlife trappers may also be found by looking in the "yellow pages" of a phone book. There rules regarding the trapping or killing of nuisance wildlife, so call the DEC Regional office if you wish to try this yourself.
Question: Does the DEC pay for repairs when a deer damages my car?
Answer: No, the repair of damage to a car from a car/deer accident is the responsibility of the vehicle owner. Generally, automobile insurance will cover the cost of repairs for this kind of accident. The Environmental Conservation Law allows the owner of a vehicle damaged by collision with a deer to keep the carcass for consumption or give it to a third party. The accident must be reported to a police agency and a permit obtained.
Question: What do I do if I find an animal that has been injured.
Answer: Wildlife experts agree that an injured wild animal should be left where it is found. An injured or dying animal is food for other wildlife and although it may seem cruel it is part of the natural life cycle . If you feel as though you must help or the animal is an endangered or rare species, you should call the DEC Regional office or your local Environmental Conservation Police Officer. In most cases the injured animal will be placed under the care of a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator until it is well enough to be released back into the wild.
Boats, ATVs, Snowmobiles
Question: At what age does a child no longer have to wear a life jacket?
Answer: All children under the age of 12 must wear an approved personal flotation device while the vessel is underway.
Question: Do I need to have a lifejacket (U.S. Coast Guard personal flotation device) for every person onboard?
Answer: Yes. There must be a U.S. Coast Guard approved flotation device for every person on board any vessel, personal watercraft (PWC), canoe, kayaks and rowboats. If aboard a PWC, it must be worn at all times when the PWC is in operation. From November 1 to May 1, lifejackets must be worn by all persons on boats under 21', canoes, kayaks, rowboats while they are underway.
Question: My canoe has an electric motor or small gasoline motor. Do I need to register it with the Department of Motor Vehicles?
Answer: Yes. Any mechanically powered vessel, including a canoe, must be registered with DMV and must display the registration numbers.
Question: Does my ATV need to be registered and do I need to have insurance?
Answer: Yes, your ATV must be registered regardless of where you operate it. Additionally, you must carry with you proof of insurance whenever you are operating your ATV off of your own property.
Question: Where can I ride my new ATV?
Answer: Only on your own property as long as the ATV is registered, or on other property with written permission provided the ATV is registered and insured and is outfitted with all proper equipment.
Question: Can I operate my ATV on State lands or on State truck trails?
Answer: No. Off road travel of motor vehicles is not allowed on State lands. The definition of "highways" in the Vehicle and Traffic Law includes State truck trails.
Solid Waste and Open Burning
Question: Is it legal to burn my trash and garbage at home?
Answer: Effective on October 14, 2009, all open burning is prohibited in New York with several exceptions. See Questions and Answers on the New Open Burning Regulations for more information on open burning. If the burning process produces odors and smoke that are bothersome to other people in the area, you may be in violation of Environmental Conservation Law. No open burning may be done by a business or commercial establishment regardless of its location unless they have a valid permit from the DEC.
Question: Where is it legal to dump construction debris, including brick, blacktop, glass, soil and rock?
Answer: Only at a licensed Solid Waste Facility. There are some exemptions that apply, contact your local DEC Regional Office Division of Solid Waste for more information.
Question: I live in NYC. My neighbor's trash is blocking the sidewalk, can you help?
Answer: Household trash is handled by the NYC Dept. of Sanitation. They can be contacted at: (212) 219-8090.
Question: Why doesn't the local gas station accept my waste motor oil?
Answer: Any Service Establishment that sells at least 500 gallons of lubricating oil per year and has an onsite oil changing operation, and any Retail Establishment selling in excess of 1000 gallons of lubricating oil per year, must accept, without charging a fee, up to 5 gallons of waste oil per day from any individual. The Retail or Service Establishments do not have to accept the oil if it is determined to have been contaminated through other than ordinary and normal use, or the oil is not in a screw-top, rigid, closed containers.
Question: Are stores required to take returnable bottles back?
Answer: Yes, the Returnable Container Law (6NYCRR part 367) requires any store selling a particular brand and container size must redeem the deposit to any individual returning the container, whether or not the consumer actually purchased the container at that store.