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Small Game Hunting

Successful Squirrel Hunter

"Small game" includes upland and migratory game birds, small game mammals (e.g., squirrel, rabbit), furbearers (e.g., fox, coyote), and reptiles and amphibians. Game species may be taken only during their open seasons. Hunters taking wildlife on licensed shooting preserves must comply with regulations governing those shooting preserves.

To enhance the small game hunting experience, the DEC has several programs to either keep accurate counts of takes or raise and release species to increase hunting opportunity. Among the programs in place are required reporting of turkey take, Pheasant Release Program and Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Log.

Learn about DEC's Young Forest Initiative, which will dramatically increase young forest habitat for popular game species like American woodcock and ruffed grouse on Wildlife Management Areas.

Protected Wildlife

In New York State, nearly all species of wildlife are protected. Most species, including endangered species, songbirds, hawks and owls are fully protected and may not be taken. The few unprotected species include porcupine, red squirrel, woodchuck, English sparrow, starling, rock pigeon, and monk parakeet. Unprotected species may be taken at any time without limit. A hunting license is required to hunt unprotected wildlife with a bow, crossbow, or firearm.

General Small Game Regulations

  • You may not use a rifle or handgun to hunt pheasant or migratory game birds.
  • You may not take a turkey with a rifle, or with a handgun firing a bullet. You may hunt turkey with a shotgun or handgun only when using shot no larger than #2 and no smaller than #8.
  • Air guns may be used to hunt squirrels, rabbits, hares, ruffed grouse, and furbearers that may be hunted (e.g., raccoons and coyotes) and unprotected species. Air guns may not be used to hunt waterfowl, pheasant, wild turkey, or big game.
  • A bow or crossbow may be used to hunt small game. A crossbow may not be used in Westchester or Suffolk counties. See Crossbow Hunting for additional information.
  • See the General Hunting Regulations for additional information.

Reptiles and Amphibians

See Reptile and Amphibian Hunting Information

The closure of the diamondback terrapin season went into effect on May 1, 2018.

Falconry Seasons

Woman falconer in the field with her falcon

Falconry is the sport of hunting small game species with trained raptors. A person must possess a valid Falconry License and a hunting license to hunt with raptors.

A licensed falconer may take small game species from October 1 through March 31 in any area of the state open to hunting these species EXCEPT:

  • Waterfowl may also be taken during a specific period outside the firearms hunting season but within the Federal waterfowl season framework (see details in the Waterfowl Hunting Guide).
  • Common crow may only be taken during the open firearms season.

Note: A licensed falconer may take both male and female pheasants anywhere in the State when hunting under a Falconry License.

For more information on Falconry contact the DEC Special Licenses Unit, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4752 or call (518) 402-8985.

Wildlife Taken Outside the State

Legally imported game may be possessed and transported at any time.

Game birds and animals (except migratory game birds) legally taken outside the State may be imported in any manner, except by parcel post, in the number which may be legally exported from the place of taking as follows:

  • During their respective open seasons in this State by the taker without license or permit.
  • During the closed season in this State, provided the taker first obtains an importation license from a DEC regional office.


See Furbearer Hunting section for details.

Possession & Release of Game Birds

  • It is illegal to possess or release migratory game birds and upland game birds without the proper license(s) from DEC. Furthermore, permission of the landowner/land manager must be obtained prior to the release of birds to the wild.
  • "Migratory Game Birds" include waterfowl (ducks, geese, brant, swans), shorebirds (woodcock, snipe, plover, surfbirds, sandpipers, tattlers, curlews), corvids (jays, crows, magpies), and rails, coots, mud hens and gallinules. "Upland Game birds" include wild turkeys, grouse, pheasant, Hungarian or European gray-legged partridge, and quail.
  • Captive-reared wild turkeys, swans, and Canada geese may not be released at any time. Pigeons are not considered game birds and may not be released at any time.
  • Cooperators who obtain pheasants from DEC through the "Day-Old Chick" and "Young Pheasant Release" programs are covered by the terms of their agreement with the DEC. These birds must be released on lands open to hunting by the public.
  • Before you take possession of any game birds, please contact DEC's Special Licenses Unit, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4752 or call (518) 402-8985.

Use of Hunting Dogs

Dogs may be used to hunt small game, except:

  • You may not use dogs to hunt wild turkey in the spring.
  • In the Northern Zone, if you are hunting with a dog, or accompanied by a dog, you may not possess a rifle larger than .22 caliber rim-fire or possess a shotgun loaded with slug, ball or buckshot unless you are coyote hunting with a dog.
  • Crossbows may not be used while hunting with a dog for any small game (except for coyotes) in the Northern Zone.

Training - You may train dogs on raccoon, fox, coyote, and bobcat from July 1 through April 15. You may train dogs on other small game only from August 15 through April 15.

You may train dogs at any time on lands you own, lease, or have written permission to use, if you are not training on wildgame. You may only use blank ammunition when training dogs, except during an open season.

Control - Hunting dogs should remain under control of the hunter or trainer, especially on lands inhabited by deer. Do not shoot at dogs; report stray dogs to a local Environmental Conservation Officer or your local animal control officer.

More about Small Game Hunting:

  • Small Game Seasons - Maps showing the areas open for small game and furbearer hunting and season dates and bag limits for taking rabbits, grouse, turkey, squirrel, frogs, pheasant, varying hare, and bob white quail.
  • Pheasant Hunting - About New York's pheasants and pheasant hunting, with links to release sites
  • Ruffed Grouse Hunting - Information about hunting for ruffed grouse in New York, with links to ruffed grouse hunter log.