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Little John Wildlife Management Area

Little John WMA locator map

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The primary purposes of Little John Wildlife Management Area (WMA) are for wildlife management, wildlife habitat management, and wildlife-dependent recreation. This WMA totals 7,918 acres. About 60 percent of the WMA is in mature forest with less than 200 acres in openings such as open water or grassy/brushy fields.

Little John lies on the northwest slope of the Tug Hill Plateau. Most of the area lies between 1,400 and 1,500 feet above sea level. The result is a gently rolling topography, which is never quite flat, 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.

In 1928, 4,250 acres belonging to the Cleveland Estate became the Little John Game Refuge and Demonstration Forest. Acquisition of abandoned land adjacent to the WMA by the Federal Resettlement Administration became part of Little John when it was later transferred to the State.

Grouse on a gravel road at Little John WMA
Ruffed grouse on a Little John WMA road.

Featured Activities

Hunting and Trapping


Wildlife Management Unit: 6N

General information on hunting and general information on trapping include how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules, and regulations.

White-tailed deer, waterfowl and a variety of small game species offer ample hunting and trapping opportunities. Please be sure to abide by all game laws (view hunting seasons and trapping seasons).



General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules, and regulations.


view wildlife here

General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

Wildlife associated with wetlands dominate this area. 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 Vertebrate Checklist (PDF) and the Wildlife Management Area Bird Checklist (PDF) as wildlife viewing guides.

Little John Brown Sign


Little John WMA is 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 website.

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Rules, Regulations & Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace Principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other users.

All users of Little John Wildlife Management Area must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

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
  • 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 website).

How We Manage Little John Wildlife Management Area

wildlfie restoration

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, and 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.

Since the mid-1960s, increasing emphasis has been placed on providing habitat for a variety of wildlife species found in a forested or wet areas. 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. 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; fishing; and trapping activities are permitted. These activities are 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 in the right column.

View the Habitat Management Plan for Little John Wildlife Management Area (PDF, 5.3 MB), approved in April 2019, which identifies the WMA-specific target species and habitat goals for the WMA.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

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

State Lands and Facilities

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.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided, or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories, or search the internet for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.