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Recent Hunting Rules Changes

This is a summary of recent significant changes. Check the annual Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide for other changes such as season dates.


American Black Duck

After more than 30 years of a 1-bird daily bag limit for black ducks, duck hunters will have an opportunity for a 2-black duck daily bag limit in 2017.

Bobcat Hunting & Trapping

Hunters and trappers pursuing bobcats in the "Harvest Expansion Area" (HEA; Wildlife Management Units 3R, 3S, 4A, 4F, 4O, 5R, 6R, 6S, 7S, 8T, 8W, 8X, 8Y, 9J, 9K, 9M, 9N, 9P, 9R, 9S, 9T, 9W, 9X, and 9Y) are no longer required to obtain a special permit, complete a hunting/trapping log, or submit the skull/jaw of bobcats they harvest. Please note that hunters and trappers pursuing bobcats in the HEA must still have a hunting or trapping license and must have harvested bobcats pelt-sealed by DEC staff.

Reminder for Fisher Trapping Season

Last year, following completion of the New York State Fisher Management Plan, regulations were adopted to: (1) reduce the fisher (and marten) trapping season from 46 days to 30 days in select Adirondack Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) in the Northern Zone; (2) establish a 6-day fisher trapping season in selected WMUs in Central/Western New York; and (3) require a free special permit for all fisher trapping.

Diamondback Terrapin

DEC has adopted a regulation permanently closing the diamondback terrapin season, effective May 1, 2018. The final diamondback terrapin season will be open from August 1, 2017 through April 30, 2018, with licenses expiring May 4, 2018.

Legislation Regarding Use of Rifles

New laws now allow use of rifles for big game hunting in Orleans and Broome counties (except the city of Binghamton) and made permanent the ability to use rifles for big game hunting in Genesee, Schenectady, and Seneca counties.


Revisions to Fisher Trapping Season

Regulations were recently adopted that will:

  • Reduce the fisher trapping season from 46 days to 30 days in selected Adirondack Wildlife Management Units (WMUs);
  • Establish a limited 6-day open trapping season (no bag limit) in selected WMUs in Central/Western New York to provide new opportunities for sustainable use of this natural resource;
  • Require licensed trappers who pursue fisher to obtain a free permit from their regional wildlife office.

For more details, see the Fisher page.

Rifles in Albany and Livingston Counties

Legislation has passed that will allow the use of rifles to hunt big game in Albany County for two more years, and to allow rifles to hunt big game in Livingston County permanently.

Updates to Deer and Bear Hunting Seasons

Regulations were recently adopted that will:

  • Allow junior hunters to take bear as well as deer during the youth firearms hunt;
  • Rescind an antlerless-only requirement established in 2015 during portions of the bow and muzzleloader season in some Wildlife Management Units (WMUs);
  • Reduce the take of antlerless deer in WMUs 6F and 6J by allowing hunters to only take antlered deer during the early muzzleloader season;
  • Clarify that bow/muzzleloader either-sex and antlerless-only deer tags may both be used during either bow or muzzleloader seasons by properly licensed hunters.


Antlered-only Early Muzzleloader Season in Wildlife Management Unit 6A

Hunters in Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 6A may take only antlered deer during the early muzzleloader season (October 17-23, 2015). For details, see map on Deer Hunting Seasons.

Antlerless-only Portion of Early Bow Season and Late Bow/Muzzleloader Seasons in Several WMUs

Hunters in portions of southeastern New York and throughout the Lake Plains and northern Finger Lakes area of central and western New York may only take antlerless deer during the first 15 days of the early bowhunting season (October 1-15, 2015) and during all of the late bow and muzzleloader seasons (December 14-22, 2015). For details, see map on Deer Hunting Seasons.

Fall Turkey Season Changes

After a three year study, DEC biologists have adjusted the fall turkey season to two weeks with a bag limit of one bird of either sex, statewide. For more information, see Turkey Hunting.

Report Poachers and Polluters Hotline

DEC has a new hotline to report suspected violations of fish and game laws and other environmental crimes. The hotline, 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267), is answered 24/7 by DEC dispatchers who document and forward complaints to DEC's Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs).

Rifles in Schenectady, Genesee and Seneca Counties

New legislation now allows the use of rifles for big game hunting in Genesee, Schenectady, and Seneca counties. See Rifle, Shotgun, and Bow Areas for other counties where rifles can be used.


Deer Hunting in Suffolk County

Effective December 31, 2014, the special firearms season for deer hunting in Suffolk County has been extended to include hunting on weekdays. A town permit is required for hunting with a firearm. See Special Firearms Deer Season in Suffolk County for more information about the extended season.

Chronic Wasting Disease in Ohio

In October 2014, Ohio reported their first CWD-positive deer in a captive farm in Holmes County. In response, New York State has passed emergency regulations that prohibit whole carcasses taken in Ohio from being brought into New York. See CWD Regulations for Hunters for more information.

New License Structure

Effective February 1, 2014, changes were made to the types of licenses available and the fees associated with those licenses. These changes include reduced fees, reduced number of license types, changes to valid license dates and more. If you previously purchased combination licenses, such as Super Sportsman, you will now have to purchase each privilege separately.

License Year Adjusted

Starting with the 2014-15 season, the license year will run from September 1 to August 31. Previously the license year was from October 1 to September 30. For this year only, when hunting species with open seasons in September, you may use either last year's license or this year's license for a successful harvest.

Crossbows Allowed Again

New legislation now allows use of crossbow for hunting big and small game under certain circumstances. See Crossbow Hunting for details about license and training requirements, general rules, and specific hunting season opportunities.

Setback Distances Reduced

Setback distances have been changed from 500 feet to 150 feet for vertical bows and 250 feet for crossbows.

New Bear Hunting Opportunities

DEC has expanded bear hunting areas throughout all of upstate New York (north of New York City), created an early firearms season for bears in the Catskills and Western Hudson Valley, and established a uniform start date for bowhunting and early bear seasons in the Northern Zone. See Bear Hunting Seasons for details.

Hunting with Rifles Allowed in Albany and Livingston Counties

Legislation was passed that makes rifles legal hunting implements for big game in Albany and Livingston counties.


Youth Firearms Deer Hunt

The Youth Firearms Deer Hunt will once again be held on Columbus Day weekend, October 12-14, 2013. See Junior Hunter Mentoring for more information.

New Bobcat Harvest Opportunities

In Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 5A, 5C, 5F, 5G, 5H, 5J, 6A, 6C, 6F, 6G, 6H, 6J and 6N, the bobcat trapping season has been extended to February 15th to match current hunting season dates. In WMU 6N, the hunting season date has been extended to February 15th. A new bobcat harvest expansion area will open in WMUs 3R, 3S, 4A, 4F, 4O, 5R, 6R, 6S, 7S, 8T, 8W, 8X, 8Y, 9J, 9K, 9M, 9N, 9P, 9R, 9S, 9T, 9W, 9X and 9Y-hunting and trapping will be allowed in these WMUs from October 25 to November 15, 2013 with certain conditions. For full details, see pages on Bobcat Hunting Seasons and Bobcat Trapping Seasons.

Rifle Hunting in Ontario and Wayne Counties

New laws now allow the use of rifles for big game hunting in Wayne and Ontario Counties.

Special Snow Goose Harvest Program

A special snow goose harvest program in New York, in addition to the regular season, will allow the hunting of snow geese from October 1 through April 15 annually.

License Structure Changes Coming For Next Year

Governor Cuomo and the Legislature have agreed to simplify the sporting license structure for anglers, hunters, trappers and license-issuing agents as part of the 2013-14 State Budget. The upcoming license restructure will simplify the license types and all corresponding fees will remain unchanged, or in many cases be reduced. It is important to note that these proposed changes will not be in effect until February 1, 2014, so the current license structure will remain in place through New York's 2013-14 big game season. However, licenses purchased after February 1, 2014 for hunting and trapping (such as spring turkey, grouse, rabbit, etc.) will be subject to the changes in the license structure and fees. Licenses purchased prior to February 1, 2014, and privileges associated with those licenses, remain in effect through their valid dates.


Youth Firearms Deer Hunt

DEC has established a youth firearms season for deer to occur during the 3-day Columbus Day weekend in both the Northern and Southern Zones, excluding bowhunting only areas and Suffolk County. Youth hunters (ages 14-15) will be eligible to take one deer of either-sex with a firearm when properly accompanied by a licensed and experienced adult. See Junior Hunter Mentoring for more information.

More Bowhunting Opportunity

Bow season in the Southern Zone and the regular season in Westchester County (bowhunting only) will now begin October 1 each year. In the Northern Zone, a new bowhunting season will run for 7 days following the close of the regular season in areas that also have a late muzzleloader season.

Greater Use of Deer Management Permits (DMPs)

Previously, Deer Management Permits (DMPs) could only be used in the Northern Zone during the regular season and during all "late" seasons.

Now, Northern Zone DMPs can be used during all seasons in the Northern Zone, when used in the proper Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) and with the proper privilege (e.g., archery license required during archery season, muzzleloader license during muzzleloader season.)

Bonus DMPs will be available in WMU 9A.

Mandatory Antler Restrictions in More WMUs

Hunters in WMUs 3A, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S, and 4W are now prohibited from taking a buck during any season (bow, regular, and muzzleloader) unless it has at least one antler with 3 or more points. Youth hunters (ages 12-16) are exempt from the 3 point restriction. See Antler Restrictions in New York for more information.

Deer Management Focus Area established in portions of Tompkins County

This program will intensify use of traditional hunting to assist communities with the burden of overabundant deer populations. Hunters that register with the Focus Area program and have access to hunt in the focus area will be eligible to take 2 antlerless deer per day and participate in a special season in January.


Junior Bowhunters

Recent legislation lowered the minimum age for youth hunters to purchase a Junior Bowhunting license for big game hunting from 14 to 12 years of age. See Hunting Licenses for license information and the Junior Hunter Mentoring Program for detailed information on youth hunting requirements.

Additional Bear Hunting in the Southern Zone

DEC has adopted regulatory changes that will open new areas in eastern New York for black bear hunting and establish uniform bear hunting season dates across the Southern Zone beginning in the Fall of 2011. See Deer and Bear Hunting Seasons for season dates and locations.

Woodcock Season

Woodcock season has been expanded to 45 days for the Fall of 2011. See Woodcock Hunting Seasons for dates.

Modified Longbow Authorization

With proper authorization, hunters with permanent or temporary physical disabilities, and who are unable to draw and hold a bow, may use a bow equipped with a device to hold it in a drawn position. See Modified Longbow Authorization for more details.

Antler Restrictions in WMU 3A

New York's antler restriction program includes all of Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 3C, 3H, 3J & 3K in the Southern Catskills, and a new law signed by the Governor in August 2011 extends mandatory antler restrictions into the part of WMU 3A that is south and west of Route 28. See the Deer Hunting Season map for details.


Game Harvest Reporting Period Extended

Hunters now have 7 days to report their harvest of deer, bear or turkey. Successful hunters of deer, bear, and turkey are required to report their harvest through the DEC's online reporting system or by calling 1-866-GAME-RPT (1-866-426-3778). In the past, hunters were required to report within 48 hours of their harvest. As a measure to increase flexibility for hunters to comply with the reporting requirement, particularly for hunters who hunt in remote areas that lack cell phone coverage or internet access or both, DEC has extended the reporting deadline to within 7 days of taking the animal.

Chronic Wasting Disease

New York is now entering a recovery phase of monitoring Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer. Beginning with the 2010 hunting seasons, DEC will no longer require mandatory checking of harvested deer in the designated containment area. See CWD Regulations for Hunters for more information.

Changes to Pheasant Areas

DEC recently revised our Management Plan for Ring-necked Pheasants in New York State to reflect the current status of wild pheasant populations and desires of pheasant hunters, including changes to pheasant hunting areas. See Pheasant Hunting Seasons for the new hunting area boundaries.

Air Guns

Air guns may now be used for hunting small game. Air guns are defined as a firearm that uses spring or compressed air (not gunpowder) to propel a single projectile that is .17 caliber or larger and produces a muzzle velocity of at least 600 feet per second. Smooth or rifled bore air guns are allowed.

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