Department of Environmental Conservation

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Law Enforcement FAQs

This page contains answers to the questions Environmental Conservation Police Officers are most often asked.

Sporting License Issues

Sportsmen Education

Call the Sportsmen Education Office at your local DEC office for a recording of all the current courses being offered in your area or check the Hunter Education Program page.

Age Restrictions

  • Once your mandatory hunter education course is complete, youths may begin hunting at the age of 12
  • Twelve and 13 year-olds who have a hunting license must be with a parent, legal guardian or designated "youth mentor" over the age of 21, who also has a hunting license.
    • A "youth mentor" requires a permission slip from the parent or legal guardian
  • Under the Junior Hunter Mentoring Program, if your child is 14 or 15-year olds may hunt big game during the regular deer season with bow only. They must be with a parent, legal guardian, or an adult over 18* and during the special archery season pursuant to a bowhunting privilege.
    • *The person accompanying the child must have a current bowhunting privilege and one year experience.
  • If your child is fourteen years old and has a hunting license, they may accompany you while you hunt big game. As long as they do not actively participate in the big game hunt, including driving, they may hunt small game while accompanying you.
  • Beginning at the age of 16 years an individual needs a fishing license.

Lost tags/License/Hunter Safety Certificate

  • You may go to any license issuing outlet to have your hunting, fishing or trapping license replaced.
    • There is a replacement fee for licenses and tags
  • Lost back tags (the small numbered portion only) may be replaced by any license issuing agent.
    • There is no replacement fee for back tags
  • If you took your hunter education course in 1980 or later;
    • it may be in the DECALS system (leaves DEC website), or
    • you may contact the person who taught the course, or
    • the NYSDEC sportsmen education program at 1-888-HUNT ED 2 (1-888-486-8332).
  • DEC keeps records of all hunting / trapping / fishing 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.

Carry Requirements

  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Carrying your license or carcass tags in the back tag holder is not required and makes loss more likely. Licenses and carcass tags should be carried in a secure place like a pocket.

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Legal Hunting Implements

  • To hunt turkeys you may use:
    • a bow,
    • any size shotgun or a handgun, but you may not use a rifle.
      • If using a shotgun or handgun you must use a shot no larger than # 2 or smaller than # 8.
  • To hunt migratory waterfowl, you can use:
  • a ten gauge or smaller, capable of holding no more than 3 shells at a time.
    • It may be "plugged" to reduce its capacity to three shells.
      • Only approved types of nontoxic shot may be used.

Loaded Guns, Discharge Distances, Lights, and Guns

  • You cannot discharge a firearm within 500 feet, crossbow within 250 feet or longbow within 150 feet of any school, playground, occupied factory or church, 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.
  • The Environmental Conservation Law prohibits you from discharging the firearm, crossbow or longbow in such a manner that the arrow, bolt, bullet or load of shot passes over any portion of the highway, which may include maintained portions including the shoulder, drainage ditches, etc.
  • It is legal in New York to use artificial light to spot deer as long as those firearms 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.


  • In some cases you can carry your handgun while hunting, provided that you possess a valid New York State pistol permit.
  • Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) prohibits you from carrying your handgun while bowhunting or muzzleloader hunting, even if you have a pistol permit.
  • You can carry a handgun - provided you have a NYS pistol permit - while hunting with a bow during the regular big game season. However, you may not carry a firearm while archery hunting during a special archery season.

Muzzle Loader

  • It is legal to use scopes and "red dot" sights on a muzzleloader during any muzzleloader season.
  • Fiber optic sights can be used at any time.
  • "In-line" muzzleloaders are legal implements during the muzzle loading season.
  • While you are transporting your muzzleloader in a motor vehicle / ATV, you do not have to remove the charge from the barrel. However, you must remove the priming cap/priming powder/primer from the firearm.
  • Double barrel muzzle loaders are not legal to use during the muzzle loading season. Only a muzzle loader capable of firing a single projectile is legal to use.
  • Yes, you may use a bow or muzzleloader during the regular big game season. It is legal to use a bow or muzzle loader during the regular northern zone "rifle" season or southern zone "shotgun" season.

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  • Legal hunting hours vary by species being hunted detailed in the Hunting and Trapping Guidebook. 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.
  • The season dates for the following year are published in the Hunting and Trapping Guidebook. See Future Big Game Hunting Seasons for next year's dates.
  • It is not legal to put out apples or grain to. Feeding deer can lead to the spread of wildlife diseases and is a violation of regulations. Too many deer in an area can also permanently damage the habitat and create traffic safety issues where paths cross roadways. Consult the DEC's Deer and Moose Feeding Regulations for specific information.
  • 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. 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 licked, ingested or eaten by the animal it is considered a bait and would be illegal to hunt over. Any product containing salt is prohibited to hunt deer over. Additional regulations apply especially for bear hunting. Consult an ECO for more information.
  • A child or other person without a hunting license may accompany you while hunting, but there are restrictions. The child or unlicensed person cannot take part in any aspect of the hunt, including calling, driving/scaring game or possessing a firearm.
  • Portable radios or cell phones are legal to use while hunting in the woods. But restrictions apply if used as an electronic game call for certain species.

Tagging Questions

  • Immediately after the animal is dead, you must fill in all information in indelible ink on the carcass tag and cut out the month and date on the back of the tag. The tag does not have to be physically attached to the deer or bear until you reach your vehicle or camp.
  • If you would like to take your deer to a meat processor and the head to a taxidermist, 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: create an additional tag to attach to the head of the deer with your name, address, license number, signature, the name and address of the taxidermist, and the number of points on each antler if it is a male deer.


You may use your bow during regular big game season, but it can only be used to take antlered deer on a regular season deer tag or a DMP for that area. To use the bow, you must also have either a current bowhunting privilege or bowhunter education course certificate.

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  • Anglers age 16 or over require either a fishing license or a free recreational Marine Registry, depending on where they fish and what they are fishing for. Information on all fishing licenses, including free licenses and exemptions can be found at the Fishing Licenses page.
  • The information is located in two areas of the booklet. The general fishing regulations section of the Fishing Regulation Guidebook displays a table by fish species. There are also sections which contain regulations 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.
  • Any regulation specific to only one body of water can be found in the Fishing guidebook. 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.
  • 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 from private landowners or marinas.
  • An angler may operate no more than three 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.
  • The fishing guide has a listing of "FISHING HOTLINES" for several areas of the state. You may also call the regional fisheries office for the area where you fish.
  • In 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.


If you would like to fish in a NY City Reservoir you need a NYC reservoir permit, available at 1250 Broadway & 32nd Street, 8th Floor, NY, NY. Phone: 212-643-2201

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Posted Property/Trespass

Posting Requirements

"POSTED" sign requirements are as follows:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • You can be arrested for trespassing even if you did not see any posted signs. 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.
  • All property is owned by somebody. The lack of posted signs, fences or other man made objects does not imply that you may enter to hunt, fish or trap. It is your responsibility to obtain permission to enter private lands or waters. Public lands and waters may or may not have restrictions that can be found by contacting the municipality owning the lands.
  • If you shoot a deer and it runs onto posted property, you do not have the legal right to go on the property to retrieve it. You should locate the landowner, explain the situation, and ask permission. If the landowner refuses, the hunter will not be able to enter the property. 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.
  • State land managed by DEC, including Wildlife Management Areas and State Forests are marked with DEC signs and usually open to hunting. For state held lands open to hunting see Places To Hunt or the current Hunting and Trapping Guidebook.

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Injured, Nuisance, Rabid, or Endangered Wildlife

Rabid Animals

Rabies cases are handled by your local County Health Department. If you or a pet have had contact with a suspected rabid animal, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Nuisance Animals

  • If you have a nuisance or injured wild animal in your yard, contact the New York State Environmental Conservation Police Hotline at 1-877-457-5680.
  • Except in rare circumstances, the DEC does not remove wild animals from private property. The DEC Bureau of Wildlife can provide information if you wish to handle nuisance animal issues on your own, or refer you to a nuisance wildlife trapper. These licensed professionals charge for their services. Nuisance wildlife trappers may also be found by looking in the phone book.
  • No, the repair of damage to a car from a car/deer accident is the responsibility of the vehicle owner and usually covered by automobile insurance. The owner of a vehicle damaged by collision with a deer, bear or moose may 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.

Injured Wildlife

Injured wild animals should be left where they are 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, call the DEC or an Environmental Conservation Officer. In some cases the injured animal will be picked up by a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator until it is well enough to be released back into the wild.

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Boats, ATVs, Snowmobiles


  • All children under the age of 12 must wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD) while the vessel is underway.
  • 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.
  • Any mechanically powered vessel, including a canoe, must be registered with DMV and must display the registration numbers.


  • Your ATV must be registered regardless of where you operate it. You must carry proof of insurance whenever you are operating an ATV off of your private property.
  • You can ride your ATV on private property with permission, and on public property when specifically permitted. There are limited areas of public property that allow ATV use.
  • You cannot operate your ATV on State lands or on State truck trails. 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.

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Environmental Quality

Solid Waste and Open Burning

  • You cannot burn your trash and garbage at home. 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.
  • It is legal to dump construction debris, including brick, blacktop, glass, soil, and rock at a DEC-licensed Solid Waste Facility.
  • Household trash is handled by the NYC Dept. of Sanitation. They can be contacted at: (212) 219-8090.

Waste oil

Not all local gas stations will accept your waste motor oil.

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. A limit of 5 gallons of waste oil per day can be collected from an 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.

Bottle Bill

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.

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