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

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.

Age Restrictions

Question: At what age can an individual hunt?
Upon completion of mandatory hunter education, youths may hunt at age 12 subject to restrictions. See the Junior Hunter Mentoring Program for additional information.

Question: At what age does an individual need a fishing license?
16 years and older.

Question: Who may a 12-year old child hunt small game with legally?
12 and 13 year-old youngsters who have a hunting license must be supervised while hunting by a parent, legal guardian or designated "youth mentor" over the age of 21. A "youth mentor" requires 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 must also have a current hunting license.

Question: Who may a 14-year old hunt big game with and what type of license does he/she need?
14 and 15-year old youngsters may hunt big game during the regular deer season under the Junior Hunter Mentoring Program pursuant to a Hunting license with several restrictions as described in the Junior Hunter Mentoring Program , during the regular season with bow only, while accompanied by 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.)

Question: My son is fourteen years old and has a hunting license. May he accompany me in the woods while I am hunting big game?
As long as he does not actively participate in the big game hunt, including driving, he may hunt small game while accompanying you.

Lost tags/License/Hunter Safety Certificate

Question: What do I do if I lose my wallet containing my hunting, fishing or trapping license?
You may go to any license issuing outlet to have it replaced. There is a replacement fee for licenses and tags, except the back tag.

Question: I lost my back tag holder and all of my back tags, what do I do?
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 / trapping education 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 a hunter / trapper education certificate or an old hunting license?
If you took your hunter education course in 1980 or later it may be in the DECALS system, 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

Question: Am I required to carry my hunting or fishing license on my person while engaged in these activities?
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?
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

Question: What legal hunting implements may I use and what number shot is legal 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 shot 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?
You can use an shotgun 10 gauge or smaller, capable of holding no more than 3 shells at a time. It may be "plugged" to reduce its 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?
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.

Question: How far off the highway must I be before I can discharge my firearm, crossbow or longbow?
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.

Question: Can I use a light at night to "spotlight" or look for deer from my car?
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.


Question: Can I carry my handgun while hunting?
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. Contact an ECO for more detailed information.

Question: As a New York State Pistol Permit holder, can I carry my handgun while bow hunting or muzzleloader hunting?
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?
Yes. You may not however, carry a firearm while archery hunting during a special archery season.

Muzzle Loader

Question: Can I use a scope on a muzzle loader?
It is legal to use scopes and "red dot" sights on a muzzleloader during any muzzleloader season.

Question: Can I use the fiber optic sights on my muzzle loader?
Yes, fiber optic sights can be used at any time.

Question: Are "in-line" muzzleloaders legal implements during the muzzle loading season?

Question: While transporting my muzzleloader in a motor vehicle / ATV, do I have to remove the charge from the barrel?
No. However, you must remove the priming cap/priming powder/primer from the firearm.

Question: Are double barrel muzzle loaders legal to use during the muzzle loading season?
No. Only a muzzle loader capable of firing a single projectile is legal to use.

Question: Is it legal to use a bow or muzzle loader during the regular northern zone "rifle" season or southern zone "shotgun" season?
Yes, you may use a bow or muzzleloader during the regular big game season.

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Question: What are the legal hunting hours?
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.

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?
Yes. 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.

Question: Is it legal to put out apples or grain to feed deer?
No. 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.

Question: Can I use bait for hunting?
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.

Question: May a child or other person without a hunting license accompany me while I am hunting?
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?
Yes, but restrictions apply if used as an electronic game call for certain species.

Tagging Questions

Question: When do I have to tag my deer, bear or turkey?
Answer: 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.

Question: I would like to take my deer 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?
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.


Question: I am a bow hunter. May I use my bow during regular big game season?
Yes, 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 bow hunting privilege or bowhunter education course certificate.

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Question: Do I need a fishing license to fish in New York State waters?
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.

Question: How do I use the fishing regulation guide book to determine the fish size and creel limits?
The information is located in two areas of the booklet. The general fishing regulations section 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.

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 Fishing guide book. 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?
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.

Question: How many fishing rods may I use?
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.

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"?
Yes. In the fishing guide is 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.

Question: I was at a market and saw black bass for sale, is this legal?: 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.


Question: Do I need an additional license to fish in NY City Reservoirs besides a NY State fishing license?
Yes. 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

Question: What are the "POSTED" signs requirements?
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.

Question: Can I be arrested for trespass if I didn't see any posted signs?
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?
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.

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?
No. 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.

Question: Where is a good place to hunt New York public lands?
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

Question: Who do I call regarding a suspected rabid wild animal?
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

Question: If I have nuisance or injured wild animal in my yard, who should I contact?
Contact the New York State Environmental Conservation Police Hotline at 1-877-457-5680.

Question: Will the DEC remove a raccoon from my property, or can I do it myself?
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.

Question: Does the DEC pay for repairs when a deer damages my car?
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

Question: What do I do if I find an animal that has been injured.
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


Question: At what age does a child no longer have to wear a life jacket?
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?
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?
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?
Yes, 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.

Question: Where can I ride my ATV?
On private property with permission, and on public property when specifically permitted. There are limited areas of public property that allow ATV use.

Question: Can I operate my ATV on State lands or on State truck trails?
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.

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Environmental Quality

Solid Waste and Open Burning

Question: Is it legal to burn my 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.

Question: Where is it legal to dump construction debris, including brick, blacktop, glass, soil and rock?
A DEC-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.

Waste oil

Question: Why doesn't the local gas station accept my 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, 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.

Bottle Bill

Question: Are stores required to take returnable bottles back?
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.