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A Guide to Hunting in New York State

So you want to go hunting in New York state, huh? Well, that should be easy enough. You own a gun and watch a lot of programs on the Discovery Channel. You got this, right? Wrong! New York State loves its hunters, but they also love safety and regulatory measures. But never fear, CitySignal is here, and we have all the information on hunting in New York state that you’ll ever need…mostly. To be honest, hunting is complicated no matter where you go, but we’re going to try to make it as easy to understand as possible.

Do You Need a Gun License to Hunt in NY?

First and foremost, every hunter over the age of 12 is required to have a license. Hunters under the age of 12 don’t need a license because they aren’t allowed to hunt anyway, so leave them at home or have them carry your cooler for you. Additionally, first-time hunters are required to take a safety class no matter what age they are, and wow are there a lot of safety classes you can take. Want to learn how to hunt safely with a bow? Need to know how to safely trap animals? What if you want to hunt with a crossbow like you’re playing Castlevania or something? They have a class for all of those things and also waterfowl and guns. And good news for hunters who’ve taken classes in other states, because New York will accept those certificates as well.

So you took the classes and passed with flying colors. Now you are ready for the most thrilling game of Big Buck Hunter ever, right? No! First, you have to know what you’re hunting. Different permits cost different amounts and certain animals can only be hunted at certain times with certain weapons in certain places. This entire process is delightfully confusing, with government pages that try to make it simple to understand, but they also write sentences like, “early bear season in the Northern Zone starts the first Saturday after the second Monday of September.” So the website is rather…busy. I’ll try to make things simple by breaking it down into what game is available in what zones and what weapons you can hunt them with. Buckle up.

What Animals Can You Hunt in Upstate New York?

Deer and Bear

The classic animal to hunt. When you think of hunting in the United States, deer is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Bear seasons also seem to correspond with most dear seasons because…they are both large? Either way, here are the regular seasons for deer and bear hunting in New York State. Follow this link for early and late hunting, since we don’t have time to cover those.

  • Northern Zone: The regular hunting season for deer and bear begins the second Saturday after Columbus day and lasts 44 consecutive days.
  • Southern Zone: The regular season for deer and bear begins the third Saturday of November and lasts for 23 consecutive days.
  • Westchester County: The regular hunting season for deer and bear, which you can only use a bow for, is from October 1st through December 31st.
  • Suffolk County: Bowhunting season for deer and bear is from October 1st to January 31st. A special firearm season starts on the first Sunday of January and goes to the 31st.

Wild Turkey

We’re emphasizing “wild” because some people like to wander onto private property and shoot things, which is super illegal. That said, a bunch of these birds are just out and about, and there’s both a fall and spring season for these gobble-goofs.

  • Northern Zone: The fall season for turkey is October 1st to October 14th. The Spring season is May 1st to May 31st.
  • Southern Zone: The fall season for turkeys is October 16th to October 29th. The Spring season is May 1st to May 31st.

Waterfowl and Migratory Birds

There are so many birds and so many seasons in this category that it makes more sense to just send you to the government page, especially since the rules and regulations change based on migratory patterns and predictions. Essentially, ducks, geese, and other birds each have different seasons. The zoning map is also different for these bad boys, meaning the rules on hunting are drastically different from big game hunting. Good luck figuring it out.

Small Game

Small game means rabbits, quail, squirrels, and even frogs. There are many regulations for each animal as listed here. That said, there are some small animals that are strictly forbidden to collect, like native snakes, lizards, and salamanders. Additionally, the only turtles you can hunt for are snapping turtles, but they have to meet specific size requirements, the most important being the shell.

Furbearer or Misc.

This one is the catch-all for mammals that don’t fit into any other category. Animals like raccoons, weasel, coyote, and even bobcat, which is badass. Hunting each one of these critters comes with very specific instructions and, in some cases, special license requirements. There are usually no bag limits for these animals which means you can hunt as much as you want during the open hunting season.

Moose

You can’t hunt moose in New York State. Sorry. We don’t make the rules.


There are a few more things that you’ll need depending on what you’re hunting. For example, you need to have a visible back tag every time you go hunting. Additionally, different locations have different rules when it comes to firearms and bow hunting, especially where you’re allowed to fire them. There are certain regulations that are state wide, though, like never firing a gun within 500 feet of a school, a house, a church, or any place that person could be subject to friendly fire.

Hunting in New York state can be a lot of fun if you know what you’re doing. If all else fails, ask a friend who’s done it before to take you through the websites so you can figure out what you need to do. You don’t want to turn a fun day out into an episode of Forest Cops on Travel Channel. So get a license, grab a buddy, and do your research so you can enjoy your hunt.

Russell is a writer and comic based in New York City. His plays have been featured at Penn State’s Cultural Conversation’s Festival, The NYC Thespis Festival, and Imaginarium’s Inaugural Theater Festival. Follow him on TikTok and Instagram @pooleparty528

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