Hunting Laws & Regulations
The use and possession of firearms, ammunition and bowhunting equipment is regulated in the interest of public safety and the conservation of wildlife. Hunters are also subject to any federal, state, or municipal firearms regulations. General restrictions on the use of firearms, air guns and bowhunting equipment are described below. New statutes and regulations related to hunting and trapping may be added during the calendar year or some may change, as well. Although we do our best to have the most up-to-date information in this guide, be prepared for changes to occur. The best way to stay current is to check the DEEP website often, especially before hunting seasons start, at www.ct.gov/deep/hunting; follow our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/CTFishandWildlife; and subscribe to our free E-newsletter Wildlife Highlights (www.ct.gov/deep/WildlifeHighlights) and Connecticut Wildlife magazine (www.ct.gov/deep/WildlifeMagazine; $8.00 for 6 issues).
Hunting — General
Sunday Hunting: Possession of hunting implements in the open on Sunday is prima facie evidence of violation (except for archery deer hunters on private land in designated Deer Management Zones). Sunday hunting is allowed on licensed private shooting preserves and regulated dog training areas when the operator has permission from the town. Hunting may also take place on Sunday at permitted field trial events.
Archery deer hunters (including landowners hunting with a bow during the Free Landowner Deer Season) can hunt on Sundays on private land ONLY in all Deer Management Zones except 2, 3, and 4A (see zone map on Deer Hunting page). All archery deer hunting on Sundays must take place at least 40 yards away from blazed hiking trails.
Deer Management Zone 2 and 4A Restriction: During the Private Land Shotgun/Rifle and Private Land Muzzleloader seasons, the “Antlerless Only” tag is NOT valid in Deer Management Zones 2 and 4A. Only the “Either-sex” tag will be valid in Zones 2 and 4A.
Prima Facie Evidence of Hunting: Possession by any person of a loaded hunting implement while at or entering or leaving an area where a reasonable person would believe the objective was to take wildlife. Except that a person may, one hour before sunrise during the regulated deer and turkey firearms hunting seasons, be in possession of a loaded rifle or shotgun provided a live round is not in the chamber of the rifle or shotgun.
Loaded Hunting Implement: (A) a rifle or shotgun with a live round in the chamber or in a magazine which is attached to such rifle or shotgun, a muzzle-loaded firearm with the primer in place, or a flintlock firearm with powder in the pan, (B) a bow and arrow with an arrow notched on the bow, (C) a drawn crossbow with a bolt in place, or (D) a high velocity air gun that is charged with a projectile in the chamber or in a magazine that is attached to such air gun.
Hunting While Under the Influence or Impaired: No person shall engage in hunting while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, or both, or while impaired by the consumption of intoxicating liquor.
Hunting Near Roads, Buildings, People, and Domestic Animals: Hunting or shooting from or across the travelled portion of any public roadway is prohibited. Shooting toward any person, building, or domestic animal when within range is prohibited.
Motor Vehicle/ATV Use: Hunting or shooting from a motor vehicle is prohibited. The use of all-terrain vehicles is prohibited on state land (see exceptions under Hunting Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities).
Closed Season: No hunting and no training of dogs from October 13 through 7:00 a.m., EDT, on October 20, 2018, except for the hunting of rails in marshes; waterfowl hunting; legal deer, turkey, and coyote hunting; licensed private shooting preserves operating under the provisions of Sec. 26-48; field trials held under the provisions of Sec. 26-51 and Sec. 26-52; the training of hunting dogs under the provisions of Sec. 26-49 of the General Statutes; and the training of hunting dogs on any area approved by the department for this purpose.
Electronic Calling Devices: The use of electronic calling devices is prohibited when hunting migratory birds (except crows) and turkeys. Electronic calling devices can be used when hunting crows, coyotes, other small game and deer.
Hunting Prohibited in Westport: By special legislation, the town of Westport has prohibited hunting within town borders.
The holder of a firearms hunting license may use rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, handguns, and high-velocity air guns subject to certain restrictions.
500 Foot Zone: It is prohibited to hunt with, shoot, or carry a loaded firearm within 500 feet of any building occupied by people or domestic animals, or used for storage of flammable material, or within 250 feet of such buildings when waterfowl hunting in tidal areas from land shooting positions or from floating blinds anchored adjacent to land or from rock positions, unless written permission for lesser distances is obtained from the owner and carried. Landowners, their spouse, and lineal descendants are exempt from this restriction, providing any building involved is their own. The 500 foot zone does not apply to bowhunting.
Firearms in Vehicles: It is prohibited to carry a loaded firearm in a vehicle. This does not apply to persons with handguns who have a valid Connecticut permit to carry pistols or revolvers.
Rifles and Handguns: Rifles or handguns using ammunition larger or heavier than .22 caliber rimfire are prohibited on state-owned land. Rifles or handguns of any caliber are prohibited on State-leased and Permit-Required Hunting Areas (see Permit-Required and State-Leased Hunting Area sections for exceptions). The use of rifles or handguns to hunt turkeys, waterfowl, or any other federally regulated migratory game bird (except crows) is prohibited.
Hunting on private land with ammunition larger than .22 caliber rimfire during the private land shotgun/rifle deer season is prohibited unless the user has a valid private land deer season permit and landowner consent form. The use of rifles or revolvers to hunt deer is subject to additional restrictions (see Private Land Shotgun/Rifle Season). The use of ammunition larger or heavier than .22 caliber rimfire to hunt raccoon or opossum at night is prohibited. A person using a handgun for hunting must possess any required state/town permits to carry. Note: it is legal to use .17 caliber rimfire firearms in all situations where it is legal to use .22 caliber rimfire firearms.
Shotguns: The possession of shotgun ammunition larger or heavier than #2 shot is prohibited on state-owned lands, state-leased lands, and Permit-Required Hunting Areas, at all times, and is prohibited on private lands during the Private Land Shotgun/Rifle Deer Season (see Permit-Required and State-Leased Hunting Area sections for exceptions). However, on any lands, waterfowlers hunting from a boat, blind, or stationary position may use up to and including size BB steel shot. The possession of lead shot while hunting waterfowl, rails, and coots is prohibited. The use of shotguns larger than 10-gauge for hunting waterfowl is prohibited. Shotguns must not be capable of holding more than 3 shells (2 in the magazine, 1 in the chamber) when hunting waterfowl, other migratory birds (except crows), deer on state lands, and turkey. The exception is that unplugged shotguns are legal to use during the September Canada goose season. The use of shotguns to hunt deer or turkey is subject to additional restrictions (see Deer Hunting and Turkey Hunting).
Muzzleloaders: During Muzzleloader Deer Seasons, a muzzleloader means a rifle or shotgun, .45 caliber minimum, incapable of firing a self-contained cartridge, using powder and a single projectile loaded separately at the muzzle end. Shotgun converters and telescopic sights are legal. Restrictions on the use of smoothbore muzzleloaders for hunting small game and waterfowl are the same as those for shotguns. Restrictions on the use of muzzleloading rifles for hunting small game are the same as those for rifles, except that on state-owned land, up to a .36 caliber muzzleloading rifle using round ball ammunition only may be used. A percussion/in-line muzzleloader with a cap or primer installed, an electronic muzzleloader with a battery connected or a flintlock muzzleloader having powder in the pan are considered loaded firearms.
Bowhunter Education: All bowhunters must show proof when purchasing a small game/deer archery permit that they have completed the CE/FS bowhunting course (since 1982) or its equivalent from another state or country. If you have previously purchased a 2002, or later, Connecticut bowhunting license you have already provided such proof.
Legal Bows and Arrows: For the purposes of hunting deer and turkey, legal bows include long, recurved, or compound bows with a minimum draw weight of 40 pounds and crossbows. Mechanical string release devices are permitted. Projectiles coated with any drug, poison or tranquilizing substance are prohibited.
Crossbows: The use of crossbows for hunting deer, turkey and all other species is permitted. Legal crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds and permanent fixed rifle type stock with a functional mechanical safety device. Adjustable crossbow stocks are permitted, but folding stocks are not. The bolt (arrow) length must be at least 18 inches, excluding the broadhead. Crossbows are considered loaded when fully drawn with a bolt in place. Telescopic sights are permitted.
Legal arrowheads for hunting deer and turkey must have at least two blades and be at least 7/8 inch wide at its widest point. Arrowheads that are designed to open on impact are legal provided they meet the above requirement.
Possession of a Firearm: Possession of a firearm while bowhunting for deer is prohibited.
Definition of Bag Limits
Daily Limit: the number of a particular species that may be taken by an individual during a day (from 12:01 a.m. to 12:00 midnight). While in the field, a hunter may not have in their possession more than the daily bag limit for a species.
Possession in Storage: the number of a particular non-migratory game species kept in storage may not exceed the cumulative daily bag limits for that species since the season began, and at no time can it exceed the season limit. The possession in storage of migratory game species such as waterfowl, woodcock, snipe, coots and rail may not exceed the federally regulated possession limit.
Season Limit: the total number of a particular species that may be taken during an open season.
Private Land Permission
All hunters are required to have permission from the landowner when hunting on private lands. Verbal permission for the hunting of species other than deer and turkey is sufficient.
Deer Hunters and Turkey Hunters: must have written permission of the landowner for the current season on official DEEP forms. Copies of the form do not have to be sent to DEEP, but must be carried while hunting. Old forms, still available at some town clerks and DEEP offices, or a photocopy of the official form found in this guide must be used. Forms may also be downloaded from the DEEP website (www.ct.gov/deep/hunting). The form must be dated for the current season, indicate the hunting implement types authorized by the landowner, and have the landowner’s original signature. A landowner must have a minimum of 10 acres to authorize the use of a rifle or revolver for deer hunting. There is no minimum acreage requirement for using a shotgun, muzzleloader or archery equipment.
Landowners and Lineal Descendants: are exempt from the requirement to carry written permission while hunting deer or turkey on their own land.
Landowner Liability Release
Connecticut law provides protection from liability to landowners who allow, without a fee, the recreational use of their property.
Sec. 52-557g. Owner of land available to public for recreation not liable, when: (b) Except as provided in section 52-557h, an owner of land who, either directly or indirectly, invites or permits without charge, rent, fee, or other commercial service any person to use such land or part thereof for recreational purposes does not thereby:
- Make any representation that the premises are safe for any purpose;
- Confer upon such person who enters or uses such land for such recreational purposes the legal status of an invitee or licensee to whom a duty of care is owed;
- Assume responsibility for or incur liability for any injury to person or property caused by an act or omission of such owner.
Sec. 52-557h. Owner liable when: Nothing in sections 52-557f to 52-557i, inclusive, limits in any way the liability of any owner of land which otherwise exists;
- For willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity;
- For injury suffered in any case where the owner of land charges the person or persons who enter or go on the land for the recreational use thereof, except that, in the case of land leased to the state or subdivision thereof, any consideration received by the owner for such lease shall not be deemed a charge within the meaning of this section.
During the period September 1 through the last day of February, hunters (including persons hunting with deer damage permits) are required to wear at least 400 square inches of fluorescent orange clothing above the waist and visible from all sides. An orange hat, in addition to a coat or vest, is strongly recommended.
The following hunters are exempt from this requirement:
- Archery Deer Hunters hunting from September 15 to November 13 and from January 1 to January 31.
- Archery Deer Hunters hunting during the November 14 to December 31 time period may remove their fluorescent orange clothing when hunting from an elevated stand at least 10 feet above the ground.
- Firearms and Archery Turkey Hunters
- Waterfowl Hunters while hunting from boats, duck blinds, or other stationary positions.
- Crow Hunters while hunting from a blind or a stationary position.
- Coyote and Fox Hunters when hunting from a blind except during firearms deer seasons and fall firearms turkey seasons.
- Raccoon and Opossum Hunters when hunting from ½ hour after sunset until ½ hour before sunrise.
- Landowners while hunting deer only on their own property. Family members are still required to wear fluorescent orange.
In 2014, Public Act 14-201 established a 50% reduction in all license fees, as well as a 50% reduction in hunting and sport fishing permit, tag, and stamp fees, for resident 16 and 17 year old hunters and anglers. In 2016, Public Act 16-27 extended the 50% fee reduction for permits and stamps to encompass hunters and anglers less than 18 years of age. For more details, check the appropriate sections of this guide to find out the license, permit, and stamp fees for resident 12 to 17 year old hunters.
License Suspension—Remedial Hunter Ed Requirement
In accordance with Connecticut General Statute 26-61, payment of a fine, forfeiture of a bond, or a plea or judgment of guilty for fishing, hunting, or trapping violations may result in the suspension of all sport fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses and privileges.
To comply with the provisions of C.G.S. Section 26-31(g), any person having their hunting license suspended for the following safety violations will be required to complete a remedial hunter education course prior to reinstatement of such license following the suspension period. Completion of a CE/FS course is required if the hunter under suspension has not been previously certified.
- Sec. 26-61 as amended by PA 16-160: Suspension of license, registration, or permit. Restoration. Fines.
- Sec. 26-62: Hunting related injuries/death to any person, animal other than a wild animal or damage to property of another
- Sec. 26-73: Hunting on Sunday (Exception: archery deer hunters on private land in specified Deer Management Zones)
- Sec. 26-74: Use of motor vehicle in hunting
- Sec. 26-91: Taking of migratory birds—violations for hunting before or after legal hunting hours
- Sec. 53-204: Hunting from a public highway
- Sec. 53-205: Loaded weapon in a motor vehicle
- Sec. 53-206d as amended by PA 16-152: Carrying of firearm while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drug
- Sec. 53a-217e: Negligent Hunting
Regulations — Behavior and Actions of Hunters
- Section 26-66-1:
- (c) hunting before or after legal hours
- (d) hunting within 500′ of occupied buildings
- (e) discharging toward people/animals or across public roadways
- Section 26-86a-6:
- (a) hunting before or after legal hours
Individuals wishing to participate in the sport of falconry must obtain a Connecticut falconry permit prior to obtaining a falconry bird. Falconers are required to abide by the same regulations that pertain to other hunters who hunt small game and waterfowl. Falconers must wear fluorescent orange and must obtain the same licenses, permits, and stamps required for small game and waterfowl hunting. A non-resident falconry permit is required for any non-resident practicing falconry in Connecticut. To obtain application materials, visit the DEEP website (www.ct.gov/deep/hunting).
DEALING WITH HARASSMENT
All hunters, regardless of where they hunt, should be prepared for the possibility of being harassed. Your behavior if you are harassed is extremely important. Maintain your composure and do not retaliate. If you are interviewed by the media, project a positive image.
Connecticut has a hunter harassment law that protects the rights of sportsmen. If you decide to press charges, make sure you have a strong case by: (1) making it evident that the antagonists are following you by going in several directions, (2) asking your antagonists why they are harassing you, (3) being able to identify and describe the individuals, (4) taking the license numbers of their vehicles if possible, and (5) not responding with violence or threatening a protester with bodily harm.
Public Shooting Ranges
Trap or target shooting on any state property or public hunting area is prohibited unless the area is a designated shooting range. Four state-owned public shooting ranges are available for target shooting, patterning shotguns, and sighting in rifles.
Wooster Mountain State Park Cooperative Shooting Range: Wooster Mountain State Park, Danbury. Operated by the Danbury Shooting Sports Association. Located on Rte. 7, approximately two miles south of the Danbury Mall. Clay target shooting allowed. Call 203-794-9821 or check the Wooster Mountain Shooting Range website (www.woostermountain.com) for the daily time and fee schedule.
High Rock Cooperative Shooting Range: Naugatuck State Forest, Naugatuck. Operated by the High Rock Shooting Association, Inc. Range hours: Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Sunday, 12:00 noon – 5:00 p.m. Range fee: $5.00 for the first hour and $5.00 per hour thereafter. No clay targets allowed. State pistol permit required to shoot handguns. Call 203-720-1101 or check the High Rock Shooting Association website (www.highrockrange.com) for information.
Glastonbury Public Shooting Range: Meshomasic State Forest, Glastonbury. Entry at Toll Gate Road. Range hours: Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m, depending on the availability of range staff. Two hour periods. Paper targets only, clay targets not allowed. No range fees. Reservations can be obtained through the Online Sportsmen Licensing System (www.ct.gov/deep/sportsmenlicensing) for shooters 18 and older. The individual requesting the reservation must have a CT Conservation ID number in order to access the online system. Reservations may also be made on Mondays only from 9:00 AM until 9:00 PM by calling the Range Reservation line at 860-424-3737
Nye Holman Field Archery Range: Nye Holman State Forest, Tolland. Entrance on South River Road. Field course available to public at all times unless posted otherwise. Field points only, arrows with broadheads are strictly prohibited.
FUNDAMENTAL RULES FOR SAFE GUN HANDLING: ACTT
The most common causes of hunting-related shooting incidents are failure to identify the target, shooter swinging on game, and careless handling of a firearm. ALWAYS follow these rules for safe gun handling:
- Assume the firearm is LOADED.
- Control the MUZZLE; keep the MUZZLE pointed in a safe direction.
- Trigger: keep your finger off the TRIGGER until ready to shoot.
- Target: be sure of the TARGET and what lies beyond.