General Hunting Regulations
Massachusetts Hunting & Fishing
Archery: Poisoned arrows, or explosive tips, including firearms cartridges affixed to the end of arrows in such a way as they discharge upon impact with the target, or bows drawn by mechanical means, except for crossbows as permitted, are prohibited. Mechanical releases are permitted. Arrows used on deer, bear, or turkey must have well-sharpened steel broadhead blades not less than ⅞ inches in width. Expanding broadheads are legal for deer, bear, and turkey hunting. All bows, except permitted crossbows, used for hunting (recurve, long, and compound) must have a draw weight of at least 40 lbs. at 28 inches or at peak draw. No arrows may be released within 150 feet of, or across, any state or hard-surfaced highway, and hunting is prohibited within 500 feet of any dwelling or building in use, unless authorized by the owner or occupant thereof.
A firearms license (FID or LTC card) is not required for bowhunting. Archers shall not possess firearms on their person or use dogs while hunting deer. (See deer regulations) Archers may hunt with a bow and arrow during the shotgun and primitive firearms deer seasons, but must comply with all regulations of those seasons, including the hunter orange and Primitive Firearms Stamp requirements. Crossbows may be used by certain permanently disabled persons by permit only. For regulations and an application, visit mass.gov/masswildlife or contact MassWildlife at (508) 389-6300.
Blaze Orange: No person shall hunt during the pheasant or quail season on WMAs where pheasant or quail are stocked without wearing a “blaze orange” cap or hat except while night-hunting for raccoons or opossums, or while hunting waterfowl from a blind or boat. During the period when it is legal to hunt deer with a shotgun, all hunters, except waterfowl hunters on coastal waters hunting within a blind or from a boat, must wear, in a conspicuous manner on chest, back, and head, a minimum of 500 square inches of “blaze orange” clothing or material. During the primitive firearms season, all deer hunters must comply with the 500 sq. inch blaze orange requirement.
Hunting Dogs: May be trained at any time (except during the shotgun season for deer) provided that only pistols or revolvers and blank cartridges are used or possessed. No sporting or hunting license is necessary. During the shotgun deer season, dogs may be used for waterfowl hunting on coastal waters only. Hunting bear or bobcat with dogs, or training dogs on those species, is prohibited.
Tree stands: Persons must have written permission of the landowner (on either public or private lands) to construct or use any tree stand which is fastened to a tree by nails, bolts, wire, or other fasteners that intrude through the bark into the wood of the tree, or that is fastened or erected in any manner and is emplaced for a period exceeding 30 days. This includes hang-on tree stands.
Please note that fishing and hunting laws on federal parks, refuges, and reservations, such as those controlled by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service or the National Park Service, may differ from state regulations. Contact the agency in question.
Possession: For hunting, resident citizens ages 15 and over must have a Firearms Identification Card (FID) to possess a low-capacity rifle or shotgun. A License To Carry (LTC) (age 21 and over) is needed to possess large capacity rifles and shotguns and all handguns. These gun licenses are issued by local Police Departments. Non-residents with a valid Massachusetts non-resident hunting license do not need an LTC or FID to possess or carry a rifle or shotgun, but must carry their firearms unloaded and in a case while traveling in their vehicles. Non-residents may not purchase guns or ammunition in Massachusetts. To obtain a non-resident License To Carry or a non-resident permit to possess handguns, contact the CHSB (Criminal History Systems Board), Firearms Support Services (see below). No gun license is needed by bow hunters, nor by minors 12-14 years old hunting with a duly licensed adult, nor for the possession of primitive rifles or shotguns as defined in MGL Ch. 140, Section 121, or their ammunition. However, an LTC or FID is required to purchase all ammunition including black powder and Pyrodex.
Caution: Massachusetts public safety laws define primitive arms differently from the laws and regulations of MassWildlife.
Travel: Rifles, shotguns, and muzzleloaders may not be carried on public ways unless the person is lawfully engaged in hunting. When transported in a motor vehicle, rifles, shotguns, and muzzleloaders must be unloaded and in an enclosed case. A large capacity firearm must be carried unloaded and contained within a locked trunk or in a locked case or other secure container.
Storage: State law requires that whenever a gun is not under your direct control, it must be kept in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock. Muzzleloaders are exempt from this requirement.
Penalties: License revoked for one year in addition to other penalties; fines of up to $1,000; restitutions; and/or 1 year in jail. Careless and negligent use of firearms: fines of up to $500 and/or 6 months imprisonment and loss of license for 5 years.
For more gun law information, contact the Massachusetts Firearms Records Bureau, 200 Arlington St., Suite 2200, Chelsea, MA 02150, (617) 660-4780 , or mass.gov/cjis.
Hunter harassment is against state law. Report violations to the Environmental Police (800) 632-8075 or to state or local police. Be prepared to provide a description of violators and/or a description and license plate number of the car.
Closed Hunting Seasons
Hunting seasons are closed throughout the year on all birds and mammals not mentioned herein or in Massachusetts Migratory Game Bird Regulations. During shotgun deer season all hunting seasons are closed except for deer, bear, coyote, and waterfowl.
The Youth Deer Hunt Day will be held on September 29, 2018. If hunting other game animals on this date, additional requirements must be followed: rifles and handguns are prohibited for hunting any game; dogs may not be used for hunting any game except for waterfowl hunting (ducks and geese) on coastal waters and salt marshes; all hunters must wear a minimum of 500 square inches of blaze orange on their chest, back, and head; waterfowl hunters are required to wear blaze orange in transit to and from their blind or boat.
Open Hunting Seasons
The following species may be taken year-round (except during shotgun deer season) by licensed hunters with no daily or seasonal bag limit: English sparrow, flying squirrel, red squirrel, chipmunk, porcupine, skunk, starling, weasel, woodchuck.
Hunting hours are from ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset on each day of open season except for:
- Rabbit, hare, fox, and coyote hunting, which close at midnight, except during the shotgun deer season when coyote hunting closes ½ hour after sunset.
- Spring turkey hunting.
- Raccoon and opossum hunting.
- WMA Reg. #10 which states that no person shall hunt before sunrise or after sunset on any WMA where pheasant or quail are stocked during the pheasant or quail season except for the hunting of raccoons and opossums between 9pm and 3am.
- Migratory game bird hunting, which is ½ hour before sunrise to sunset, except for Early Canada Goose season when hunting hours end 1/2 hour after sunset.
Upon harvesting a deer, bear, or turkey, you must immediately fill out and attach the paper tag from your permit or license to the carcass. Your game must remain intact (other than field dressing), with the harvest tag attached, until it is reported. Hunters may report their harvested game online or bring their game to an official check station. All deer harvested during the first week of the shotgun deer season must be brought to an official check station for biological data collection. For detailed information on Online Game Check, visit the Game Check Station page on mass.gov/dfw/checkstation. If you report your harvest online, you will be issued a confirmation number. You must write the number on the harvest tag attached to the carcass. The harvest tag with harvest report confirmation number must remain attached to the carcass until it is prepared for food or taxidermy purposes. Hunters who harvest a deer, bear, or turkey are required to check their game within 48 hours of killing the animal. For a complete list of official checking stations visit mass.gov/dfw/checkstation. For general furbearer checking requirements.
Landowners permitting use of their property for recreation without charging a fee are not liable for injuries to recreational users of the property except in cases of willful, wanton, or reckless conduct by the owner. (MGL Ch. 21 § 17C)
BEAR SPRAY /SELF-DEFENSE SPRAY
Laws pertaining to self-defense sprays are outlined in M.G.L. c. 140 § 122D. For information about carrying and using self-defense spray as a bear deterrent go to mass.gov/bears and click on FAQs.
NO HUNTING ON SUNDAY