Laws & Regulations
Massachusetts Hunting & Fishing
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 30, 2017. 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 (see Sunrise-Sunset table, page 11) 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 (see page 32).
- Raccoon and opossum hunting (see page 42).
- WMA Reg. #10 (page 23) 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.
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 and prepared for food or taxidermy purposes. Hunters may report their harvested game online or bring their game to an official check station. All deer harvested during the 2-week 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. A complete list of official checking stations is on MassWildlife website mass.gov/dfw/checkstation. For general furbearer checking requirements.
Ten Basic Rules of Firearm Safety
- Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
- Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Keep the action open and unloaded. Keep the safety “on” and your finger off the trigger.
- Be sure the barrel of the firearm is clear of obstructions. Check the chamber and magazine every time you pick it up. Only carry and use ammunition appropriate for your firearm.
- Never point a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot. Agree to safe fields of fire for yourself and hunting companions and never swing beyond your area.
- Positively identify your target and what lies beyond. Make sure there is an adequate backstop when hunting or target practicing.
- Unload your firearm when climbing a tree, crossing a fence, jumping a ditch or traversing slippery or steep terrain. Never pull a firearm toward you by the muzzle.
- Be aware of the potential for ricochet. Never shoot at a hard, flat surface or water.
- Unload firearms when not in use, leaving the action open. Transport and carry firearms unloaded and cased when traveling to and from the field or target practice
- Store firearms and ammunition separately in locked compartments and beyond the reach of children.
- Never use alcohol or drugs that can impair your judgment before or while shooting.
It is illegal to operate any motorized vehicle on any WMA or other property owned or controlled by MassWildlife; and on most state park and state forest lands. It is illegal to operate these vehicles on private lands without the written permission of the landowner. Age restrictions apply; operators under the age of 18 must take a safety course. For more information, contact the Massachusetts Environmental Police at 1-800-632-8075, or go to mass.gov/ole and click on the Safety Bureau link.
A portion of the revenue from vehicle registration is used to support legal riding opportunities; to find a list of State Parks and Forests that allow OHV operation visit: mass.gov/dcr/orv.
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.