General Hunting Regulations
Massachusetts Gun Laws
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 permits 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 the DFW.
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.
Hunter harassment is against state law. Report violations to the Mass. 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 season throughout the year on all birds and mammals not mentioned herein or in Massachusetts Migratory Bird Regulations published in September. During shotgun deer season all hunting seasons are closed except for deer, coyote and waterfowl.
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:
- Hunting for rabbit, hare, fox and coyote which closes at midnight.
- 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 (Oct. 15–Nov. 26) except for the hunting of raccoons and opossums between 9pm and 3am.
- Migratory birds ½ hour before sunrise to sunset.
Game Check Stations
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 check stations visit the DFW website . See general furbearer checking requirements.
Massachusetts Gun Laws
For more information on Massachusetts gun laws, contact the CHSB, Firearms Support Services, 200 Arlington St., Suite 2200, Chelsea, MA 02150, tel. (617) 660-4780.
Any landowner permitting use of his or her property for recreation without charging a fee is 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)
Transport of Fish and Wildlife
It is a violation of Federal Law to transport illegally taken fish or wildlife across state lines. For additional information contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, (617) 889-6616.
Accidents: All hunting-related injuries or deaths MUST be reported to state or local police and to the environmental police.
Antlerless deer permit: Required to take antlerless deer in any zone during any deer season, in addition to a hunting or sporting license. See Deer Regulations for more details.
Archery: Poisoned arrows, or explosive tips, or bows drawn by mechanical means, are prohibited except for crossbows as permitted. 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. Recurve or long bows for deer, bear or turkey hunting must have at least 40 lbs. pull at 28 inches or at peak draw weight for compound bows. 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 owner or occupant thereof.
A firearms license (FID or LTC card) is not required for bowhunting. Archers, while hunting deer, shall not possess firearms on their person or use dogs. (See Deer Regulations.) Archers may hunt with a bow and arrow during the shotgun season and muzzleloader season but must comply with all other shotgun or muzzleloader season regulations. Crossbows may be used by certain permanently handicapped persons by permit only. For regulations and an application, visit www.mass.gov/masswildlife
or contact DFW at (508) 389-6300.
Hunter Orange: No person shall hunt during the pheasant or quail season on public shooting grounds or WMAs where pheasant or quail are stocked without wearing a “hunter 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 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 “hunter orange” clothing or material. During the muzzleloader season, all deer hunters must comply with the 500 sq. inch hunter orange requirement.
Hunting Dogs: May be trained at any time (except during the shotgun season on deer) provided that only pistol or revolver and blank cartridges are used or possessed. No sporting or hunting license necessary. During the shotgun season on deer, 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.
Treestands: Must have written permission of landowner to construct or use any treestand held in place with nails, bolts, etc., or in place for more than 30 days.
- Must have a valid Massachusetts non-resident hunting license in order to hunt.
- Must show a Basic Hunter Education course certificate or previous license from any state or Canadian province in order to purchase a Massachusetts hunting license. Non-resident minors (ages 15–17), see Minors. Each license includes a $5.00 charge for a Wildlife Conservation Stamp.
- Must obtain the same stamps and permits as residents. Permit and stamp fees are the same for residents and non-residents. Non-resident hunters must also obtain a Massachusetts H.I.P. number for hunting migratory game birds.
- May not purchase ammunition in Massachusetts (including materials used in black powder firearms).
- While travelling into or through Massachusetts must have their firearms unloaded and enclosed in a case.
- No gun license is needed to possess or transport long guns.
- Must contact the Massachusetts Criminal History Systems Board (CHSB) Firearms Support Services, 200 Arlington St., Suite 2200, Chelsea, MA 02150, tel. (617) 660-4780 for information on handgun permits.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.