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Big Game Hunting

Hunting Regulations Icon New York Hunting

Please read General Hunting Regulations first.

Maps Showing Season Dates

  • Legal Implements
  • Deer
  • Bear

Hunting Hours

Big game hunting hours are sunrise to sunset. Sunday hunting is allowed in all areas of New York. For hunting on Wildlife Management Areas or in state parks, confirm regulations for the area before hunting.

Legally Antlered Deer

A legally antlered deer must have at least one antler that is three inches or longer. Special regulations apply in the Antler Restriction areas.

Defining “Early” and “Late” Seasons for Deer and Bear

When you see the term “early” muzzleloader or bowhunting season, it means before the regular season for that particular zone. “Late” means after the regular season for that zone.

Manner of Taking

You may use decoys, calls and attractant scents to hunt big game. It is unlawful to:

  • Take big game while the deer or bear is in water
  • Possess a firearm of any description when bowhunting or accompanying a person bowhunting during special bowhunting seasons
  • Make, set or use salt licks or other attractants, whether block, liquid or powder that contains ANY amount of salt, upon lands inhabited by deer or bear at any time of year

It is unlawful to hunt big game with:

  • Dogs or aircraft of any kind, including drones
  • The aid of a pre-established bait pile

Long Island Opportunities

Deer hunting from October through December is bowhunting only. All hunting on state land requires a DEC permit. During the January firearms season, shotgun, muzzleloading firearms and longbows are the only legal hunting implements, and a special permit is required. For exact dates and permit information, send a self-addressed envelope to Deer Info, NYS DEC, SUNY, 50 Circle Rd., Stony Brook, NY 11790-3409 or visit our website,

Prohibited Sale of Deer or Bear Meat

It is unlawful to sell deer or bear meat. Other than meat, the parts (e.g., hides, skulls, claws, antlers, and taxidermy mounts or rugs) from legally taken and reported deer and bear may be sold. Bear gallbladders and bile shall not be possessed or sold unless a valid bear tag (original or copy) is attached.

Tagging, Transporting and Reporting

Deer and bear are in legal possession only when tagged with the appropriate portion of the hunting license, deer management permit or other license provided for that purpose.


After killing a deer or bear:

  1. Ensure that you select the proper tag for the harvested deer or bear.
  2. Immediately fill in all information and sign the carcass tag with ink that won’t erase.
  3. Immediately cut or mark the month and date of kill on the tag reverse.
  4. Write the date of kill on the Report Panel. This will help you when reporting a harvest.
  5. Attach the tag to the carcass upon arrival at your camp, home or vehicle. You do not need to attach the tag while it is being dragged or physically carried from the place of kill to a camp or point where transportation is available.
  6. Keep the tag with the meat once the carcass is cut up and prepared for consumption. Portions stored in separate locations require carcass tag copies as described in the “Transporting” section below.
  7. Report your harvest, online or by phone, within 7 days as required by law.

After you have used your last deer tag, you may help others hunt deer. You may not carry a firearm, crossbow or bow, and you must have your hunting license with you.


Deer and bear may be transported either inside or outside the vehicle.

  • A deer carcass with head and deer carcass tag attached may be transported with the taker in attendance.
  • If someone other than the taker is transporting the deer or bear, the taker must attach an additional tag to the carcass and include the names and addresses of both the taker and the transporter. The tag may be handwritten in ink or typed on any paper.
  • All portions of deer or bear meat being transported by the taker shall be individually tagged and the tags shall include the name, address, big game DOC #, the date that the portions were cut, and the signature of the taker. Packaged or boxed portions of venison need only one tag and must be labeled “venison” on the outside of the box. If someone other than the taker is transporting the portions, an additional tag signed by the taker with the names and addresses of the consignee and taker are required for each portion.
  • Non-resident hunters: If your home state prohibits the importation of whole deer carcasses from New York, you will need to follow the above guidelines for transportation of individual or packaged portions of deer meat while in New York State.
  • A deer carcass minus the head may be transported as above, but evidence of the sex of the deer must be intact. The deer carcass tag must be affixed to the carcass, and a tag supplied by the taker must also be attached showing the name and address of the taxidermist where the head was sent.
  • Heads of male deer may be transported to a taxidermist only if a tag supplied by the taker is attached bearing the taker’s signature, address, big game DOC #, number of points on each antler and the name and address of the taxidermist.
  • The head of a doe with antlers that are 3 inches or more can be removed for mounting. Follow the same procedure that you would use for a buck you are having mounted (see above).


  • Deer may only be taken as shown on the map
  • Bear may only be taken as shown on the map

All areas

All hunters participating in the muzzleloading season must follow these requirements in addition to the other regulations in this guide.

  • Each resident hunter must have purchased a current-year muzzleloading privilege with his/her hunting license
  • Each non-resident hunter must have a current-year Muzzleloading License
  • Hunters shall not have in their possession, or be accompanied by a person who has in his or her possession, a bow or firearm other than the legal muzzleloading firearm or crossbow


Bowhunting opportunities include both the regular and bowhunting seasons. Residents may use a bow to take legally antlered deer and bear during the regular season provided the taker possesses both a valid hunting license and either a current bowhunting privilege or a valid bowhunter education certificate. Residents may take deer of either sex during the bowhunting season provided the taker possesses a hunting license and bowhunting privilege, or a Junior Bowhunting License. Non-residents should refer to information on hunting with a bow during regular and bowhunting seasons.

A bow may also be used to fill a deer management permit during any season in which bows may be used. In WMUs 4J and 8C, only bows may be used to take deer (either sex) during the regular and bowhunting seasons. Suffolk (WMU 1C) and Westchester counties (WMU 3S) have separate regular seasons restricted to bows for taking deer (either sex).

Crossbow Use

  • Crossbows may be used to take deer during:
    • Early and late muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone and late muzzleloader season in the Southern Zone using Bow/Muzz tags, DMPs, DMAP tags, or an unfilled Regular Big Game tag (late season only);
    • Regular firearms seasons using a Regular Big Game tag, DMPs, or DMAP tags.
  • Crossbows may also be used to take deer or bear during a portion of the early bow seasons, provided the hunter possesses the muzzleloading privilege
    • only bow/muzz tags, DMPs or DMAP tags may be used.
  • Crossbows may be used to take bear during early bear season, early muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone, regular firearms seasons in the Northern and Southern Zones, and the late muzzleloader season in the Southern Zone

Barbed Broadheads

Barbed broadheads are illegal for hunting big game. A barbed broadhead is one in which the angle formed between the trailing or rear edge of any blade and the shaft is less than 90 degrees. Broadheads with mechanical blades are legal if the blades DO NOT form a barb or hook when the arrow is pulled from the flesh of a deer or bear. (See graphic below).

Boning Out Deer

Some hunters who take a deer in remote areas may wish to bone out the deer and pack out the meat. This is lawful but you must retain the carcass tag with the boned out meat.

Would You Like to Receive Information About Hunting and Trapping in New York?

You are invited to join DEC’s e-mail service for information on hunting and trapping in New York State. Subscribers to this e-mail list will periodically receive information from DEC about wildlife biology, management, research, regulations and hunting.

To subscribe, visit our website at: and elect to receive updates on any of the listed topics.

Join today and become a more informed hunter.


Want Older Bucks
in New York?

It’s Your Choice!

Every year, tens of thousands of New York hunters enjoy the opportunity to bring home a handsome 2.5-year or older buck, while approximately half of the antlered bucks taken in the state annually are 1.5-years old (yearlings). Yearling bucks generally weigh about 20% less and have 50% smaller antlers than they would as 2.5-year-olds. The primary reason New York doesn’t have more older, larger-antlered bucks in the harvest is because many bucks are taken as yearlings. New York hunters can increase the likelihood of harvesting a 2.5-year-old or older buck simply by choosing to pass up shots at young bucks.

You Can Change Your Deer Hunting Experience

  • For NY bucks to grow bigger bodies and larger antlers, they simply need to age.
  • Older bucks are more challenging to hunt and yield more meat. These bucks create more rubs and scrapes and vocalize more–all things that enhance the deer-hunting experience.
  • As more hunters choose to pass up young bucks, all hunters will enjoy the opportunity to see and take more older bucks.
  • Many NY hunters are already choosing to pass up young bucks; you can too!

What Can You Do to See More Older Bucks?

  • Choose not to harvest young bucks.
  • Improve the habitat by creating young forest and enhancing natural forage and cover for deer. See
  • In many areas, take an antlerless deer instead of a young buck, which can help meet overall management goals and bring the deer population into better balance with the habitat, which, in turn, improves deer condition.
  • Work with your neighbors and hunting partners to cooperatively reduce harvest of young bucks, meet your antlerless harvest goals, and improve habitat conditions.

Learn the Differences between Young and Older Bucks

Nearly all bucks in New York with 4 total points or less are 1.5-years old. In central and western New York and other high-quality habitat areas, about 30% of yearlings can have 5–6 total antler points and 15% can have 7–8 total points. However, throughout New York, the overall size of yearling antlers is small, with antler spreads generally less than 12 inches — well inside the ear tips when the ears are in a relaxed or semi-alert position.

Yearling Buck

  • Body size similar to an adult doe
  • Legs look long and skinny
  • Often lacks clear muscle definition
  • Slender neck and body
  • Narrow, small-framed antlers, narrower than ear tips

Older Buck

  • Body larger than an adult doe
  • Thicker chest makes legs appear stockier
  • Well-defined shoulder and thigh muscles
  • Belly appears flat and sags a bit
  • Antlers on a 2.5-year-old are generally almost as wide as the ear tips, while a 3.5-year-old buck’s antlers may be wider than the ear tips

Note: There is considerable variation in antler growth within age classes of bucks, depending on local habitat quality.

After your shot, check the teeth of your deer to see whether it is a yearling or older buck. Visit for a guide to aging deer by tooth replacement and wear.

This information is provided to depict differences in age classes of bucks and guide hunters about harvest choices that best reflect their hunting interests.


Evaluating Buck Management Options

In recent years, there has been strong interest among some hunters in increasing the number of older, larger-antlered bucks in our deer population.

This could be accomplished through a variety of regulatory and non-regulatory approaches. However, New York hunters have divided opinions about deer hunting and many greatly value having the freedom to choose what type of buck to harvest. So, DEC worked with experts at Cornell University to evaluate various buck hunting strategies (e.g., mandatory antler point restrictions, one-buck bag limit, shorter regular season) in a way that accounted for regional variation in hunter values and the impacts on harvest, population management, and hunter satisfaction. The study indicated that regulatory changes are not appropriate or most compatible with hunter values at this time (please see: for more information). Thus, DEC concluded that the best approach is simply to encourage hunters to voluntarily pass up shots at young bucks.





Fixed Blade

Mechanical Blade
(shown in position of being
withdrawn from an animal)

Blades pivot forward
(no longer barbed)

Blades do not pivot
(remain barbed)

Future Big Game Season Dates

Northern Zone

Early Bear (some WMUs)

The first Saturday after the second Monday in September through the Friday
immediately preceding the early muzzleloading season

Early Bowhunting—Bear

The first Saturday after the second Monday in September through the Friday
immediately preceding the regular season

Early Bowhunting—Deer

September 27 through the Friday immediately preceding the regular season

Early Muzzleloading—Deer and Bear

7 consecutive days beginning on the first Saturday after Columbus Day

Regular—Deer and Bear

44 consecutive days beginning on the second Saturday after Columbus Day

Late Bow and Muzzleloading—Deer

7 consecutive days immediately following the regular season

Southern Zone

Early Bear (some WMUs)

16 consecutive days beginning on the first Saturday after Labor Day

Early Bowhunting—Deer and Bear

October 1 through the Friday immediately preceding the regular season

Regular—Deer and Bear

23 days beginning the third Saturday of November

Late Bow and Muzzleloading—Deer and Bear

9 consecutive days immediately following the regular season

Westchester County
(WMU 3S)

Regular—Deer and Bear (bowhunting only)

October 1 through December 31

Suffolk County
(WMU 1C)

Regular—Deer (bowhunting only)

October 1 through December 31

Special Firearms Season—Deer

The first Monday following the first Saturday in January, through January 31