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General Hunting Regulations

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The following are general hunting regulations. Specific regulations for various game species are in the Small Game, Big Game and Trapping sections of this booklet.


Air gun—a firearm that uses spring or compressed air (not gunpowder) to propel a single projectile that is .17 caliber or larger and produces a muzzle velocity of at least 600 feet per second. You may use a smooth or rifled bore.

Bow—includes long (stick), compound, or recurve bow.

Crossbow—consists of a bow, a string, and either compound or recurve limbs with minimum width of 17 inches (tip of limbs, uncocked), mounted on a stock. The stock shall have a trigger with a working safety that holds the string and limbs under tension until released. It shall have a minimum overall length from the butt of the stock to the front of the limbs of 24 inches and be able to launch a minimum 14 inch arrow/bolt, not including the legal arrowhead. It shall have a draw weight of 100 to 200 pounds.

Firearm—all guns, including handguns, rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders and BB and pellet guns.

Handgun—is any pistol or revolver intended to be aimed and fired with one hand, and having a barrel length not exceeding 16 inches.

To hunt—means to pursue, shoot, kill or capture (other than trap) wildlife and includes all lesser acts that disturb or worry wildlife whether or not they result in taking. Hunting also includes all acts to assist another person in taking wildlife.

Motor vehicle—means every vehicle or device operated by any power other than muscle power including but not limited to automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, tractors, trailers, motorboats, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles whether operated on or off public highways.

Muzzleloading firearm—is a firearm loaded through the muzzle, shooting a single projectile and having a minimum bore of .44 inch.

Public highway—means any road maintained by a state, county or town. A private road is one maintained by a person or corporation.

Rifle—is a firearm with a barrel length of 16 inches or more with rifling in the barrel that uses metallic cartridges.

Shotgun—is a firearm with a barrel length of 18 inches or more that uses shells that are nonmetallic except for the base.

To take—means to pursue, shoot, hunt, kill, capture, trap, snare or net wildlife and game—and all lesser acts that disturb or worry wildlife—or to place or use any net or other device commonly used to take wildlife.

To trap—means to take, kill or capture wildlife with traps, deadfalls and other devices commonly used to take wildlife, including the shooting or killing of lawfully trapped animals. It also includes all related activities such as placing, setting, staking or checking traps or assisting another person with these activities.

Manner Of Taking

It is illegal to take or hunt wildlife:

  • while in or on a motor vehicle (except by special permit—see permit info).
  • with the aid of a vehicle’s lights.
  • on or from any public road.
  • with any firearm equipped with a silencer.
  • with any firearm which continues to fire as long as the trigger is held back (an automatic firearm).
  • with any semi-automatic firearm with a capacity to hold more than 6 rounds, except:
  1. firearms using .22 or .17 caliber rimfire ammunition, or
  2. firearms altered to reduce their capacity to no more than 6 shells at one time in the magazine and chamber combined, or
  3. autoloading pistols with a barrel length of less than eight inches.
  • with a spear.
  • with a bow equipped with any mechanical device which is attached to the bow (other than the bowstring) for drawing, holding or releasing the bowstring except for a person with a physical disability in possession of a Modified Longbow Authorization (compound bows are legal).
  • with a spear gun or modified crossbow except for a person with a physical disability in possession of a Modified Crossbow Permit.
  • with an arrow with an explosive head or shaft.
  • with any device designed or intended to deliver drugs to an animal.

Baiting—It is illegal to hunt with the aid of bait or over any baited area when hunting big game, upland game birds, turkey or waterfowl.

Artificial lights—It is illegal to hunt deer or bear with the aid of any artificial light including laser sights.


You may use lights to observe wildlife under the following conditions:

  • You are not within 500 feet of a home or farm building, unless you have permission from the owner or lessee (when looking for deer or bear).
  • While in or on a motor vehicle and operating a light and no person has a firearm, crossbow or bow unless:
  • the firearm or crossbow is taken down or the bow is unstrung, or
  • the firearm or crossbow is securely fastened in a case, or
  • the firearm or crossbow is locked in the trunk of the vehicle, or
  • the firearm is a handgun.

For information on hunting furbearers at night, see page.

Possession Of Firearms And Crossbows

During the open season for deer, it is illegal to:

  • possess shotgun shells loaded with slug or ball, unless holding a valid license (including carcass tags) or permit to take deer or bear, or
  • possess a rifle larger than a .22 rimfire (muzzleloading rifles excepted) in areas where rifles are banned for taking deer.

It is illegal to use a crossbow for hunting, or to carry one afield in any of the ‘bowhunting only’ Wildlife Management Units.

In Westchester County and on Long Island, it is illegal to use any rifle for hunting, or to carry one afield.

In the Northern Zone, it is illegal to carry a rifle larger than . 22 rimfire or a shotgun loaded with slug, ball or buckshot afield if accompanied by a dog, except when coyote hunting.

Possession of handguns in New York requires a NYS Pistol Permit. New York does not recognize permits issued by other states.

Transportation Of Firearms

A person may not transport or possess a shotgun, rifle or crossbow in or on a motor vehicle, including any all terrain vehicle, unless the firearm is unloaded in both chamber and magazine or the crossbow is unloaded or taken down. A loaded firearm may be carried or possessed in a motorboat while legally hunting migratory game birds.

A muzzleloader is considered unloaded when the cap is off the nipple, the primer is removed, the primer powder is removed from the flintlock pan, or the battery is not in an electric-fired muzzleloader.

A crossbow is considered unloaded when the arrow/bolt is removed, regardless whether the crossbow is cocked or uncocked. A crossbow is considered taken down when the limbs have been removed from the stock or securely fastened in a case, or locked in a trunk.

Discharge Of Firearms, Crossbows And Bows

It is illegal to discharge a firearm, crossbow or bow:

  • so that the load or arrow/bolt passes over any part of a public highway.
  • within 500 feet of any school, playground, or an occupied factory or church.
  • within 500 feet of a dwelling, farm building or structure in occupation or use unless you own it, lease it, are an immediate member of the family, an employee, or have the owner’s consent.

You may hunt waterfowl over water within 500 feet of a dwelling or public structure as long as neither are within 500 feet in the direction you are shooting.

Protected And Unprotected Wildlife

In New York State, nearly all species of wildlife are protected. Most species, including endangered species, songbirds, hawks and owls are fully protected and may not be taken. The few unprotected species include porcupine, red squirrel, woodchuck, English sparrow, starling, rock pigeon and monk parakeet. Unprotected species may be taken at any time without limit. However, a hunting license is required to hunt unprotected wildlife with a bow or firearm.

Game species may be taken only during their open seasons and as summarized in this Guide. Persons taking wildlife on licensed shooting preserves must comply with regulations governing those shooting preserves.

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