Big Game Hunting
Big game hunting hours are sunrise to sunset (see Sunrise & Sunset). Sunday hunting is allowed in all areas of New York. For hunting on state lands confirm regulations for the area before hunting.
Legally Antlered Deer
A legally antlered deer must have at least one antler that is 3" or longer. Antlerless deer are those without antlers (does and fawns) and deer with antlers less than 3" long. Special regulations apply in the Antler Restriction areas. See Big Game Boundary Description/Legal Implements for details.
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.
Feeding & Baiting Prohibited
Intentional feeding or baiting of deer or bear is prohibited at all times of year. This includes use of mineral blocks or powders. Exempt activities include agricultural plantings, wildlife food plots, and cutting of trees or brush to provide winter forage.
CWD Import Restrictions
Hunters are prohibited from returning to New York with whole carcasses or intact heads of deer, elk, moose, or caribou that they harvest anywhere outside of New York. Only the deboned meat, cleaned skull cap, antlers with no flesh adhering, raw or processed cape or hide, cleaned teeth or lower jaw, and finished taxidermy products of CWD-susceptible animals may be brought into New York. See Chronic Wasting Disease for more information.
Manner of Taking
Big game may be taken with centerfire rifles, shotguns, handguns, muzzleloading firearms, bows, and crossbows during appropriate seasons and in areas designated (see maps, Big Game Boundary Description/Legal Implements and Deer Hunting Season Dates). 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 bowhunting seasons.
- Possess a firearm other than a muzzleloading firearm when hunting deer or bear or when accompanying a person hunting deer or bear during a muzzleloading season.
- 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.
In addition to the general hunting regulations for manner of take listed on General Hunting Regulations, it is unlawful to hunt big game with:
- Dogs or aircraft of any kind, including drones.
- The aid of a pre-established bait pile.
- A firearm or bow aided by any artificial light or a laser that projects a beam toward the target (use of illuminated reticle scopes, red dot scopes, or illuminated sight pins is allowed, provided no light is projected toward the target).
- An autoloading firearm with a capacity of more than 6 shells (one which requires that the trigger be pulled separately for each shot), except an autoloading pistol with a barrel length of less than 8 inches.
- A firearm using rimfire ammunition.
- A shotgun of less than 20 gauge or any shotgun loaded with shells other than those carrying a single projectile (rifling in the barrel or choke is allowed).
- A bow with a draw weight less than 35 lbs.
- Arrows with barbed broadheads; arrowheads less than 7/8 inches at the widest point or with less than 2 sharp cutting edges.
- Double-barreled muzzleloaders or percussion cap revolvers during the special muzzleloading seasons.
- An air gun or air bow.
Deer Management Focus Area
See www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/82382.html for information on the Deer Management Focus Area in Tompkins County. Expanded antlerless bag limits and a January antlerless season in this area provide additional opportunities for hunters and help to reduce deer-related conflicts.
All hunting on state-managed land requires a DEC permit. The archery deer season runs from October through January. There is a January firearms season during which shotguns and muzzleloading firearms can be used. Firearms users must obtain a landowner’s endorsement to hunt during this season, and may also need a town permit. For more information on LI hunting opportunities visit our website, http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/8373.html.
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.
Meat Unfit for Consumption
If a deer, bear, or turkey is found to be unfit for human consumption, a special permit may be issued that allows the hunter to take another deer, bear, or turkey, provided the season is still open. The entire animal, including the antlers, must be forfeited to get a permit. A permit will not be issued if the meat is unfit due to hunter neglect. Call a Regional Wildlife or Law Enforcement office listed on Important Numbers.
Deer and bear are in legal possession only when tagged with the appropriate carcass tag, valid for that season, implement, and sex of animal. See Deer Tag Descriptions for clear tag descriptions.
Hunters who take a deer in remote areas may wish to bone it out and pack out the meat. This is lawful but you must retain the carcass tag with the boned out meat.
Tagging and Reporting
After killing a deer or bear:
- Ensure that you select the proper tag for the harvested deer or bear.
- Immediately fill in all information and sign the carcass tag with ink that won’t erase.
- Immediately cut or mark the month and date of kill on the tag reverse.
- Write the date of kill on the report panel. This will help you when reporting a harvest.
- 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.
- Report your harvest online, by phone or mobile app within 7 days as required by law. See Game Harvest Reporting for details.
After you have used your last deer tag, you may help others hunt deer. You must have your hunting license with you, and you may not shoot or attempt to shoot a deer.
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).
Muzzleloading firearms may be used during the muzzleloader and regular seasons, and during the January Firearms season on Long Island.
- Hunters must possess a current muzzleloader privilege to participate during the muzzleloader seasons.
- The muzzleloader privilege is not needed for hunters to use a muzzleloading firearm during regular seasons.
- Muzzleloaders may not be used in WMUs 3S, 4J, 8C, and may only be used in 1C during the Special Firearms season in January.
- Bow/Muzz either-sex or antlerless-only tags may not be used during the regular seasons, except in WMUs 1C and 3S.
- Hunters participating in the muzzleloader season 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 a legal muzzleloading firearm or crossbow.
Bowhunting opportunities include both the bowhunting and regular seasons:
- Hunters must possess a current bowhunting or junior bowhunting privilege to participate during the bowhunting seasons.
- The bowhunting privilege is not required to hunt with a bow during regular seasons, but hunters must possess proof of eligibility (either a valid bowhunter education certificate or prior bowhunting license).
- Bow/Muzz either-sex or antlerless-only tags may not be used during the regular seasons except by junior bowhunters or in WMUs 1C and 3S.
- In WMUs 4J and 8C, only bows may be used to take deer during the regular and bowhunting seasons.
- Suffolk (WMU 1C) and Westchester (WMU 3S) counties have separate regular seasons restricted to bows for taking deer.
Crossbow opportunities include portions of bow seasons in addition to muzzleloader and regular seasons:
- Crossbows may be used to take deer during muzzleloader seasons and a portion of the early bow seasons (see maps on Deer Hunting Season Dates and Bear Hunting) by hunters with a valid hunting or junior hunting (ages 12-15 only) license and a current muzzleloader privilege. Junior hunters (ages 14-15) may also take bear with crossbows during these seasons.
- Crossbows may be used to take deer during the regular season by hunters with a valid hunting or junior hunting (ages 12-15) license and to take bear during the early bear during early bear and regular seasons by hunters with a valid hunting or junior hunting (ages 14-15 only) license.
- See Crossbow Hunting Information for the required Crossbow Certificate of Qualification. The NYS Legislature does not allow all crossbows to be used to hunt big game in NY. See General Hunting Regulations for the definition of a legal crossbow.
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. A notch at the base of the blade extending no more than two millimeters from the shaft shall not be considered a barb. 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 on below.)
Broadheads for Big Game
Blades pivot forward
Blades do not pivot