John Lewis

Massachusetts Deer Regulations

Understanding the regulations is crucial for hunters to participate legally and safely. This guide covers licenses, permits, season dates, limits, reporting rules, and more for deer hunting in Massachusetts.

Important Regulations

General Rules



MA Hunting Season Schedule

Licenses and Permits

All deer pursuers in Massachusetts need:

  • Hunting or sporting license (includes 2 antlered tags)
  • Archery and/or primitive firearms stamps
  • Antlerless permits as desired

Non-residents need a non-resident big game license instead of a hunting license. Youth and paraplegic applications can have special exemptions. Licenses, stamps, and permits must be purchased through MassFishHunt.

Season Dates

  • Youth Deer Days: Saturday 4 weeks after Labor Day
  • Paraplegic Hunt: 3 days selected in last week of October
  • Archery:
  • Zones 1-9: 6th Monday before Thanksgiving – Saturday after
  • Zones 10-14: 8th Monday before Thanksgiving – Saturday after
  • Shotgun: Monday after Thanksgiving – 2nd Saturday after
  • Primitive Firearms: 3rd Monday after Thanksgiving – December 31

Bag Limits

  • 2 antlered total per year
  • Unlimited antlerless with permits
  • 1 deer on Youth Hunt Day
  • Possession limit of 2 (4 in Zones 13-14) before reporting

Legal Methods

  • Archery: Vertical bows, crossbows (with permit), broadheads
  • Shotgun: 10 gauge or smaller, slugs or buckshot
  • Primitive: Muzzleloaders .44 to .775 caliber, single projectile

Handguns, rifles, electronic calls prohibited. Baiting illegal 10 days before seasons open.

Hunter Orange

500 square inches on head, chest, and back required during shotgun season and youth hunt.

Tagging, Transporting, and Reporting

  • Tag immediately upon harvest.
  • Keep tag attached and harvest visible during transport.
  • Report within 48 hours online or at a check station.
  • During shotgun season, must check at physical check station.

Other Regulations

  • No hunting on Sundays
  • Shooting hours: half hour before sunrise to half hour after sunset
  • Wanton waste prohibited
  • Special rules for Wildlife Management Areas

Deer Management Zones

Massachusetts is divided into 14 Wildlife Management Zones (WMZs) for managing deer populations. Different rules may apply for:

  • Season dates – Archery seasons open earlier in southern WMZs 1-9
  • Bag limits – Higher possession limits in WMZs 13-14
  • Antlerless permits – Issued by zone with quotas

Hunters should verify which WMZ their game area falls into and follow specific regulations. Zone maps available on MassWildlife website.

Safety Zones and Restrictions

Some areas have additional restrictions or bans including:

  • No discharge zones – No shooting of firearms allowed
  • Shotgun-only zones – No rifles, handguns, or muzzleloaders
  • Restricted impact zones – Only birdshot allowed for shotguns

Deer Driving

Deer driving allows hunters to work together to move it, but does not override other fair chase rules.

Field Dressing and Processing

Field dressing, transporting, and processing must follow regulations:

  • Wear disposable gloves when field dressing
  • Keep carcass clean; follow temperature guidelines
  • Butchering allowed; commercial processing recommended
  • Observe all tagging and reporting rules
  • Properly dispose of inedible parts

Proper field dressing is important for both food safety and disease prevention. Waste of meat prohibited.

Where to Hunt

Many public and private lands allow deer hunting under the appropriate licenses:

  • Public lands – Wildlife management areas and state forests
  • Private lands – With landowner permission in writing
  • Hunter access programs – Some provide access to private lands

Public land game opportunities may be abundant but more hunters and pressure on the species population in those areas.

Youth Deer Hunting Opportunities

  • Youth Day – Fourth Saturday after Labor Day for ages 12-14
  • Archery stamp not required for Junior License holders
  • Adult supervision required for under age 15
  • Youth encouraged to take hunter education programs

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