John Lewis

New York Big Game Hunting Regulations

big game, new york, Regulations

All big game hunters should thoroughly review this information to ensure full understanding and compliance with legal hunting protocols. Adherence promotes moral hunting methods and long-term conservation of these recognized species of wildlife. The entire set of laws covers things like the need for hunter orange for visibility, comprehensive tagging and reporting guidelines, differences in the seasons across regions, and the permissible use of firearms and ammunition hunting large game. Specific guidance is also provided for bowhunting, crossbow use, muzzleloader privileges, and other considerations. 

Important Regulation Resources

Hunting Hours and Seasons

Big game hunting hours in New York are one half-hour before sunrise until one half-hour after sunset. Sunday hunting is permitted on state lands. Hunters should confirm specific regulations before hunting any state area.

The deer hunting seasons in New York include bow seasons, muzzleloader seasons, regular shotgun/rifle seasons, and special antlerless seasons in certain zones. Bear hunting seasons include early and late bow seasons, early and late muzzleloader seasons, and a regular firearms season. See the season dates and boundaries maps for specifics.

Hunter Orange Requirements

When hunting deer or bear with firearms, hunters and companions must wear at least 250 square inches of solid or patterned fluorescent hunter orange or pink above the waist, visible from all directions. Alternatively, they may wear a hat with at least 50% fluorescent orange or pink exterior visible from all directions.

Antler Point Restrictions

For a deer’s antlers to be considered legal in New York, at least one antler must be at least 3 inches long. Antlerless deer include does, fawns, and bucks with less than 3” antlers. Special antler restrictions apply in designated Deer Management Focus Areas.

Baiting and Feeding Prohibitions

It is illegal to intentionally feed or bait deer and bear in New York year-round. This includes mineral blocks, salt licks, and similar attractants on lands inhabited by deer and bear. Exceptions are made for legitimate agricultural plantings, wildlife food plots, and cutting trees/brush to provide deer browse.

Chronic Wasting Disease Import Ban

Hunters may not import whole carcasses or full heads of out-of-state deer, elk, moose, or caribou into New York due to CWD risks. Only deboned meat, cleaned skulls/antlers, hides, finished taxidermy, or processed parts may be imported.

Legal Hunting Implements

Big game may be taken in New York using centerfire rifles, shotguns, handguns, muzzleloaders, bows, and crossbows during the appropriate seasons. Hunters may also use game calls and scents. However, hunting big game with dogs, aircraft, bait piles, night vision/laser sights, buckshot, fully automatic firearms, rimfire ammo, bows under 35 lbs., or air guns is prohibited. Specific restrictions apply for muzzleloader and bow seasons.

Tagging, Reporting & Transport Requirements

Hunters must immediately tag harvested deer and bear with a carcass tag appropriate for the season, attach the tag before moving the animal, and report the harvest within 7 days. Tagged carcasses may be transported openly or concealed. Strict tagging protocols must be followed when transporting butchered meat, bear parts, or deer heads for taxidermy. Hunters should review the full transport information.

Bowhunting, Muzzleloader & Crossbow Regulations

Bowhunters must have a bowhunting privilege, bowhunter education credential, or previous bow license to participate in bow seasons. Crossbows are allowed during muzzleloader seasons and portions of bow seasons for hunters with a muzzleloading privilege. All hunters may use crossbows during regular deer and bear seasons with appropriate licenses. Special rules and restrictions apply for bows, crossbows and muzzleloaders on Long Island and certain Wildlife Management Units.

Barbed Broadheads Prohibited

Hunters may not use broadheads with mechanically-retained or fixed blade angles less than 90 degrees, as these constitute illegal barbed broadheads in New York. Broadheads with mechanical blades are legal provided the blades do not barb or hook when pulled from a carcass.

Big game boundaries, legal resources in New York:

North-South Zone Line:

The Northern-Southern Zone border runs east along the Salmon River from the north bank to Pulaski. It then heads south on Route 11 to Central Square, then east on Route 49 to Rome, 365 to Trenton, 28 to Middleville, 29 to Route 4, and up Route 4 to Whitehall. Route 22 covers the eastern side of South Bay on Lake Champlain and continues north to the New York-Vermont border.

Big game areas
Big game areas/image credit:

Yellow Areas

  • Bow
  • Crossbow
  • Muzzleloader
  • Handgun
  • Shotgun
  • Rifle

Cyan Areas

  • Bow only

White Areas

  • Bow
  • Crossbow
  • Muzzleloader
  • Handgun
  • Shotgun
  • Closed-Big Game Hunt Not Available

Closed Areas:

The Environmental Conservation Law prohibits deer and bear hunting in closed areas in Broome, Erie, Herkimer, Hamilton, Nassau, and New York City. These bans exempt town, municipal, and landowner posts.

Restricted Antlers:

Southeastern New York Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S, and 4W have mandatory antler point limitations (deer hunting season maps). DEC advocates voluntary restriction elsewhere, but the program promotes responsible hunting. Exempt hunters 12–16 may harvest any deer with 3″ or larger antlers.

Identification of Antlers:

Antlered deer need at least one antler with three or more 1″ points. This limitation applies year-round to public and private properties. Exempt 12–16-year-olds may harvest any deer with 3″ or longer antlers. DMP or Bow/Muzzleloading antlerless or either-sex tags may be used on mature does, doe fawns, button bucks, and adult bucks without or with antlers under 3″.

Identification of Antler
Identification of Antler/image credit:

This detailed overview covers New York big game hunting antler limits, geographical borders, restricted regions, and rules. Hunters should consult DEC’s website for wildlife management unit descriptions.

John Lewis
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