Hunting and Trapping Newsletter

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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Hunting and Trapping Newsletter

New 2020 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations

DEC recently announced the adoption of changes to the state’s migratory game bird hunting regulations in preparation for the fall hunting seasons. Specifically, the regulations:

  • Allow for a new two-day waterfowl hunting opportunity for veterans and active-duty military personnel in addition to the regular waterfowl seasons;
  • Allow for the general public to purchase electronic federal migratory bird conservation and hunting stamps and to make these electronic stamps legal for the purposes of duck and goose hunting;
  • To be consistent with other mentored hunting opportunities, the licensed adult hunter supervising a junior hunter participating in the special youth migratory game bird hunt days may not carry a firearm, longbow, or crossbow afield. The prohibition does not apply to other hunters in the party that are not mentoring a youth;
  • Allow crossbows as a hunting implement to be consistent with other small game species;
  • Correct special methods of take during special goose seasons to align with federal regulations (e.g., allowing unplugged shotguns, extended shooting hours, and electric calls, when all other waterfowl seasons are closed);
  • Clarify conflicting zone boundary descriptions between federal and state regulations.

These changes are not reflected in the annual hunting regulations guide that was printed prior to the adoption of these regulatory changes; however, they go into effect immediately and will apply during the fall 2020 hunting seasons.

Late last summer, the federal government approved the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. The legislation allowed states to establish special two-day military days in each waterfowl zone for qualifying members of the active duty armed forces or military veterans to hunt migratory game birds (including ducks, geese, and brant). Standard licensing requirements apply (i.e., hunters are required to have a valid hunting license, migratory bird hunting and conservation stamp, and current Harvest Information Program registration). Based on input from New York waterfowl hunters last fall, the Waterfowl Hunter Task Forces in each zone selected the following season dates for this special opportunity:

Waterfowl Hunting Military Days

  • Lake Champlain Zone: No special season
  • Long Island Zone: November 14 and 15, 2020
  • Northeast Zone: September 19 and 20, 2020
  • Southeast Zone: October 10 and 11, 2020
  • Western Zone: November 11 (Veteran’s Day) and November 14, 2020

During this new special season, licensed military veterans (as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code) or members of the Armed Forces on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserves on active duty (other than for training), may take ducks, geese, mergansers, coots, moorhens, and gallinules during the dates in each zone listed above. Veterans and active-military hunters must carry at least one of the following forms of identification while participating in the Veteran and Active Military Waterfowl hunt days:

  1. Active duty identification card
  2. Actively participating Guard or Reservist identification card
  3. Retired military identification card
  4. New York State Driver’s License with Veteran Status
  5. Form DD214, Certificate of Discharge
  6. Form DD215, Corrected Certificate of Discharge

Similar to youth waterfowl hunting days, daily bag limits for all species are the same as those allowed during the regular season for all species (excludes September Canada goose bag limits).

DEC Proposes a Holiday Deer Hunt  

DEC is proposing an additional bowhunting and muzzleloader hunting opportunity in the Southern Zone between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The new season would add seven days of late-season hunting from December 26 through January 1, providing time for families to hunt together while students are on school break.  

The additional hunting season is proposed only for the Southern Zone because deer in the Northern Zone may already be moving to winter concentration areas by Christmas. Hunting seasons that occur when deer are migrating or are already concentrated in wintering areas could result in localized overharvest. 

Initial discussions of this proposal created some confusion about potential impacts on snowmobiling.  DEC and the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation have clarified that snowmobile trails are opened after the end of the regular big game hunting season, subject to adequate snow cover and local agreements. Thus, the proposed additional hunting opportunity would not affect the opening of snowmobile trails. Details of the proposal are published in the September 9 issue of the NYS Register. DEC invites the public to submit comments on the proposal by November 8, 2020 via email (subject line: Holiday Deer Hunt Proposal) or in writing to:   

Attn: Holiday Deer Hunt Proposal
NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife
625 Broadway, 5th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-4754 

DEC Announces Opening of Early Bear Hunting Seasons

Black bear hunting seasons open this weekend in the southeastern part of the state and next weekend in the north country.

In southeastern New York, the early bear season runs from Sept. 12 to Sept. 27 in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 3M, 3P, 3R, 4P, 4R, and 4W. The early bowhunting season for bears will open in all of the Southern Zone on Oct. 1, followed by the regular firearms season beginning Nov. 21.

In northern New York, the early bear season runs from Sept. 19 to Oct. 16 in WMUs 5A, 5C, 5F, 5G, 5H, 5J, 6C, 6F, 6H, and 6J. Bowhunting season for bears also begins on Sept. 19 in the other Northern Zone units (WMUs 6A, 6G, 6K, and 6N). Muzzleloader season opens in all northern WMUs on Oct. 17, followed by the regular firearms season for bears on Oct. 24.

New this year, DEC has added WMU 4W to the early bear season in the Southern Zone. The bear population in 4W has been growing and additional bear harvest is necessary to meet the management objective of maintaining a moderate bear population density in the unit. To view all WMU locations and boundaries, visit DEC's Wildlife Management Units.

During the early season, bear hunters may use a bow (with appropriate bowhunting eligibility), crossbow, muzzleloader, handgun, shotgun, or rifle (where allowed). Because of the likelihood of warm weather, bear hunters should be prepared to skin and cool harvested bears as soon as possible to protect the quality of the meat. Hunters may opt to skin and quarter the bear in the field, then pack out the meat in game bags to a waiting cooler of ice. From roasts, stews, burgers, and sausage to barbequed ribs, bear meat makes excellent table fare. Hunters may also consider rendering bear fat into grease or lard, which is a great oil for cooking or baking and can be used to waterproof leather or to lubricate patches for muzzleloading.

Visit DEC's website for more information.

Safely and Respectfully Sharing the Woods

With hunting and trapping seasons beginning soon, DEC encourages outdoor enthusiasts to respectfully share the woods and follow commonsense safety precautions. Most public lands in New York are open for multiple forms of recreation, meaning outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds will be sharing these lands. Whether you are a hiker, hunter, nature photographer, mountain biker or trapper, following a few simple measures can make your choice of recreation safe and enjoyable while sharing the outdoors.

woman in blaze orange vest with her hunting dogDEC encourages every outdoor enthusiast to wear blaze orange, pink or another bright color, especially during fall and winter. Doing so allows individuals to be seen more easily and from greater distances. In addition, wearing bright colors makes it easier for Forest Rangers, Environmental Conservation Police Officers, or other rescue personnel to find you in the event of an emergency. When not actively engaged in hunting, pet owners are encouraged to have their dogs wear a blaze orange, pink or another bright color vest or scarf. Dogs should stay leashed at all times. 
Trapping seasons are open throughout the fall and early winter. Although it's a rare occurrence, traps set for furbearers (such as raccoons and coyotes) can also capture dogs that are not under control. Trapping is a highly regulated activity, and the regulations are strongly enforced. Trappers are required to take an educational course before getting a license, and DEC works closely with the trapping community to encourage trapping techniques that minimize risks to non-target wildlife and other animals like dogs. Keeping dogs on their leash is safer for the dog and for other people and gives pet owners peace of mind. 

Hunting is among the most popular forms of wildlife recreation in the state, drawing nearly 700,000 New Yorkers and more than 50,000 out-of-state visitors. Hunting is a safe and economically important outdoor pursuit, helping to manage wildlife populations and promote family traditions, while fostering an understanding and respect for the environment. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment on public trails. Hunters should, likewise, recognize that they may encounter non-hunters while afield. Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare.

Hunters looking for solitude can minimize disturbances associated with other forms of recreation by following a few tips. Before a season opens, while scouting for the perfect hunting spot or stand location, take the time to check if your planned location is a popular one. It's best to avoid crowding other hunters. If your location is near a popular hiking spot, you may experience noise from other outdoors-people passing through. If your preferred spot becomes too crowded, it is a good idea to have an alternative location already identified. 
DEC maintains hiking trails in many areas of forest preserve lands in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, as well as in state forests, wildlife management areas and unique areas open to hunting. Find a place near you by visiting the DEC website, checking out DECinfo Locator, or downloading the NY Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App. Many trails are also accessible to people with disabilities. Check out DEC's YouTube playlist on how to plan and prepare for your next COVID 19 Recreate Safely instructionshike, and the Fish and Wildlife playlist for more information.  

DEC and the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) are encouraging New Yorkers to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. DEC and State Parks' recommendations incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases and encourage New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. In addition, DEC and State Parks launched a new hashtag- #RecreateLocal- and encourage New Yorkers to get outside and discover open spaces close to home.