DEC announces start of small game seasons
ALBANY — State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos this week announced that most small game hunting seasons open on Saturday, Oct. 1, across New York.
Season dates, bag limits and other hunting regulations for New York’s small game species are available in the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide, which can be obtained from a license-issuing agent or on DEC’s website at dec.ny.gov.
Special youth, military days
New York offers vast waterfowl hunting opportunities as hunters may harvest more than 30 species of waterfowl. The state has five waterfowl zones and nine Canada goose zones that help to maximize hunting opportunity across diverse habitats. Most waterfowl zones also have special hunting days for youth and members of the military (both active duty and veterans) that often begin prior to the regular hunting season, giving these hunters the opportunity to hunt with less hunting pressure.
Youth waterfowl days
¯ Western Zone: Sept. 30 and Oct. 1
¯ Long Island Zone: Nov.4 and 5
Military, veteran hunting days
¯ Northeast and Southeast Zones: Sept. 23 and 24
¯ Western Zone: Oct. 7 and Jan. 20
¯ Long Island Zone: Nov. 11 and 12
There are no special military/veteran days for the Lake Champlain Zone.
¯ Northeast and Lake Champlain Zones: Oct. 7
¯ Western and Southeast zones: Oct. 21
¯ Long Island Zone: Nov. 18
For more on waterfowl hunting season dates and bag limits, visit the waterfowl seasons page on DEC’s website.
Ruffed grouse hunting season runs from Oct. 1 through the last day of February in most parts of the state. In Northern New York, the season opens on Sept. 20, and runs through the last day of February. In New York City and Long Island, the season is closed.
Ruffed grouse hunters in the Northern Zone are reminded to positively identify quarry before shooting. The Northern Zone, specifically Wildlife Management Units 5C, 5F, 6F and 6J, is also home to the spruce grouse, a State-endangered species that is illegal to hunt. Loss of a single spruce grouse, particularly a female, could be a significant setback for a small local population. For tips on how to discern the two species, view the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or the ruffed grouse hunting information page on DEC’s website.
DEC encourages ruffed grouse hunters to take part in the grouse hunting log program and submit feathers from harvested birds to assess recruitment (number of young produced per adult female grouse) for different parts of the state. Interested hunters should visit the DEC website.
During the spring of 2023, the Reynold’s Game Farm suffered a highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in the breeder flock. After enacting precautionary measures to ensure the facility was properly decontaminated, DEC secured a contract to acquire 30,000 pheasants from a commercial hatchery to supplement fall upland bird hunting opportunities around the state.
Prior to hunting seasons DEC will release adult pheasants on lands open to public hunting for the upcoming fall pheasant hunting season. The pheasant hunting season begins:
¯ Oct. 1, in northern and eastern portions of New York
¯ Oct. 21, in central and western portions of the state
¯ Nov. 1, on Long Island
Since 2007, DEC has offered a special youth-only season to provide junior hunters the opportunity to hunt pheasants during the weekend prior to the regular pheasant hunting season. In Western New York, the youth pheasant hunt weekend is Oct. 14 and 15. In northern and eastern New York, the youth pheasant hunt weekend is Sept. 23 and 24, and on Long Island, it is Oct. 28 and 29. Both the junior hunter and their adult mentor must have a hunting license. Only the junior hunter can carry a firearm and harvest birds on these dates.
An interactive map of statewide pheasant release sites, approximate timing of stocking, and number of birds stocked, can be found on DEC’s website.
Squirrel, rabbit, hare
Opportunities to pursue squirrels and rabbits can be found throughout the state, including on many public lands. Squirrel seasons started Sept. 1 in Upstate New York and begin Nov. 1 on Long Island. Rabbit hunting begins on Oct. 1 in Upstate New York and on Nov. 1 on Long Island. With ample opportunities and mild weather, squirrel and rabbit hunting are great ways to introduce novices to hunting.
Snowshoe hare (or varying hare) season starts Oct. 1 in the Northern Zone. Hare hunters in the Southern Zone, where the season starts in late fall or early winter, are encouraged to report their observations to DEC through the DEC website.
Wild turkeys can be found throughout the state but reach their highest densities in landscapes that have a mix of forests, old fields, and farmlands. Wild turkeys are less vulnerable to harvest in areas with abundant food (e.g., hard and soft mast), because they don’t have to roam far and wide foraging, so scouting before the season is important. The statewide fall season bag limit is one bird of either sex. Hunting hours are sunrise to sunset.
The wild turkey season dates this fall are:
¯ Oct. 1 – 14, in the Northern Zone
¯ Oct. 21 – Nov. 3, in the Southern Zone
¯ Nov. 18 – Dec. 1 in Suffolk County, Long Island
(**Note: there is an error in the hard-copy 2023-2024 hunting regulations guide. As always, DEC recommends hunters visit the DEC website before going afield to confirm season dates and regulations.)
For turkey season information, visit dec.ny.gov/outdoor/29461.html.
For the corrected hunting guide, visit dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/huntguide.pdf.
With 16 species of furbearers living in New York, furbearer hunting and trapping opportunities are abundant. Coyote hunting season begins Oct. 1 across much of the state and hunting seasons for other furbearers such as bobcat, raccoon, and fox begin on Oct. 25. Season dates and zone boundaries for all furbearers and other hunting information including tips for identifying coyotes can be found on DEC’s website and in the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide.
Citizen science efforts such as the Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Log, Ruffed Grouse Parts Collection, and the Bowhunter Sighting Log provide hunters the opportunity to partner with DEC to monitor game species. To learn more about how to participate in these efforts, visit the DEC website.
While statistics show hunting in New York is safer than ever, mistakes are made every year. DEC believes every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable, and Commissioner Seggos encourages hunters to use common sense this season and to remember what they learned in their DEC Hunter Education Course.
¯ Point your gun in a safe direction.
¯ Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
¯ Be sure of your target and beyond.
¯ Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
In addition to blaze orange or pink being required for hunting big game with firearms, DEC encourages small game hunters to wear blaze orange or blaze pink. Wearing orange or pink prevents other hunters from mistaking a person for an animal or shooting in a hunter’s direction. Hunters wearing blaze orange are seven times less likely to be shot.
For more information and other important safety tips, visit DEC’s website and watch videos about hunter safety. For more information about getting outdoors safely and responsibly, visit DEC’s website at dec.ny.gov.