Deer season in New York is generally open in the Fall from mid-September to late December. The state is split into northern and southern zones. Each zone has different dates for the seasons; in some cases, the counties in the zones can have different rules for seasons, season types, and bag limits.
The deer seasons are split into three types (Bowhunting, Muzzleloader, and Regular). Each season type has its specific dates and regulations. There is also one weekend during the year that is strictly for youth hunters.
Some areas of New York do not allow hunting big game, particularly in areas around the large cities. Since the rules vary between each zone and county, all hunters should review the current New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hunting guide for zone maps, licenses, permits, and rules and regulations for deer hunting in the state.
Hunting License Requirements
To hunt in New York, everyone aged 12 and older must purchase a hunting license. They can be purchased at over 1200 agent locations in the state (typically sporting goods retailers), by phone by calling the DEC call center, and online through DEC’s Automated Licensing System (DECALS).
Anyone who is not a New York resident and would like to travel to the state to hunt must purchase a New York non-resident hunting license; a hunting license from another state is not recognized. Youths aged 12-15 must purchase a Youth License, and children under 12 are not allowed to hunt.
Lifetime licenses are available, and the cost varies by age. Children under the age of 5 are the lowest cost until they reach 70, after which the current cost in 2022 is only $65.
Every deer that is harvested must be tagged. The tags come with the license or permit you to purchase for the season you want to hunt. The base hunting license is valid only during the regular season and comes with the regular season deer tag.
If you would like to hunt during the other seasons, you must purchase a permit for that season in addition to the base hunting license. During bowhunting season, you must have a bowhunting privilege permit to hunt with a bow. This also applies to youths during the bowhunting season. There is a separate Junior Bowhunting Privilege Permit for hunters ages 12-15. These permits come with an either-sex deer tag.
Similarly, during Muzzleloader season, you must have a Muzzleloader Privilege permit to hunt with a muzzleloader or crossbow. This permit also comes with an either-sex deer tag. If you purchase both the bowhunting and muzzleloader privileges, you will receive one either-sex tag and one antlerless deer tag. These tags may be used in either season with the appropriate hunting device.
A Deer Management Permit is available through an application process and a random drawing. This permit is for up to two additional antlerless deer tags that are valid only in a specified Wildlife Management Unit. The application deadline is October 1st.
All first-time hunters who have never purchased a hunting license must complete a hunter education course. You must also complete an approved bowhunter education course if you wish to bow hunt.
To hunt with a crossbow, hunters must either complete a hunter education course after April 1, 2014 or complete the Crossbow Certificate of Qualification in the NY DEC hunting guide. Hunter Education courses from other states are honored if they meet IHEA-USA requirements.
The course is offered in NY as an in-person or by the DEC as an online course. The course is a minimum of seven hours, and hunters must be at least 11 years of age to participate.
Deer Season Types
In New York, deer hunting seasons are divided into three basic types: Bowhunting, Muzzleloader, and Regular. When the seasons are open is different between the northern and southern zones of the state.
In the northern zone, there are “early” bowhunting and muzzleloader seasons, followed by the regular season, and finally, a “late” bow and muzzleloader season. Early bow season starts on September 27 and is open until the Friday preceding the regular season.
Crossbows can be used during the last ten days of this season. Early muzzleloader season starts on the first Saturday after Columbus day and is open for seven consecutive days. The regular season then opens on the second Saturday after Columbus Day and is open for 44 consecutive days.
Finally, the late bow and muzzleloader season is open for seven days immediately following the regular season.
In the southern zone, the seasons are structured similarly to the northern zone. However, there is an early firearms season instead of an early muzzleloader season.
The early firearms season opens on the second Saturday of September and lasts nine days. Early bowhunting season starts on October 1st and is open through the Friday preceding the regular season. Crossbows can be used during the last 14 days of this season. The regular season begins on the third Saturday in November and is open for 23 consecutive days. Late bow and muzzleloader season is open for nine days immediately following the regular season.
The youth hunt season in both zones is held on Columbus day weekend for all three days (Saturday, Sunday, and Monday).
Season Type Regulations
During the deer season types, hunters must use an approved weapon for hunting. As mentioned above, you must also have the proper permit or privilege for each season type. Listed below are details of each season type:
During the bowhunting season, hunters may use archery equipment such as long bows, compound bows, and recurve bows. These bows must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds and cannot be equipped with any mechanical means attached to the bow that assists with drawing, holding, or releasing the bowstring.
Arrows must have broadheads with at least two sharp cutting edges and have a minimum diameter of 7/8 inches. Barbed broadheads of any type are not allowed.
Crossbows may be used but are limited to the end of the season. They must consist of a bow, string, and either compound or recurve limbs that are a minimum width of 17 inches mounted to a stock. The stock must have a trigger similar to a firearm and working safety. Crossbows must be 24 inches in length or longer and be able to launch an arrow or bolt that is at least 14 inches long. The draw weight must be between 100 to 200 pounds.
Optical sights are allowed, and the arrow or bolt must have a broadhead with the exact requirements for bows. Hunting with a crossbow in Suffolk, Nassau, and Westchester counties is illegal. Any type of firearm is not allowed during this season.
Muzzleloaders are firearms loaded through the muzzle and shoot a single projectile. These firearms must be at least .44 caliber or larger and can have fiber optic sights or scopes. Muzzleloading pistols are allowed, but you must possess a NY state permit.
Double-barreled muzzleloaders or percussion cap revolvers are not allowed during the muzzleloader season. Crossbows are allowed during this season; however, bows are not. Modern rifles and handguns that fire cartridges are not allowed.
Firearms are allowed during the regular season, including rifles and handguns that fire centerfire cartridges. Shotguns are also allowed that are 20 gauge or larger and fire a single projectile, buckshot is not allowed. Semi-automatic firearms must not be able to hold more than six rounds (this does not apply to handguns with a barrel length of fewer than 8 inches).
If you have a firearm with a capacity of more than six rounds, it may be altered to reduce the capacity. In New York, anyone that possesses a handgun must have a New York state pistol permit. Bows, crossbows, and muzzleloaders may be used during the regular season. Note that in Westchester County and Long Island, it is illegal to use any rifle for hunting.
Youth Hunt Season
One weekend each year is set aside for youth hunters ages 12-17 to deer hunt. Adults are not allowed to hunt during this season. The requirements and weapons allowed vary depending on the hunter’s age.
Youth hunters ages 12-13 may hunt with a bow if they have completed both a hunter education course and a bowhunter education course. They must also purchase a junior bowhunting license and be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or a “youth mentor” who is 21 years or older.
The adult must have at least three years of experience in hunting deer with a bow and have a license to hunt during the same season. Youth hunters aged 12-13 may use a gun or crossbow only in counties that opt-in by passing a local law allowing it based on a new law that was passed in 2021.
Youth hunters ages 14-15 may hunt with a bow, gun, or crossbow and must be accompanied by an adult, similar to 12–13-year-olds. First-time youth hunters ages 16-17 must be accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older that has at least one year of experience and has a valid license to hunt deer during the same season.
In all cases, the accompanying adult must maintain physical control over the little while hunting, and an elevated stand or tree stand cannot be used.
Overall Regulations and Safety
There are numerous rules and regulations for hunting deer in New York. Below are a few notable ones to keep in mind. Before taking your first hunting trip in New York, review and understand the rules as they apply to you.
- It is illegal to hunt or take wildlife in or on a motor vehicle, with the aid of a vehicle’s lights, or while on or from any public road.
- Hunting with the aid of bait or over any baited area used to attract deer is illegal.
- It is illegal to discharge a firearm, crossbow, or bow over any part of a public highway.
- It is illegal to discharge a firearm within 500 feet of any school, playground, occupied factory, or church. It is also illegal to be within 500 feet of a dwelling, farm building, or occupied structure without the owner’s consent. These requirements are the same for crossbows and bows, except the distance is 250 feet and 150 feet, respectively.
- A person may not transport or possess a shotgun, rifle, or crossbow in or on a motor vehicle unless the firearm is unloaded. Both the chamber and the magazine must be empty. A crossbow is considered unloaded when the arrow or bolt is removed and the crossbow is not cocked.
- Cutting or injuring trees using nails or other hardware to construct a tree stand, blind, or other structure is not allowed on state lands. You must have the landowner’s permission if you are on private land.
- Deer hunting hours are from ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset.
- Anyone hunting deer with a firearm or anyone who is accompanying them must wear a garment that has a minimum of 250 square inches of solid fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink worn above the waist and visible from all directions. The garment can be patterned (camouflage), but the orange or pink color must be at least 50% of the garment. Instead of a garment, hunters may wear a hat or cap with no less than 50% of the exterior being fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink. The hat must be visible from all directions.
- A legally antlered deer must have at least one 3” or longer antler.
- Taking a deer while it is in water is not allowed.
- Possession of a firearm is not allowed when bowhunting or during muzzleloader season. This applies to the hunter as well as anyone accompanying the hunter.
- If you are hunting on private land, always have written permission from the landowner.
- Using dogs or aircraft of any kind, including radio-controlled drones, is not allowed to assist with locating or hunting deer.
- You cannot sell the deer meat that you harvest to others. Besides the meat, hides, skulls, antlers, and taxidermy mounts may be sold.
Hunting safely should be a priority for all hunters. No one wants to be injured while enjoying time outdoors. Since you are handling weapons while hunting, they should be treated respectfully.
Always keep the weapon pointed in a safe direction and keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Be sure that your target is a deer, and make sure you can determine if the deer is an antlered or antlerless deer. More importantly, know what is beyond your target. If you take a shot and miss your target deer, is there another deer just beyond it that you may hit instead?
If you plan to hunt elevated in a tree stand, make sure to keep safety in mind first before hunting. It is a common belief that the majority of hunting accidents are the result of injuries from a firearm. In reality, more hunting accidents are fall injuries from hunters in tree stands than any other accident.
Read the manufacturer’s instructions, understand your equipment, and inspect it before hunting. If you find any worn or missing parts, replace them. Use a full-body safety harness and connect it to a safety rope secured at the base of the tree and to the tree just above you. Keep your harness connected to the safety rope from when your feet leave until you are back on the ground.
Attach a haul line to your equipment, firearm, or bow. Pull them up after you are safely in your stand. Also, carry emergency equipment such as your phone, knife, flashlight, and whistle in your pocket and not in a separate bag. You could be separated from your bag in an emergency.
Chronic Wasting Disease Concerns in New York
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious, fatal disease that affects the Cervid family (deer, elk, mouse, and caribou). It has been detected in many states and Canada. As of 2022, it has not been detected in the state of New York.
CWD is a neurological disease caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. Animals can catch this disease from other infected animals through direct contact, carcass parts, or contaminated soil and plants. Infected deer can appear healthy for months or years and shed the prions in their saliva, feces, and urine for a long time before they die.
This can result in the disease spreading over an area, and once it is present, it is impossible to remove. Deer infected with CWD appear very thin and sick, drool excessively, stand with their legs splayed, their head and ears drooping, and appear lethargic. They are slow, have difficulty moving, and are not scared or spooked by humans. If you see a deer that may have these symptoms while hunting, report it to the regional DEC office.
To prevent the spread of CWD into New York, the DEC has restricted importing of cervid carcasses into the state. If you harvest an animal in the cervid family out of state and wish to bring it back into the state, the meat must be deboned and processed, and the antlers removed or taxidermy must be completed before bringing it into the state.
Under no circumstances can an unprocessed deer head be brought into the state. You may only import deboned meat, a cleaned skull cap, antlers with no flesh, raw or processed cape or hide, cleaned teeth or lower jaw, and finished taxidermy products.
If you use deer urine to attract deer, do not use natural products, as they could be infected. Also, do not feed deer since concentrating deer around food sources can increase the chances that the disease will spread and is also illegal.
What to do After a Deer is Harvested?
Once you harvest a deer, you must follow a few key steps. First, make sure you select the proper tag for the deer. Immediately fill in all the information on the tag with an ink pen and sign the back. Cut or mark the month and date of the kill on the tag, and write the kill date on the report panel. You can then field dress the deer and transport it to your camp, home, or vehicle for transport.
Then, you can attach the tag to the carcass. You do not need to attach it while the deer is dragged or carried out of the woods. You must report it to the DEC within seven days of harvesting your deer. This can be done on the DEC’s website, by phone by calling 1-866-GAME-RPT, or on the Game Harvest Mobile App.
The tag should remain with the carcass and meat or taxidermy until you arrive with it home.
Fines for not Following Regulations
Fines for harvesting deer out of season or not following the hunting regulations in New York can be high. You can also lose your hunting privileges or even spend time in jail. New York has firearm laws that are generally more restrictive than other states, so if you travel from another state, be sure to understand if your firearms are legal.
Some areas of New York do not allow hunting with firearms. In 2021, a man in New York was fined $1900, and his firearm was seized after he was convicted for illegally taking a whitetail deer and hunting from a vehicle.
Court costs and lawyer fees can be expensive, even if you are found not guilty. Before hunting in New York, ensure you understand the rules, regulations, and license requirements. Even if you are an experienced hunter, not taking the time to review the specifics of New York’s laws could be costly.
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- Department of Environmental Conservation (1970) dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28605.html
- E Regulations (1970) eregulations.com/assets/docs/guides/22NYHD.pdf