New York State General Hunting Regulations

Definitions of Hunting and Trapping Terms

Air Gun

  • Definition: A firearm that uses spring or compressed air (not gunpowder) to propel a single projectile.
  • Specifications: Must be .17 caliber or larger and produce a muzzle velocity of at least 600 feet per second. Can have a smooth or rifled bore.


  • Includes: Long (stick), compound, or recurve bow.


  • Components: A bow and string, with either compound or recurve limbs, mounted on a stock.
  • Specifications:
    • Minimum limb width: 17 inches (uncocked).
    • Minimum overall length: 24 inches from the butt of the stock to the front of the limbs.
    • Minimum arrow/bolt length: 14 inches (excluding the arrowhead).
    • Draw weight: 100 to 200 pounds.
    • Optical sights are permissible.


  • Definition: Includes handguns, rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, BB, and pellet guns.


  • Definition: A pistol or revolver designed for one-handed use.
  • Specifications: Barrel length not exceeding 16 inches.
  • Regulation: Requires a NYS Pistol Permit; permits from other states are not recognized in New York.

Muzzleloading Firearm

  • Definition: A firearm loaded through the muzzle, shooting a single projectile.
  • Specifications: Minimum bore of .44 inch. Scopes or fiber-optic sights may be used.
  • Requirement: Possession of a New York State Pistol Permit is necessary for hunting with a muzzleloading pistol.


  • Definition: A firearm with a barrel length of 16 inches or more and rifling in the barrel, using metallic cartridges.


  • Definition: A firearm with a barrel length of 18 inches or more, using non-metallic shells except for the base.

Motor Vehicle

  • Definition: Any vehicle or device operated by power other than muscle, including automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, tractors, trailers, motorboats, snowmobiles, and ATVs, on or off public highways.

Public Highway

  • Definition: Any road maintained by a state, county, or town. Contrasts with private roads maintained by individuals or corporations.

To Hunt

  • Definition: The act of pursuing, shooting, killing, or capturing wildlife. Includes all actions that disturb or worry wildlife, aiding in taking wildlife.

To Take

  • Definition: The act of pursuing, shooting, hunting, killing, capturing, trapping, snaring, or netting wildlife. Includes any activities that disturb or worry wildlife or the use of any device to take wildlife.

To Trap

  • Definition: The process of taking, killing, or capturing wildlife using traps, deadfalls, and similar devices. Encompasses related activities like placing, setting, staking, or checking traps, and assisting with these activities.

Illegal Methods of Taking Wildlife

Prohibitions in Hunting Wildlife

Using Motor Vehicles

  • Illegal: Hunting or taking wildlife while in or on a motor vehicle, except under a special permit.
  • Vehicle Lights: Using a vehicle's lights to aid in hunting is prohibited.

Public Roads

  • Prohibition: Hunting or taking wildlife on or from any public road.

Firearms Restrictions

  • Silencers: Using firearms equipped with silencers is illegal.
  • Automatic Firearms: Firearms that continue to fire as long as the trigger is held back are prohibited.
  • Semi-automatic Firearm Limitations:
    • Illegal to use semi-automatic firearms with a capacity of more than 6 rounds, except for:
      • Firearms using .22 or .17 caliber rimfire ammunition.
      • Firearms altered to reduce their capacity to no more than 6 shells (magazine and chamber combined).
      • Autoloading pistols with a barrel length less than 8 inches.

Spears and Spear Guns

  • Spears: Hunting with a spear is not allowed.
  • Spear Guns: Using spear guns or modified crossbows is prohibited, except for individuals with physical disabilities possessing a Modified Crossbow Permit.

Bows and Crossbows

  • Mechanical Devices on Bows: Bows with mechanical devices for drawing, holding, or releasing the bowstring are illegal, except for individuals with a Modified Longbow Authorization due to physical disability. Compound bows are legal.
  • Modified Crossbows: Use is restricted to those with a Modified Crossbow Permit due to physical disability.

Arrows and Other Devices

  • Explosive Arrows: Arrows with explosive heads or shafts are illegal.
  • Drug-delivery Devices: Devices intended to deliver drugs to animals are prohibited.


  • Illegal Practice: Hunting with the aid of bait or over any baited area is illegal when hunting big game, upland game birds, turkey, or waterfowl.

Fishing Restrictions


  • Prohibition: Crossbows cannot be used to take carp or any other fish.

These regulations are in place to ensure ethical hunting practices and the safety of both hunters and wildlife. Hunters must adhere to these guidelines to legally hunt in the region.

Spotlighting Regulations for Observing Wildlife

Conditions for Using Lights to Observe Wildlife

Proximity to Homes and Farm Buildings

  • Requirement: Must not be within 500 feet of a home or farm building when observing deer or bear, unless explicit permission is granted by the owner or lessee.

Motor Vehicle Restrictions

  • In or On a Vehicle: Using lights is permissible if no one in the vehicle has a firearm, bow, or crossbow, except under specific conditions.
    • Firearm/Bow/Crossbow Handling:
      • The implement must be disassembled or taken down.
      • The implement must be securely fastened in a case.
      • The implement is locked in the trunk of the vehicle.
      • If the implement is a handgun, different rules may apply.

Hunting Furbearers at Night

  • Specific Guidelines: For detailed information on hunting furbearers at night, refer to the 'Furbearer Hunting' section.

Firearms and Crossbows Regulations During Deer Season

Possession Restrictions

Shotgun Shells

  • Regulation: Illegal to possess shotgun shells loaded with slug or ball unless holding a valid license or permit to take deer or bear, which includes carcass tags.

Rifle Possession

  • Rifle Size Limit: In areas where rifles are banned for taking deer, it is illegal to possess a rifle larger than a .22-caliber rimfire.
  • Definition: A rifle larger than .22-caliber rimfire includes any rifle chambered for a rimfire cartridge greater than .22-caliber or any centerfire rifle. Centerfire rifles less than .22-caliber and muzzleloading rifles are legal.

Specific Regional Laws

Westchester County and Long Island

  • Rifle Use: Illegal to use or carry any rifle afield for hunting.
  • Crossbow Use: Illegal to use a crossbow to hunt wildlife.

Northern Zone

  • Carrying Firearms with Dogs: Illegal to carry a rifle larger than .22 rimfire or a shotgun loaded with slug, ball, or buckshot afield if accompanied by a dog, except when hunting coyotes.

Handgun Possession

  • Permit Requirement: A New York State Pistol Permit is required for handgun possession. Permits from other states are not recognized in New York.

Semi-Automatic Rifle Legislation

  • Recent Changes: New York State has adopted new legislation governing the purchase or transfer of semi-automatic rifles.
  • Information Sources: For more details, visit DEC's website or the SAFE Act resources for hunters.

These regulations are important for ensuring legal and responsible firearm and crossbow use during hunting seasons. It's crucial for hunters to be aware of and comply with these laws to maintain safety and legality while hunting.

Transportation of Firearms and Crossbows

General Transportation Rules

Shotguns, Rifles, and Crossbows in Vehicles

  • Unloaded Requirement: These firearms must be unloaded in both the chamber and magazine when in or on a motor vehicle. For crossbows, they must be taken down or unloaded (bolt removed and uncocked).


  • Unloaded Definition: A muzzleloader is considered unloaded when:
    • The cap is off the nipple.
    • The primer is removed.
    • The primer powder is removed from the flintlock pan.
    • The battery is removed from an electric-fired muzzleloader.


  • Unloaded Definition: A crossbow is considered unloaded when the arrow/bolt is removed and the crossbow is uncocked.

Specific Scenarios

Hunting Migratory Game Birds

  • Loaded Firearms in Motorboats: A loaded firearm may be possessed in a motorboat that is not under power or in a motorboat under power only while retrieving dead or crippled birds.

Firearms in Unattended Vehicles

Security Measures

  • Locked Case Requirement: When a firearm is in a vehicle without an adult present, it must be locked in a hard-sided case or safe, either plastic or metal.
  • Concealment: The gun must be hidden from view.

Additional Information

  • Website for Details: Visit DEC's website for comprehensive information about the transportation of guns.

Adhering to these transportation rules is essential for safety and compliance with New York's hunting regulations. Hunters and gun owners must ensure they follow these guidelines to avoid legal issues and ensure public safety.

Discharge Regulations for Firearms, Crossbows, and Bows

General Prohibitions

Over Public Highways

  • Illegal Action: Discharging a firearm, crossbow, or bow so that the load or arrow/bolt passes over any part of a public highway.

Near Schools, Playgrounds, Factories, Churches

  • Minimum Distance:
    • Firearms: Within 500 feet.
    • Crossbows: Within 250 feet.
    • Bows: Within 150 feet.
  • Applicable Areas: Prohibited near schools, playgrounds, occupied factories, or churches.

Near Dwellings and Other Structures

  • Minimum Distance:
    • Firearms: Within 500 feet.
    • Crossbows: Within 250 feet.
    • Bows: Within 150 feet.
  • Applicable Areas: Prohibited near dwellings, farm buildings, or structures in occupation or use.
  • Exceptions: Unless the person discharging owns, leases, is an immediate family member, an employee, or has the owner's consent.

Specific Scenario: Hunting Waterfowl Over Water

  • Condition: You may hunt waterfowl over water within 500 feet of a dwelling or public structure.
  • Restriction: Neither the dwelling nor the public structure should be within 500 feet in the direction of shooting.

Protected and Unprotected Wildlife in New York State

Protected Wildlife

  • General Rule: Almost all species of wildlife in New York are protected.
  • Fully Protected Species: This includes endangered species, songbirds, hawks, and owls, which may not be taken under any circumstances.

Unprotected Wildlife

  • Species List: The few species not protected include porcupine, red squirrel, woodchuck, chipmunk, English sparrow, starling, rock pigeon, and monk parakeet.
  • Regulations: These species may be taken at any time, without any limit.
  • License Requirement: To hunt these unprotected species with a bow, crossbow, or firearm, a hunting license is required.

Game Species

  • Seasonal Hunting: Game species can only be taken during their designated open seasons, as outlined in the hunting guide.
  • Shooting Preserves: Those hunting wildlife on licensed shooting preserves must adhere to the specific regulations governing those areas.

Hunting Safety Guidelines: Be Safe — Be Seen

Fundamental Firearm Safety Principles

  1. Assume Every Gun is Loaded

    • Treat all firearms as if they are loaded at all times.
  2. Muzzle Control

    • Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
    • Be aware of where the muzzle is pointed at all times.
  3. Trigger Discipline

    • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
    • This prevents accidental discharges.
  4. Target Identification

    • Be certain of your target and what is beyond it.
    • Ensure that your shot will not endanger others or cause unintended harm.

Visibility and Identification

  • Wear Hunter Orange or Pink
    • Increases visibility to other hunters.
    • Helps prevent accidental shootings or misidentifications.
    • Especially important during busy hunting seasons or in areas with high hunter density.

Hunter Education Program in New York

Overview of Requirements

  • Mandatory for New Hunters: All first-time hunters, bowhunters, and trappers in New York State must complete education courses before purchasing a license.
  • Course Formats: Both in-person and online courses are available, with the latter introduced in 2020.

In-Person Hunter Education Program Courses

Key Features

  • Field Day: In-person courses include a practical, hands-on experience day.
  • Cost: These courses are offered free of charge.
  • Availability: Spaces may be limited and tend to fill up quickly as hunting and trapping seasons near.
  • Early Sign-up: It's advised to register early for these courses.
  • Homework Requirement: Completion of homework is required prior to attending the course, and proof must be presented at the course.
  • Time Commitment: The homework may take several hours, so it's best to start well in advance.

Further Information

Online Hunter Education Program Courses

Availability and Requirements

  • Certificates: These courses provide all necessary training to earn a New York State hunter education or bowhunter education certificate.
  • License Eligibility: Upon passing, participants can purchase a hunting license or a bowhunting privilege.
  • Trapper Education: An online trapper education course is potentially available in 2023.
  • Residency: Participants must be New York State residents.
  • Fees: There is a charge for online courses.

Accessing Online Courses

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The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.