Rhode Island Deer Hunting Laws & Regulations

General Deer Hunting Regulations

A. Deer Permit Requirements

  • Necessity: A deer permit is required for each deer taken, adhering to bag limits for each season type, statewide.

B. Deer Management Zones

  1. Zone 1: Includes Barrington, Bristol, and other specific towns.
  2. Zone 2: Consists of Burrillville, Coventry, and other designated towns.
  3. Zone 3: Comprises Patience and Prudence Islands.
  4. Zone 4: Encompasses New Shoreham (Block Island).

C. Open Season Zones 1 and 2

  1. Archery:
    • Zone 1: Sep 15 - Jan 31.
    • Zone 2: Oct 1 - Jan 31.
  2. Muzzleloader:
    • Zones 1 and 2: First Saturday in November to the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day and Dec 26 - Jan 2 (antlerless only, private land).
  3. Shotgun:
    • Zone 1: First Saturday in December for 16 days.
    • Zone 2: First Saturday in December for 9 days.
    • Zones 1 and 2: Dec 26 - Jan 2 (antlerless only, private land).

D. Open Season Zone 3

  1. Archery: Nov 1 - Jan 31.
  2. Paraplegic Hunter Season: Last Tuesday to Friday in October.

E. Open Season Zone 4 (New Shoreham - Block Island)

  • Dates: Specific dates listed for 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 seasons for Archery, Muzzleloader, and Shotgun.

F. Legal Shooting Hours

  • Timing: 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.

G. Permission Requirements

  • Private Land Hunting: Annual written permission required and must be carried at all times.

H. Tagging Requirements

  • Immediate tagging of deer after harvest is mandatory.

I. Reporting Requirements

  • Mandatory Reporting: Within 24 hours to DEM or by check-in with an Environmental Police Officer.

J. Biological Sampling

  • Right of Sampling: Division of Fish and Wildlife may sample tissues for management purposes.

K. Resident All Outdoors Deer Permit Package

  • Permits: One package available per resident for taking up to seven deer in Zones 1 and 2.

L. Deer Decoys

  • Usage: Permitted on private lands and certain areas during archery-only deer seasons.

M. Tree Stands

  • Installation Period: Allowed from August 15 to February 15 on State-owned property.

N. Using Dogs for Deer Recovery

  • Conditions: Specific restrictions apply, including the presence of the hunter and wearing of fluorescent orange.

Rhode Island Deer Hunting Season Bag Limits

A. Antlered Deer Bag Limit

  • Statewide Limit: A maximum of two (2) antlered deer during all deer seasons combined.
  • Zone 3 Restriction: Only one (1) of these antlered deer may be taken in Zone 3.
  • Season and Method Flexibility: The antlered deer bag limit applies across all seasons and methods.

B. Antlerless Deer Bag Limit by Zone

The bag limit for antlerless deer varies by Deer Management Zone and is not specific to any season or method:

  1. Zone 1: Limit of three (3) antlerless deer.
  2. Zone 2: Limit of two (2) antlerless deer.
  3. Zone 3: Limit of two (2) antlerless deer.
  4. Zone 4: Unlimited antlerless deer.

Prohibited Activities in Rhode Island Deer Hunting

A. Restrictions on Hunting Deer in Water

  • Hunting in Tidal Waters: It's illegal to hunt, pursue, or molest deer in tidal waters or while deer are swimming in any state waters.

B. Tree Stand Regulations

  • Permanent Tree Stands: The construction or use of permanent tree stands is banned on State property or private property without landowner permission.
  • Damage to Trees: Using nails, spikes, bolts, or climbing devices that may harm trees is prohibited.

C. Use of Electronic Calls

  • Deer Hunting: Electronic calls are not allowed for hunting deer at any time.

D. Restrictions on Deer Drives

  • Group Size Limit: Driving deer by groups larger than five people is forbidden.

E. Firearm and Archery Implement Limits

  • Possession Limit: Hunters are restricted to having no more than one firearm or archery implement in the field.

F. Prohibition of Spotlighting

  • Time Frame: From September 15 to the end of February, casting artificial lights to illuminate wild animals or birds is prohibited.

G. Use of Deer Scents/Lures

  • Natural Cervid Products: The use or possession of deer scents/lures containing natural cervid bodily fluids (urine, gland oil, etc.) is banned.

H. Feeding, Baiting, and Hunting Over Bait

  • Baiting Deer: Feeding, baiting, and hunting deer over bait, including salt, minerals, apples, and grain, is prohibited.

Archery Season Regulations for Deer Hunting in Rhode Island

A. Types of Bows Permitted

  • Bow Varieties: Archers can use longbows, recurve bows, compound bows, or crossbows for deer hunting.

Specifications for Vertically Held Bows

  1. Minimum Draw Weight:
    • Fixed blade broadheads: At least 40 pounds.
    • Mechanical broadheads: Minimum of 50 pounds.
  2. Adaptive Aids:
    • Special archery adaptive aids for vertically held bows are permissible for all hunters without needing a special permit.
  3. Blunt or Judo Tipped Arrows:
    • Licensed deer hunters can carry these arrows during the open portion of the small game season within the archery deer season.

Specifications for Crossbows

  1. Minimum Draw Weight and Safety Feature:
    • Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds and include a working safety.
  2. Field Point Arrow for Safe Discharge:
    • One distinguishable field point arrow is allowed in the quiver for safe discharge of the crossbow.
  3. Small Game Hunting:
    • Blunt or judo tipped arrows can be carried for small game mammals during the open small game season within the archery deer season. Birds cannot be taken with a crossbow.

B. Broadhead Tipped Arrows

  • Requirements: Broadheads must have at least two metal cutting edges.
  • Size Specification: All broadheads, including mechanical ones in the open position, must be at least seven-eighths of an inch (7/8”) wide at the widest point.

C. Bowhunter Education

  • Mandatory Course: All hunters must successfully complete a bowhunter education course to hunt with any archery equipment, including crossbows.

Muzzleloader Season Specifications

A. Firearm Requirements

In the muzzleloader deer season, only specific firearms are allowed. Hunters must use muzzleloaders of .45 caliber or larger. Acceptable ignition systems include percussion caplock, flintlock, and in-line systems using percussion caps, rifle, or shotshell primers. Firearms must be either single or double-barreled, and they must be loaded from the muzzle with a single projectile.

B. Ammunition and Equipment Rules

The ammunition for muzzleloader deer season must consist of a single projectile. This includes options like round balls or maxi ball type projectiles. Hunters are permitted to use sabot rounds with lead, jacketed, or solid copper bullets, in line with the manufacturer’s specifications. Powder usage is also restricted to manufacturers' guidelines. Telescopic sights are allowed. However, carrying modern shotgun shotshells while hunting is strictly forbidden. A muzzleloader is only considered unloaded if the percussion cap, primer, or pan powder is removed.

C. Archery Equipment Prohibition

During the muzzleloader deer season, the use of archery equipment in conjunction with a muzzleloader deer permit is prohibited. Hunters cannot use a muzzleloader deer permit to tag animals harvested with archery equipment during the muzzleloader season. This regulation ensures the integrity of the muzzleloader-specific hunting period.

Shotgun Season Regulations

A. Shotgun Capacity Limitations

During the shotgun deer season, hunters are restricted in their use of shotguns. Any shotgun used must not have the capacity to hold more than five shells. If a shotgun has a greater capacity, it must be modified with a one-piece filler, which cannot be removed without disassembling the firearm. This regulation ensures fair hunting practices and adheres to game management principles.

B. Ammunition Types and Restrictions

The ammunition allowed for shotgun deer season is strictly regulated. Hunters may only use single lead or alloy projectiles, including rifled slugs or sabot rounds. The use of buckshot is strictly prohibited at all times. This rule is in place to maintain the safety and ethics of deer hunting.

C. Allowed Shotgun Gauges

Shotguns used in the deer season must be of specific gauges. Only shotguns of ten (10), twelve (12), sixteen (16), or twenty (20) gauge are permissible. This restriction is in place to standardize the equipment used and to ensure humane hunting practices.

D. Muzzleloader Use During Shotgun Season

Muzzleloader firearms are permitted during the shotgun season, provided that the hunter possesses a current shotgun deer permit and adheres to muzzleloader restrictions. If a deer is taken with a muzzleloader during this period, it must be tagged with the shotgun deer tag immediately. Additionally, all fluorescent orange requirements applicable to the shotgun deer season must be strictly followed.

E. Prohibition of Archery Equipment

The use of archery equipment is strictly prohibited for hunters holding a shotgun deer permit during the shotgun season. Hunters are not allowed to tag any deer harvested with archery equipment using a shotgun deer permit. This regulation is intended to maintain the distinct separation between different hunting methods and seasons.

Hunting Regulations for Patience and Prudence Islands (Zone 3) and Block Island (Zone 4)

Patience and Prudence Islands (Zone 3) Regulations

A. Archery-Only Deer Hunting

On Patience and Prudence Islands, deer hunting is exclusively permitted through archery, including the use of crossbows. All standard archery regulations apply. An exception is provided for paraplegic and double amputees, who may use firearms as outlined in § 9.8(B)(3).

B. Heritage Property Hunting Period

The Heritage property is open for archery deer hunting from December 1 to December 15, inclusively.

C. Mandatory Proficiency Testing for Archers

All archery hunters on Patience and Prudence Islands, whether on private or state-owned lands, are required to pass proficiency testing.

D. Private Land Hunting Requirements

Hunting on private land on Prudence Island requires written permission from the landowner, countersigned by the Portsmouth Chief of Police or their representative.

Block Island (Zone 4) Regulations

A. State Lands Hunting by Special Permit

On Block Island's state lands (Black Rock/Rodman Hollow), hunting is only allowed with a special permit, obtained through a lottery system managed by the Department of Environmental Management (DEM). Hunters are required to maintain a hunting log as prescribed by the DEM to qualify for the subsequent season's permit.

B. Required Permits for Hunting

To hunt deer on Block Island, hunters must possess a specific Block Island archery, muzzleloader, or shotgun deer permit.

C. Permission for Private Land Hunting

All hunters on private lands must have permission, countersigned by the New Shoreham Chief of Police. Private landowners may authorize archery, shotgun, or muzzleloader hunting. The New Shoreham Police Department tracks these permissions.

D. Archery Proficiency Testing

Similar to Patience and Prudence Islands, all archery hunters on Block Island must undergo and pass proficiency testing.

E. Clothing Requirements for Hunters

Deer hunters on Block Island must wear 500 square inches of daylight fluorescent orange, except during the archery-only portion of the season when archery hunters are exempt from this requirement.

Youth Deer Hunting Opportunities and Special Deer Season for Disabled Hunters

A. Youth Deer Hunting Opportunities

1. Age-Specific Hunting Weekends

Youth hunters aged twelve (12) to fifteen (15) are permitted to hunt deer during special Youth Archery and Muzzleloader Hunting Weekends.

2. Permit Use for Youth Hunters

These young hunters can utilize either antlered or antlerless deer permits appropriate for the season they are participating in.

3. Junior Hunter Accompaniment Requirements

Junior hunters (age twelve (12) to fourteen (14)), holding a valid Rhode Island Junior Hunting License, must be accompanied by a qualified licensed adult aged twenty-one (21) or older, who also holds a valid Rhode Island hunting license.

4. Adult Accompaniment Limitations

An adult accompanying junior hunters can supervise no more than two (2) junior hunters at a time.

5. Restrictions on Accompanying Adults

The accompanying adult is prohibited from carrying any firearm or archery equipment and from hunting deer.

6. Independence for Fifteen-Year-Old Hunters

Youth hunters who are fifteen (15) years old are not required to be in the immediate company of a licensed adult while hunting.

7. Youth Archery Hunting Weekends Schedule

The Youth Archery Hunting Weekends are scheduled as follows:

  • Zone 1: The weekend before September 15, marking the opening day of the archery season.
  • Zone 2: The weekend before October 1, marking the opening day of the archery season.
  • Zone 3: The last weekend in October.

8. Youth Muzzleloader Hunting Weekend

For Zones 1 and 2, the Youth Muzzleloader Hunting Weekend is set for the last full weekend in October.

B. Special Deer Season for Disabled Hunters on Patience and Prudence Islands (Zone 3)

1. Requirement of Special Permit

Disabled hunters, specifically paraplegic and double amputee individuals, must obtain a special permit to participate in this deer hunting season.

2. Restrictions on Assistants

Assistants of disabled hunters are not allowed to hunt or carry loaded firearms. These assistants are not required to have a hunting license.

3. Firearm and Ammunition Regulations

Disabled hunters are permitted to use either a shotgun or muzzleloader, adhering to the firearm and ammunition specifications detailed in §§ 9.7.4 and 9.7.5.

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