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Firearms Season for Deer and Bear Starts Saturday


The state’s most popular big game season begins on Saturday and the New York State DEC is encouraging hunters to review safety regulations to enhance their hunting experience.

“This weekend, hundreds of thousands of big game hunters will head afield for the chance to harvest deer or bear in New York’s Southern Zone while enjoying time with family and friends in the great outdoors,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “I wish all hunters a safe and successful hunting season and encourage these outdoor adventurers and those visitors sharing the woods to put safety first and wear blaze orange or pink to see and be seen.”

The 2023-24 regular deer and bear hunting seasons in New York’s Southern Zone begin on Saturday and continue through December 10. The Southern Zone regular season is New York’s most popular hunting season, with participation from about 85 percent of New York’s 550,000 licensed hunters. Harvest during this season accounts for nearly 60 percent of the total statewide deer harvest and 30 to 60 percent of the statewide bear harvest.

Following the regular deer and bear hunting seasons in the Southern Zone, late bowhunting and muzzleloading seasons will run from Dec. 11 through Dec. 19, and again from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Hunters taking part in these late seasons must possess a hunting license and either bowhunting or muzzleloading privileges.

In the Northern Zone, the regular deer and bear hunting season opened on Oct. 21 and closes on Dec. 3. A late bowhunting and muzzleloading season for deer will be open in portions of the Northern Zone from Dec. 4 to 10.

Daily hunting hours for deer and bear include the full daylight period, beginning 30 minutes before sunrise and continuing until 30 minutes after sunset. Hunters should check the sunrise and sunset times before hunting each day.

Opportunities for Youth Hunters

Once again this year, 12- and 13-year-old hunters may hunt deer with a firearm during the regular firearms season when accompanied by a licensed, experienced adult hunter. This pilot program was established by the New York State Legislature in 2021 and extended through 2025 for Upstate counties that choose to participate. The program does not apply to Westchester or Suffolk counties; Erie and Rockland counties have not opted in to the program.

Continuing New York’s Record of Safe Hunting

The 2021 and 2022 hunting seasons were the safest on record and DEC is encouraging all hunters to continue to take steps to remain safe while afield. Most hunting-related injuries occur when hunters are climbing in and out of a tree stand. Hunters should read the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings before using a tree stand, check all stands (including straps and chains) before every season, and replace any worn or missing parts. Hunters should also wear a fall-arrest harness with a lifeline to stay connected from the time they leave the ground to the time they get back down and never climb in or out of a tree stand with a loaded firearm.

Hunters must wear fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink clothing (either a hat, vest, or jacket which are visible in all directions) when pursuing deer or bear with a firearm, and should always follow the basic rules of firearm safety:

  • 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.

Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow – Harvest a Doe

By voluntarily passing up opportunities to harvest young bucks, hunters can increase their chances of seeing and harvesting older bucks with large antlers and body sizes. By harvesting antlerless deer instead of young bucks, hunters help keep deer populations in balance with available habitat and reduce deer-related impacts to agriculture, forestry, and municipalities. By choosing to Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow, New York hunters are now seeing and taking more older bucks than ever before. However, only 16 percent of deer hunters harvested one or more antlerless deer in 2022, despite antlerless deer being the most abundant and commonly observed portion of the deer population. Hunters should help manage New York’s deer herd by harvesting at least one antlerless deer this hunting season.

Hunters Can Help Prevent the Spread of Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an always fatal disease of deer that threatens New York’s deer and moose populations and hunting opportunities. If introduced, CWD could spread rapidly and be practically impossible to eliminate. Hunters can help keep CWD out of New York by following these tips:

  • Those who hunt any type of deer, elk, moose, or caribou outside of New York State must debone their venison (video) before bringing it back to New York. DEC will confiscate and destroy illegally imported carcasses and parts.
  • Avoid using natural deer urine-based lures or attractant scents, as these could contain CWD. Use synthetic products instead.
  • Dispose of carcass parts where the deer was harvested or in a landfill.
  • Report any deer that appears sick or is acting abnormally to DEC.
  • Hunt only wild deer and support fair chase hunting principles.

Take It – Tag It – Report It

With DEC’s HuntFishNY mobile app, reporting a deer, bear, or turkey harvest is easier than ever. Through the mobile app, hunters, anglers and trappers can access an electronic version of their licenses and report their harvests immediately while afield on their mobile device. Hunters can also report their harvest by calling (1-866-GAME-RPT) or through DEC’s website. Reporting your harvest is required by law, so please remember to Take It, Tag It, Report It!

Other Reminders for the 2023-24 Southern Zone Regular Hunting Season

  • Choose non-lead ammunition for reduced risk of lead exposure to you and non-target wildlife.
  • Hunters can donate venison to help those less fortunate while contributing to deer management.
  • For the first time this season, big game hunters can use rifles in Onondaga County.
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