State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the start of early bear hunting seasons in New York State, beginning Saturday, September 8.

“Late summer is a great time to be afield, with pleasant days and cool evenings,” said Commissioner Seggos. “By participating in early black bear season, New York hunters play an important role in helping wildlife managers control bear populations.”

Bears feed heavily at this time of year, building reserves for the upcoming winter. Bears gorge on wild foods like acorns, beech nuts, berries, and vegetation, and also frequently feed on apples and other agricultural crops like corn. Hunters can increase the odds of finding a bear by keying in on concentrated food sources.

In southeastern New York, the early bear season runs from September 8 to September 23 in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 3M, 3P, 3R, 4P, and 4R (WMU Boundary Map attached). The early bowhunting season for bears opens in all of the Southern Zone on October 1, followed by the regular firearms season beginning November 17.

In northern New York, the early bear season runs from September 15 to October 12 in WMUs 5A, 5C, 5F, 5G, 5H, 5J, 6C, 6F, 6H, and 6J. Bowhunting season for bears also begins on September 15 in the other Northern Zone units (WMUs 6A, 6G, 6K, and 6N). Muzzleloader season then opens in all Northern Zone WMUs on October 13, followed by the regular firearms season for bears on October 20.

During the early bear season, hunters may use a bow (with appropriate bowhunting eligibility), crossbow, muzzleloader, handgun, shotgun, or rifle (where allowed). Because of the likelihood of warm weather, bear hunters should be prepared to skin and cool harvested bears as soon as possible to protect the quality of the meat. Hunters may opt to skin and quarter the bear in the field, then pack out the meat in game bags to a waiting cooler of ice.

From roasts, stews, and burger, to sausage and barbecued ribs, bear meat makes excellent table fare. Some hunters also render bear fat into grease or lard, which is a great oil for cooking or baking and can be used to waterproof leather or to lubricate patches for muzzleloading.

DEC uses regulated sport hunting to manage black bear populations at levels that are acceptable to the public. Information about black bear hunting in New York, including season dates regulations, is available on DEC’s website. Additionally, DEC’s booklet Hunting the Black Bear in New York (PDF, 727 KB), includes tips on bear hunting and proper care of harvested bears.

Hunters are reminded to ‘Take it – Tag it – Report It.’ Hunter harvest reports are vital for estimating annual harvest. DEC biologists use harvest reports in conjunction with other indicators to inform management decisions for subsequent hunting seasons.