New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that several small game hunting seasons open Oct. 1 across New York State.

“Small game hunting opportunities are abundant in New York, with a diverse array of small game species to pursue on public lands,” Commissioner Seggos said. “In addition, small game hunting is a great way to introduce someone new to the sport and teach them how to be a safe and responsible member of the hunting community. I encourage experienced hunters across the state to bring a novice hunter afield this fall.”

Several special youth-only hunting seasons for pheasants and waterfowl occur prior to the start of the regular season, and youth hunting programs are scheduled in DEC’s Region 6 and Region 1. Season dates, bag limits, and other hunting regulations for New York’s suite of small game species can be found in the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide, which can be obtained from a license-issuing agent and on DEC’s website.

Waterfowl Hunting and Youth Waterfowl Days

Hunting seasons for waterfowl (ducks, geese, and brant) begin in early October in many parts of the state. In addition, there are special opportunities for junior hunters (ages 12 to 15) prior to the regular season. Junior hunters must be accompanied by a licensed adult hunter, and both the junior hunter and adult must be registered with the Harvest Information Program (HIP). Adult hunters must also have a federal migratory bird stamp. This fall’s youth waterfowl days are:

  • Sept. 21 and 22 in the Northeast and Southeast zones;
  • Sept. 28 and 29 in the Lake Champlain Zone;
  • Oct. 5 and 6 in the Western Zone; and
  • Nov. 9 and 10 in the Long Island Zone.

Ruffed Grouse Hunting

Ruffed grouse hunting season runs from Oct. 1 through the last day of February in most areas of the state. In northern New York, the season opens on Sept. 20, and runs through the last day of February. In New York City and Long Island, the season is closed.

Ruffed grouse hunters in the Northern Zone are reminded to positively identify quarry before shooting. The Northern Zone, specifically Wildlife Management Units 5C, 5F, 6F, and 6J, is also home to the spruce grouse, a state-endangered species that is not legal to hunt. Loss of a single spruce grouse, particularly a female spruce grouse, could be a significant setback for a small local population.

Spruce grouse exist in lowland conifer forests in the Adirondacks. Although ruffed grouse occur in upland hardwoods statewide, during the fall and winter, ruffed grouse may be found in spruce grouse habitat. Small game hunters in the Adirondack region must be able to distinguish between these species so that spruce grouse are not shot by mistake. For tips on how to discern the two species, view the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or the ruffed Grouse Hunting Information page on DEC’s website.

DEC encourages ruffed grouse hunters to submit feathers from harvested birds in order to assess recruitment (number of young produced per adult female grouse) for different parts of the state. Interested hunters should visit the DEC website.

Pheasant Hunting

Approximately 30,000 adult pheasants will be released on lands open to public hunting for the upcoming fall pheasant hunting season. The pheasant hunting season begins:

  • Oct. 1 in northern and eastern portions of New York;
  • Oct. 19 in central and western portions of the state; and
  • Nov. 1 on Long Island.

Since 2007, DEC has offered a special youth-only season to provide junior hunters the opportunity to hunt pheasants during the weekend prior to the regular pheasant hunting season. In Western New York, the youth pheasant hunt weekend is Oct. 12 and 13. In northern and eastern New York, the youth pheasant hunt weekend is Sept. 28 and 29, and on Long Island, it is Oct. 26 and 27. Both the junior hunter and their adult mentor must have a hunting license. Only the junior hunter is allowed to carry a firearm and harvest birds on these dates.

All release sites for pheasants provided by state-funded programs are open to public hunting. Pheasants will be released on state-owned lands prior to and during the fall hunting season and at a number of sites on New York City Watershed lands thanks to a partnership with New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Pheasant hunting opportunities have also been augmented by private landowners who have opened their land to public hunting. DEC is grateful for their help in providing high quality hunting experiences for New York’s hunters. A list of statewide pheasant release sites and sites receiving birds for the youth-only pheasant hunt weekends can be found on DEC’s website.

Squirrel, Rabbit, and Hare Hunting

Opportunities to pursue squirrels and rabbits can be found throughout the state, including on many public lands. Squirrel seasons started Sept. 1 in upstate New York and begin Nov. 1 on Long Island. Rabbit hunting begins on Oct. 1 in upstate New York and on Nov. 1 on Long Island. With ample opportunities and mild weather, squirrel and rabbit hunting are great ways to introduce new people to hunting.

Snowshoe hare (or varying hare) season starts Oct. 1 in the Northern Zone. Hare hunters in the Southern Zone, where the season starts in late fall or early winter, are encouraged to report their observations to DEC through the DEC website.

Wild Turkey Hunting

Several years ago, DEC updated the fall turkey hunting season structure in response to declines in turkey populations and to ensure that harvest opportunities are sustainable and in line with current environmental conditions. The cold, wet spring weather New York experienced this year may have contributed to reduced recruitment of young birds. With that in mind, hunters may expect to see fewer birds this fall than in recent years and may have to work harder to locate a flock.

Season dates for fall 2019:

  • Oct. 1 – 14, in the Northern Zone;
  • Oct. 19 – Nov. 1, in the Southern Zone; and
  • Nov. 16 – 29, in Suffolk County, Long Island.

The statewide, season bag limit is one bird of either sex. Hunting hours are sunrise to sunset.

Citizen Science

“Citizen science” efforts such as the Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Log, Ruffed Grouse Parts Collection, and the Bow Hunter Sighting Log provide hunters the opportunity to partner with DEC to monitor game species. To learn more about how to participate in these efforts, visit the DEC website.

DEC Encourages Hunter Safety

While statistics show that hunting in New York is safer than ever, mistakes are made every year. DEC believes every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable, and Commissioner Seggos is encouraging hunters to use common sense this season and to remember what they were taught in their DEC Hunters Education Course.

Firearms Safety:

  1. Point your gun in a safe direction.
  2. Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
  3. Be sure of your target and beyond.
  4. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

DEC also encourages hunters to wear blaze orange or blaze pink. Wearing orange or pink prevents other hunters from mistaking a person for an animal, or shooting in a hunter’s direction. Hunters who wear hunter orange are seven times less likely to be shot.

When hunting in tree stands, use a safety harness and a climbing belt, as most tree stand accidents occur when hunters are climbing in and out of the stand. Also, hunters should never climb in or out of a tree stand with a loaded firearm.

For more information on these and other important hunting safety tips, please visit DEC’s website and watch videos about hunter safety and tree stand safety for more tips on avoiding accidents.