Black bear hunting seasons open this weekend in the southeastern part of New York State and next weekend in the north country.
In southeastern New York, the early bear season runs from Sept. 12 to Sept. 27 in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 3M, 3P, 3R, 4P, 4R, and 4W. The early bowhunting season for bears will open in all of the Southern Zone on Oct. 1, followed by the regular firearms season beginning Nov. 21.
In northern New York, the early bear season runs from Sept. 19 to Oct. 16 in WMUs 5A, 5C, 5F, 5G, 5H, 5J, 6C, 6F, 6H, and 6J. Bowhunting season for bears also begins on Sept. 19 in the other Northern Zone units (WMUs 6A, 6G, 6K, and 6N). Muzzleloader season opens in all northern WMUs on Oct. 17, followed by the regular firearms season for bears on Oct. 24.
New this year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has added WMU 4W to the early bear season in the Southern Zone. DEC says the bear population in 4W has been growing and additional bear harvest is necessary to meet the management objective of maintaining a moderate bear population density in the unit. To view all WMU locations and boundaries, visit DEC’s Wildlife Management Units.
During the early season, bear 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. bear meat is typically eaten as roasts, stews, burgers, sausage and BBQ ribs. Some hunters also render bear fat into grease or lard, for use as a cooking oil, to waterproof leather or to lubricate patches for muzzleloading.
Hunters are required to report their bear harvest within seven days, and DEC also encourages hunters to submit a premolar tooth and the scaled-dressed weights of harvested bears. DEC uses teeth to determine the bear’s age and weight to monitor physical condition. This data helps DEC biologists monitor bear population dynamics and trends. Hunters who report their harvest and submit a premolar tooth from the bear are eligible to receive a commemorative NYS Black Bear Management Cooperator Patch.
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), includes tips on bear hunting and proper care of harvested bears.
Photo of black bear provided by DEC.