Several small game hunting seasons open October 1st across New York State, including special youth hunts and hunting opportunities for active-duty military members and veterans.
Several special youth-only hunting seasons for pheasants and waterfowl occur prior to the start of the regular season. Season dates, bag limits, and other hunting regulations for New York’s small game species are available in the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide, which can be obtained from a license-issuing agent or on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) website.
Special Waterfowl Hunting Opportunities for Youth and Active-Duty Military
Hunting seasons for waterfowl (ducks, geese, and brant) begin in early October in many parts of the state. However, there are opportunities for youth hunters to get a jump start. This fall’s youth waterfowl days are:
- Sept. 19 and 20 in the Northeast and Southeast zones;
- Sept. 26 and 27 in the Lake Champlain Zone;
- Oct. 3 and 4 in the Western Zone; and
- Nov. 7 and 8 in the Long Island Zone.
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 and the adult hunter supervising a youth may not possess a firearm, bow, or crossbow afield.
In addition to youth dates, there are special hunting opportunities for active-duty military personnel and veterans. Participating hunters must carry identification that verifies their active duty or veteran status. This fall’s active-duty military and veteran days are:
- Sept. 19 and 20 in the Northeast Zone;
- Oct. 10 and 11 in the Southeast Zone;
- Nov. 11 (Veterans Day) and Nov. 14 in the Western Zone; and
- Nov. 14 and 15 in the Long Island Zone.
There are no special active-duty and veteran military days in the Lake Champlain 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 opened 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 take part in the grouse hunting log program and 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.
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. 17 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. 10 and 11. In northern and eastern New York, the youth pheasant hunt weekend is Sept. 26 and 27, and on Long Island, it is Oct. 24 and 25. 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 several 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 novices 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
Wild turkeys enjoyed better reproductive success this summer compared to last year. As a result, turkey hunters can expect to see more birds while afield this fall. Wild turkeys are less vulnerable to harvest in areas with abundant food (e.g., hard and soft mast), because they don’t have to roam far and wide foraging, so scouting before the season is important. Season dates for fall 2020:
- Oct. 1 – 14 in the Northern Zone;
- Oct. 17 – Oct. 30 in the Southern Zone; and
- Nov. 21 – Dec. 4 in Suffolk County, Long Island.
The statewide season bag limit is one bird of either sex. Hunting hours are sunrise to sunset.
Citizen science efforts such as the Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Log, Ruffed Grouse Parts Collection, and the Bowhunter 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 hunting in New York is safer than ever, mistakes are made every year and hunting-related shooting incidents are preventable.
- 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.
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 blaze orange are seven times less likely to be shot.
For more information about getting outdoors safely and responsibly during the State’s response to COVID-19, visit DEC’s website.
Photo of Ruffed Grouse courtesy the Commonwealth Foundation.