General Hunting Regulations in Massachusetts

  • Always refer to both general and species-specific hunting regulations before the season begins.
  • Violations and hunting-related accidents must be reported to the Massachusetts Environmental Police.
    • Call at (800) 632-8075 for reporting incidents.

Massachusetts Environmental Police Contact Information

Table of Contents for Hunting Regulations

  • Archery
    • Guidelines for bow hunting, including equipment specifications and usage.
  • Blaze Orange
    • Requirements for wearing blaze orange attire for visibility and safety.
  • Dogs
    • Regulations on the use of dogs for hunting, including breed-specific rules and training.
  • Harvest Reporting
    • Protocols for reporting the harvest of game, mandatory submission details.
  • Hunting Prohibitions
    • List of activities and behaviors that are illegal while hunting.
  • Landowner Liability
    • Information on landowner rights and protections in relation to hunting on their property.
  • Non-resident Hunters
    • Special regulations and requirements for non-resident hunters.
  • Open and Closed Hunting Seasons
    • Schedule of dates for each hunting season, including species-specific time frames.
  • Tree Stands
    • Safety regulations and permissible practices for using tree stands.
  • Youth Deer Hunt Day Restrictions
    • Specific rules and exceptions for young hunters during Youth Deer Hunt Day.
  • Wanton Waste
    • Legal obligations to avoid wasteful practices and utilize harvested game fully.
  • Contact
    • Details on how to reach authorities for further information or to report issues.

Full Hunting Regulations and Contact Information

Archery Regulations for Hunting in Massachusetts

  • Bow Requirements
    • Recurve, long, and compound bows must have a minimum draw weight of 40 lbs. at 28 inches or peak draw.
  • Arrow and Broadhead Specifications
    • Arrows for hunting deer, bear, or turkey must have:
      • Steel broadhead blades
      • A minimum width of 7/8 inches
      • Sharpened edges
    • Use of expanding broadheads is allowed.
  • Hand-held Releases
    • Permitted for use while hunting.
  • Bowhunting During Firearms Seasons
    • Bowhunters can hunt deer during shotgun and primitive firearms seasons if they:
      • Adhere to blaze orange regulations.
      • Possess appropriate stamps for hunting.
  • Crossbow Usage
    • Permitted only for certain permanently disabled individuals by obtaining a special permit.
    • For permit regulations and application, visit:
  • Firearms License Not Required
    • Bowhunters do not need a Firearms Identification (FID) or License to Carry (LTC) for bow hunting.

Blaze Orange Requirements for Hunters in Massachusetts

  • General Requirements
    • Blaze orange hat mandatory for all hunters during pheasant or quail seasons on WMAs (Wildlife Management Areas) where these birds are stocked.
  • Exceptions
    • No blaze orange hat needed when:
      • Hunting waterfowl from a blind or boat.
      • Night-hunting for raccoons or opossums.
    • Reference for detailed WMA Regulations: See page 21 of the guidebook.
  • Youth Deer Hunt Day & Shotgun Season for Deer
    • Hunters must wear blaze orange totaling 500 square inches on chest, back, and head.
  • Waterfowl Hunters on Coastal Waters & Salt Marshes
    • Required to wear 500 square inches of blaze orange (hat and vest) while:
      • Hunting
      • In transit to their blind or boat
    • Once settled in a blind or boat, the orange may be removed.
  • Primitive Firearms Season for Deer
    • All deer hunters need to observe the 500 square inch blaze orange regulation.

Wildlife Management Area Regulations

Regulations for Hunting Dogs in Massachusetts

  • Shotgun Deer Season & Youth Deer Hunt Day
    • Dogs usage restricted to:
      • Waterfowl hunting on coastal waters and salt marshes.
  • Training Hunting Dogs
    • Allowed anytime except during shotgun season for deer.
    • Training requires:
      • Use of pistols or revolvers.
      • Blank cartridges only; no live ammunition.
  • Licensing for Dog Training
    • Sporting or hunting license needed for:
      • Off-leash hunting dog training on Wildlife Management Areas.

Massachusetts Hunting Licensing Information

Harvest Reporting Procedures for Hunters in Massachusetts

  • Tagging Requirements
    • Immediately upon harvest, attach the paper tag from the permit or license to the deer, bear, or turkey carcass.
  • Game Condition Post-Harvest
    • The game must:
      • Stay intact, except for field dressing.
      • Keep the harvest tag attached until officially reported.
  • Reporting Time Frame
    • Deer, bear, coyote, fox, or turkey must be reported or checked within 48 hours after harvest.
  • Reporting Methods
    • Online Game Reporting:
      • Accessible for convenient reporting.
    • Official Check Stations:
      • Bring game for in-person reporting.
  • First Week of Shotgun Deer Season
    • All deer must be brought to an official check station for:
      • Collection of biological data.

Online Game Reporting & Official Check Station Information

Hunting prohibitions

  • Report all violations to the Massachusetts Environmental Police (800) 632-8075.
  • Hunting, trapping or fishing for any birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians not listed in the Guide to Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping, or in the Massachusetts Migratory Game Bird Regulations.
  • Airbows, arrow guns or any firearms or other devices which project or propel an arrow, dart or bolt by gunpowder, compressed air, or by any other means except by the flexing and release of a bow string.
  • Poisoned arrows, or explosive tips, including firearms cartridges affixed to the end of arrows in such a way as they discharge upon impact with the target, or bows drawn by mechanical means, except for permitted crossbows.
  • Artificial lights for hunting any bird or mammal except raccoon and opossum.
  • Baiting migratory game birds, wild turkey, bear, or deer during or within 10 days of the start of their specific hunting seasons. See the Guide to Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping for more details.
  • Careless or negligent use of firearms.
  • Choke traps, leghold traps, or nets for taking any bird or mammal.
  • Discharge of any firearm or release of any arrow upon or across any state or hard-surfaced highway, or within 150 feet of any such highway.
  • Possession of a loaded firearm, discharge of a firearm, or hunting on the land of another within 500 feet of any dwelling or building in use, unless permitted by the owner or occupant. Click here for additional gun laws.
  • Electronic calls for hunting migratory game birds, wild turkey, or deer.
  • Hunting with a ferret or possessing a non-vaccinated/unneutered ferrets/ fitches without a permit.
  • Possession of rifles and handguns on WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant and quail season.
  • Hunter harassment is illegal.
  • Hunting on posted land without permission.
  • Hunting on Sunday.
  • Importation, transportation, liberation or possession of any live wild vertebrate protected under MGL Ch. 131 without a permit.
  • Hunting, target shooting, or possession of a firearm, bow and arrow or other weapon when under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs.
  • Loaded shotgun or rifle in or on any motor vehicle, recreational vehicle (including snowmobiles), aircraft or motor boat, except as stated in the Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations.
  • Machine guns, fully-automatic firearms, any tracer or incendiary ammunition.
  • Motor vehicles, off-highway vehicles (including snowmobiles), and/or aircraft for hunting any bird or mammal.
  • Possession of any Massachusetts Endangered Species Act-listed and/or wildlife, dead or alive, except by permit.
  • During the shotgun deer season, possession of rifles, handguns, or dogs in any woodland or field, or use of same on any game, is prohibited. The use of dogs is lawful for hunting waterfowl on coastal waters.
  • Hunting bear, deer, bobcat, or turkey with dogs, or training dogs on those species.
  • Power or sailboats for hunting birds except when beached or tied to a blind or for retrieving injured birds.
  • Removal of any mammal from walls, or holes in trees, ground, or logs.
  • Rifles chambered to take ammunition larger than .22 caliber long rifle, and pistols and revolvers chambered to take ammunition larger than .38 caliber, between the hours of 1/2 hour after sunset and 1/2 hour before sunrise.
  • Sale of all species of mammals and birds or parts thereof, except unprocessed heads & hides to a licensed fur buyer or taxidermist, and shinbones & hooves of deer to anyone.
  • No species other than deer, coyote, and waterfowl/coot may be hunted with shot larger than #1 birdshot (.16” pellet diameter).
  • No possession of a shotgun shell loaded with a slug, sabot, single ball, buckshot (any size), except during the open seasons when deer may be hunted with a shotgun, or on a skeet, trap, or target range between sunrise and sunset.
  • Lettered bird shot may only be used for coyote hunting (.17 to .23” pellet diameter) and waterfowl/coot hunting (.17 to .19” pellet diameter); otherwise any lettered bird shot may only be possessed on a skeet, trap, or target range between sunrise and sunset. See migratory game bird hunting regulations and coyote hunting webpage for details.
  • Swivel or pivot guns for hunting any bird.
  • Taking nests, destroying, or disturbing eggs or nests of birds.
  • Target shooting on Sunday except on one’s own property or on a recognized shooting range.
  • Traps for taking birds except under permit. All traps except cage or box traps and common mouse or rat traps are unlawful for the taking of fur-bearing mammals.
  • Vandalism or damage to property or livestock.
  • Furbearer Contests: Contests where participants are awarded prizes for harvesting coyote, bobcat, red fox, gray fox, weasels, mink, skunk, river otter, muskrat, beaver, fisher, raccoon, and opossum.

Penalties: License revoked for one year in addition to other penalties; fines of up to $1,000, restitutions, and/or 1 year in jail. Careless and negligent use of firearms; fines of up to $500 and/or 6 months imprisonment and loss of license for 5 years.

Landowner Liability and Permissions for Recreational Use in Massachusetts

  • Liability Protection for Landowners

    • Landowners offering property for recreation at no charge are not liable for injuries to recreational users.
    • Exceptions include willful, wanton, or reckless conduct by the owner.
    • Legal Reference: MGL Ch. 21 § 17C
  • Permission from Landowner

    • Hunting, fishing, and trapping on private land:
      • Allowed if not explicitly posted against trespass.
      • Check town bylaws—written permission may be required.
    • Courtesy dictates asking for permission in advance.
    • Written permission from landowners needed:
      • For access to posted land.
      • To trap on posted land.
    • Hunters should verify town bylaws for:
      • Written permission stipulations.
      • Firearms discharge regulations.

Non-resident hunters

  • Must have a valid Massachusetts non-resident hunting license in order to hunt.
  • Non-resident adults and minors (ages 15–17) purchase the same class licenses, H5 or H6, see page 8. Must have successfully completed a Basic Hunter Education course from any jurisdiction in any year or held a hunting/ sporting license from any jurisdiction prior to 2007.
  • Must obtain the same stamps and permits as residents. Permit and stamp fees are the same for residents and non-residents. Non-resident migratory game bird hunters must complete a Massachusetts H.I.P. survey to hunt.
  • May not purchase firearms or ammunition in Massachusetts (including materials used in black powder firearms).
  • Should keep firearms unloaded and enclosed in a case while traveling into or through Massachusetts.
  • No Massachusetts gun license is needed to possess or transport long guns.
  • Contact the Massachusetts Criminal History Systems Board, Firearms Support Services at (617) 660-4780 for handgun permit requirements.

Open and Closed Hunting Seasons for Certain Species in Massachusetts

  • Year-Round Open Season Exceptions

    • Licensed hunters may take the following species all year, excluding shotgun deer season:
      • English sparrow
      • Flying squirrel
      • Red squirrel
      • Chipmunk
      • Porcupine
      • Skunk
      • Starling
      • Weasel
      • Woodchuck
    • No daily or seasonal bag limits for these species.
  • Shotgun Deer Season Restrictions

    • During shotgun deer season, all game hunting seasons are closed statewide with exceptions for:
      • Deer (as per the shotgun deer season regulations)
      • Bear
      • Coyote
      • Waterfowl

Tree Stand Permission Requirements

Landowner Approval for Tree Stands

To install or utilize tree stands fastened to trees by means such as nails, bolts, wire, or any other intrusive fasteners that penetrate the bark into the wood of the tree, or those erected for a duration exceeding 30 days, explicit written or verbal permission from the landowner is mandatory. This requirement applies universally, encompassing both public and private lands. Hang-on tree stands are also subject to this regulation, underscoring the importance of securing appropriate approval before engaging in such activities.

Youth Deer Hunt Day Regulations

Firearm Restrictions

On the designated Youth Deer Hunt Day (Oct. 2, 2021), distinct regulations come into effect for hunting other game animals. Notably:

  • Firearm Prohibitions: The use of rifles and handguns for hunting any game on this day is strictly prohibited. Hunters are required to adhere to this restriction to ensure compliance with regulations.

Dog Usage Limitations

Additional constraints apply to the utilization of dogs during this period:

  • Limited Use: Dogs are exclusively permitted for waterfowl hunting, focusing specifically on ducks and geese. This restriction is applicable solely in coastal waters and salt marshes, emphasizing a targeted approach to hunting activities.

Mandatory Blaze Orange Apparel

Ensuring safety and visibility, the following attire requirements are imposed on all game hunters:

  • Blaze Orange Mandate: Every game hunter must don a minimum of 500 square inches of blaze orange on their chest, back, and head. This visibility measure is pivotal for safety and easy identification during the hunting process.

  • Waterfowl-Specific Attire: For hunters engaged in waterfowl hunting, the mandate extends to wearing blaze orange attire while in transit to and from their blind or boat. This additional requirement emphasizes a comprehensive safety approach for all participants.

Wanton Waste Prohibition

Responsible Game Handling

In accordance with hunting ethics and legal provisions, hunters are prohibited from engaging in wanton waste. The following regulations underscore responsible game handling:

  • Retrieval Obligation: Hunters are expressly forbidden from intentionally or knowingly abandoning a wounded or deceased game animal without a reasonable effort to retrieve and utilize it. This regulation emphasizes the ethical responsibility of hunters to make efficient use of the animals they harvest.

  • Mandatory Retention: Each game animal must be retained until processed or utilized for food, pelt, feathers, or taxidermy. This requirement ensures a comprehensive and respectful approach to utilizing the resources provided by the hunted animals.

Exceptions for Unfit Animals

However, it's essential to note exceptions to the retention mandate:

  • Unfit for Consumption: The retention requirement does not apply to animals or their parts that are deemed unfit for consumption or use. This includes animals and parts that are damaged, destroyed, decayed, rotting, diseased, or infected. In such cases, hunters are exempt from the obligation to retain these materials.

This regulation aims to strike a balance between ethical hunting practices and practical considerations, acknowledging the need for responsible resource utilization while accounting for instances where retention may not be viable or appropriate.

MassWildlife Contact Information

Online Communication

Phone Contact

  • Phone Number: To speak with MassWildlife representatives, you can call them at (508) 389-6300.

    • Availability: MassWildlife is accessible from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are closed from noon to 12:30 for lunch.

Feel free to utilize these contact options for any inquiries, information, or assistance related to MassWildlife.

 

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Disclaimer:

The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.