Overview of Small Game Hunting

Definition and Inclusion

"Small game" encompasses a wide range of wildlife species, including:

  • Upland and Migratory Game Birds: These typically include species like pheasants, quails, doves, and waterfowl such as ducks and geese.
  • Small Game Mammals: Common examples are squirrels and rabbits.
  • Furbearers: These include animals like foxes and coyotes.
  • Reptiles and Amphibians: While less commonly hunted, they are also categorized under small game.

Seasonal Regulations

  • Open Seasons: It's mandatory to hunt game species only during their designated open seasons. This ensures sustainable wildlife management and conservation.
  • Shooting Preserves: Hunters utilizing licensed shooting preserves must adhere to specific regulations governing those areas.

Hunting Programs and Initiatives

  • DEC Programs: To improve the small game hunting experience and manage wildlife populations, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has implemented several programs. These include:
    • Mandatory Reporting: For certain species like turkeys, hunters are required to report their takes.
    • Pheasant Release Program: This initiative involves raising and releasing pheasants to enhance hunting opportunities.
    • Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Log: A tool for hunters to record their encounters and harvests, aiding in wildlife management.

Young Forest Initiative

  • Habitat Improvement: The DEC's Young Forest Initiative aims to significantly increase the habitat for young forests. This benefits popular game species such as American woodcock and ruffed grouse.
  • Location: The initiative is focused on Wildlife Management Areas, enhancing the habitat and thereby increasing the populations of these game species.

Wildlife Protection and Regulations in New York State

General Protection of Wildlife

In New York State, the majority of wildlife species are under protection, which includes:

  • Endangered Species: These are species that are at risk of extinction and are fully protected by law.
  • Birds: Most bird species, such as songbirds, hawks, and owls, are under complete protection and cannot be hunted or captured.

Unprotected Species

While most species are protected, there are a few that are classified as unprotected. These include:

  • Animals: Porcupine, red squirrel, and woodchuck.
  • Birds: English sparrow, starling, rock pigeon, and monk parakeet.

Unprotected species can be taken at any time without any limits imposed on their capture or hunting.

Licensing Requirements

  • Hunting Unprotected Wildlife: To hunt unprotected wildlife species using a bow, crossbow, or firearm, a hunting license is required. This regulation ensures that even the hunting of unprotected species is monitored and carried out in a safe and regulated manner.

Key Regulations for Small Game Hunting in New York State

Firearms Restrictions

  • Pheasant and Migratory Game Birds: The use of rifles or handguns is prohibited when hunting pheasant or migratory game birds. This restriction is likely due to safety concerns and the effective range of these firearms.
  • Turkey Hunting: While hunting turkeys, the use of rifles or handguns that fire bullets is not allowed. Hunters may use shotguns or handguns, but only with shot sizes ranging from #2 to #8. This size limitation ensures the humane and ethical harvesting of turkeys.

Air Gun Usage

  • Permitted Species: Air guns can be used to hunt a variety of small game and furbearers. This includes squirrels, rabbits, hares, ruffed grouse, raccoons, coyotes, and other unprotected species.
  • Restrictions: However, air guns are not allowed for hunting waterfowl, pheasant, wild turkey, or any big game species.

Bow and Crossbow Regulations

  • General Use: Bows and crossbows are legal instruments for hunting small game. This allows for a diverse range of hunting techniques and caters to different skill sets among hunters.
  • Crossbow Restrictions: Crossbows cannot be used in Westchester or Suffolk counties. This restriction might be due to local safety concerns or population density.

Additional Resources

  • Crossbow Hunting Information: For more detailed information and guidelines on crossbow hunting, refer to the specific section titled 'Crossbow Hunting'.
  • General Hunting Regulations: It's important to consult the General Hunting Regulations for comprehensive rules and guidelines that apply to hunting in New York State.

Regulations for Hunting Reptiles and Amphibians in New York State


  • Definition: Includes various species like the eastern spadefoot toad, bullfrog, green frog, and several others.
  • License Requirements:
    • Spear, Club, Hook, or Hand: A fishing or hunting license is required.
    • Gun or Bow: A hunting license is specifically required.
  • Open Season: June 15 to September 30.
  • Open Area Restrictions:
    • Leopard Frogs: Not to be taken in wildlife management units 1A, 1C, or 2A.
    • Northern Cricket Frogs and Eastern Spadefoot Toads: Cannot be taken anywhere in the state.
  • Size, Daily Bag, and Season Bag Limits: There are no limits on size, daily bag, or season bag for frogs.
  • Hunting Hours: Allowed any time, but guns cannot be used for hunting frogs at night (from sunset to sunrise).


  • Diamondback Terrapin: Hunting season closed since May 1, 2018.
  • Snapping Turtles: Only species with an open hunting season.
    • License Requirement: Hunting license required.
    • Legal Implements: Only a firearm or a bow is permissible.
    • Health Advisory: It's advised to trim all fat and discard fat, liver, and eggs before cooking, due to potential contaminants. For more information, contact 1-800-458-1158 or visit the New York State Department of Health website.
  • Open Season: July 15 to September 30.
  • Open Area: Statewide.
  • Size Limit: Carapace must measure 12 inches or longer in a straight line.
  • Daily and Season Bag Limits: Daily bag limit is 5, and the season bag limit is 30.
  • Hunting Hours: Permitted at any time of the day or night.

Snakes, Lizards, and Salamanders

  • Restrictions: Harvesting, taking, or possessing any native snakes, lizards, or salamanders is prohibited at all times.

Falconry Season and Regulations in New York State

Overview of Falconry

Falconry, the traditional sport of hunting with trained raptors, requires specific licensing and adheres to certain seasonal regulations.

Licensing Requirements

  • Falconry License: A valid Falconry License is mandatory to hunt with raptors.
  • Hunting License: In addition to the Falconry License, a standard hunting license is also required.

Falconry Hunting Season

  • General Season: Licensed falconers can hunt small game species from October 1 through March 31. This is applicable in all areas of the state that are open to hunting these species.
  • Exceptions and Specific Regulations:
    • Waterfowl: Falconers may hunt waterfowl during a specific period that falls outside the firearms hunting season but within the Federal waterfowl season. Detailed information can be found in the Waterfowl Hunting Guide.
    • Common Crow: This species may only be hunted during the open firearms season.
    • Pheasants: A licensed falconer is allowed to take both male and female pheasants anywhere in the state when hunting under a Falconry License.

Additional Information and Contacts

  • For further details or queries about falconry, individuals can contact the DEC Special Licenses Unit at 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4752, or call (518) 402-8985.

Regulations for Possessing and Transporting Wildlife Taken Outside New York State

Possession and Transportation of Legally Imported Game

  • Year-Round Possession: Game that has been legally imported can be possessed and transported at any time, without restrictions on the season.

Importation of Game Birds and Animals

  • Legal Capture Outside the State: Game birds and animals (excluding migratory game birds) that have been legally hunted and captured outside of New York State can be imported under certain conditions.
  • Importation Methods: These game species may be imported through any means except via parcel post.
  • Quantity Limitations: The number of game birds or animals imported should align with the legal export limits from the place where they were taken.

Specific Conditions Based on Open or Closed Seasons

  • During Open Seasons in New York State:
    • No License Requirement for Importer: The individual who legally took the game can import it during the respective open seasons in New York State without needing any additional license or permit.
  • During Closed Seasons in New York State:
    • Importation License Requirement: If someone wishes to import game during a period when the season for that game is closed in New York State, they must first obtain an importation license from a DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) regional office.

Regulations on Possession and Release of Game Birds in New York State

Legal Requirements for Possession and Release

  • Licensing: Possessing or releasing migratory and upland game birds without the appropriate license(s) from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is illegal.
  • Landowner Permission: Additionally, obtaining the permission of the landowner or land manager is required before releasing birds into the wild.

Definitions and Inclusions

  • Migratory Game Birds: This category includes a variety of bird species such as waterfowl (ducks, geese, brant, swans), shorebirds (woodcock, snipe, plover, etc.), corvids (jays, crows, magpies), and others like rails, coots, mud hens, and gallinules.
  • Upland Game Birds: These are species like wild turkeys, grouse, pheasant, Hungarian or European gray-legged partridge, and quail.

Restrictions on Specific Species

  • Captive-Reared Birds: It is not permitted to release captive-reared wild turkeys, swans, and Canada geese at any time.
  • Pigeons: Pigeons, not being considered game birds, are also not allowed to be released.

DEC Cooperators and Programs

  • DEC Programs: Participants in DEC programs such as the "Day-Old Chick" and "Young Pheasant Release" are bound by the terms of their agreement with the DEC. The birds obtained through these programs must be released on lands that are open to public hunting.

Contacting DEC

  • Before Possession: It is advised to contact the DEC's Special Licenses Unit at 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4752, or call (518) 402-8985 before taking possession of any game birds for guidance and compliance with regulations.

Regulations for the Use of Hunting Dogs in New York State

General Use of Dogs in Hunting

Dogs can be an effective aid in hunting small game, but their use is subject to certain restrictions:

Restrictions on Hunting with Dogs

  • Wild Turkey in Spring: Using dogs to hunt wild turkey during the spring season is prohibited.
  • Northern Zone Specifics:
    • If hunting with a dog or accompanied by a dog in the Northern Zone, hunters are restricted in their choice of firearms:
      • Rifle Restrictions: Hunters may not possess a rifle larger than .22 caliber rimfire.
      • Shotgun Restrictions: Hunters cannot possess a shotgun loaded with slug, ball, or buckshot, unless they are hunting coyotes with a dog.
    • Crossbow Limitations: In the Northern Zone, hunters cannot use crossbows while hunting with a dog for any small game, except when hunting coyotes.

Training Regulations

  • Training Periods:
    • Raccoon, Fox, Coyote, and Bobcat: Dogs may be trained on these species from July 1 through April 15.
    • Other Small Game: Training on other small game species is permitted from August 15 through April 15.
  • Training on Private Lands: Dogs can be trained at any time on lands owned, leased, or used with written permission, provided the training is not on wild game.
  • Ammunition Restrictions: Only blank ammunition is permitted when training dogs, except during an open hunting season.

Control and Safety

  • Responsibility and Control: It is the hunter's or trainer's responsibility to keep dogs under control, particularly in areas inhabited by deer.
  • Reporting Stray Dogs: Hunters should not shoot at stray dogs. Instead, they should report any stray dogs to a local Environmental Conservation Officer or the local animal control officer.


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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.