Small Game Hunting


”Small game” includes upland and migratory game birds, small game mammals (e.g., squirrel, rabbit), furbearers (e.g., fox, coyote), reptiles and amphibians. Game species may be taken only during their open seasons. Hunters taking wildlife on licensed shooting preserves must comply with regulations governing those shooting preserves.

To enhance the small game hunting experience, the DEC has several programs to either keep accurate counts of takes or raise and release species to increase hunting opportunity. Among the programs in place are required reporting of turkey take, pheasant release program and grouse and woodcock hunting log.

Learn about DEC’s Young Forest Initiative, which will dramatically increase young forest habitat for popular game species like American woodcock and ruffed grouse on Wildlife Management Areas.

Protected wildlife

In New York state, nearly all species of wildlife are protected. Most species, including endangered species, songbirds, hawks and owls are fully protected and may not be taken. The few unprotected species include porcupine, red squirrel, woodchuck, English sparrow, starling, rock pigeon and monk parakeet. Unprotected species may be taken at any time without limit. A hunting license is required to hunt unprotected wildlife with a bow, crossbow, or firearm.

General small game regulations

You may not use a rifle or handgun to hunt pheasant or migratory game birds.

You may not take a turkey with a rifle, or with a handgun firing a bullet. You may hunt turkey with a shotgun or handgun only when using shot no larger than #2 and no smaller than #8.

Air guns may be used to hunt squirrels, rabbits, hares, ruffed grouse, and furbearers that may be hunted (e.g., raccoons and coyotes) and unprotected species. Air guns may not be used to hunt waterfowl, pheasant, wild turkey, or big game.

A bow or crossbow may be used to hunt small game. A crossbow may not be used in Westchester or Suffolk counties. See Crossbow Hunting for additional information.

See the General Hunting Regulations for additional information.

Use of Hunting Dogs

Dogs may be used to hunt small game, except:

• You may not use dogs to hunt wild turkey in the spring.

• In the Northern Zone, if you are hunting with a dog, or accompanied by a dog, you may not possess a rifle larger than .22 caliber rim-fire or possess a shotgun loaded with slug, ball or buckshot unless you are coyote hunting with a dog.

• Crossbows may not be used while hunting with a dog for any small game (except coyotes) in the Northern Zone.

Training - You may train dogs on raccoon, fox, coyote, and bobcat from July 1 through April 15. You may train dogs on other small game only from Aug. 15 through April 15.

You may train dogs at any time on lands you own, lease, or have written permission to use, if you are not training on wildgame. You may only use blank ammunition when training dogs, except during an open season.

Control - Hunting dogs should remain under control of the hunter or trainer, especially on lands inhabited by deer. Do not shoot at dogs; report stray dogs to a local Environmental Conservation Officer or your local animal control officer.



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