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Whitetail deer in high weeds

While the fall months bring cooler temperatures and changing leaves, they also bring a time some sportsmen wait for all year: hunting season for game such as deer, black bear, and wild turkey. Whether you are a seasoned hunter or new to the sport, it’s important know information such as open season dates and rules and regulations specific to the game you intend to pursue.

First-time hunters must take a Basic Hunter Education Course to become properly licensed in Massachusetts. Even those who are experienced can refresh their skills, which can be useful if mentoring a novice. Anyone interested can learn new hunting skills by taking Advanced Hunter Education Courses which cover topics such as how to use maps and compasses, trapping, bowhunting, waterfowl identification, and muzzleloading safety.

You can purchase fishing, hunting or sporting licenses, recreational lobster permits, and saltwater fishing permits electronically via the MassFishHunt online tool. Licenses can also be purchased at authorized agents. Lost or damaged licenses and permits can also be reprinted using the online tool, free of charge.

  • Any hunter age 15 and older is required to be licensed (trapping licenses are required for anyone age 12 and older)
  • The minimum age to hunt in Massachusetts is 12 years old and anyone under age 15 can only hunt when accompanied by a licensed hunter 18 years or older

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) establishes open seasons as well as bag and possession limits for different fish and game. October brings the start of open season for deer, wild turkey, rabbits, squirrels, coyote, raccoon, and opossum, followed in November by black bear and fox. Detailed species-specific open season dates and information is available for migratory birds as well as fish and other wildlife. It is illegal to hunt outside of established open seasons. Information and regulations for specific species such as deer, black bear, wild turkey, and more can be found in DFW’s Online Hunting Guide.

  • Hunting is not permitted on Sundays

Hunting hours are from ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset except for select species. A list of hours and exceptions can be found in DFW’s Quick Reference Guide

Your next step is to be familiar with Massachusetts’s hunting regulations, designed to ensure everyone’s safety and to preserve the wildlife population for years to come.

With this information, you’re ready to head out in the field. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) permits hunting in most state parks. DFW-owned Wildlife Management Areas are also located throughout the state and have certain regulations hunters must abide by when hunting in them. Some town conservation lands may also be open to hunting; be sure to check with the town clerk to obtain any written bylaws  concerning hunting, landowner permission requirements, or shooting restrictions. Lastly, if you would like to hunt on private land, it’s best to contact the landowner well in advance of the hunting season. Abide by whatever restrictions the owner sets and be polite, even if the landowner turns you down — remember that your actions will reflect on the hunting community.

New this year, successful hunters can now take advantage of the convenience of online game checking. Instead of going to a traditional check station, it is now possible to report most harvests electronically using the MassFishHunt online tool. Not only does this new electronic feature save you fuel costs and travel time, but it also provides MassWildlife biologists and the Massachusetts Environmental Police instant access to game harvest reports and data. This quick and cost-efficient access helps manage wildlife populations for the benefit of hunters and wildlife enthusiasts alike.

Hunters must report harvests no later than 48 hours after taking an animal. And for those who plan to report game online, this must be done before the animal is processed for the table or the freezer.

Share your hunting tips, tricks, and experiences here or by tweeting @massgov

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