New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos has announced that several small game hunting seasons –– including special youth hunts and new hunting opportunities for active-duty military members and veterans –– open Oct. 1 across the state.

“Public and private lands across the state present a diverse array of small game hunting opportunities,” Seggos said. “Pursuing small game is a great way to introduce someone to hunting and in addition to our youth hunting seasons, DEC is offering waterfowl hunts this year specifically for active military and veterans. I encourage experienced hunters across the state to take advantage of these opportunities, bring a new hunter afield, and follow hunter safety requirements to have a rewarding experience this fall.”

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:

19 and 20 in the Northeast and Southeast zones; 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, The DEC is providing 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: Oct. 19 and 20 in the Northeast Zone.

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 opens on Sept. 20, and runs through the last day of February. Ruffed grouse hunters in the Northern Zone are reminded to positively identify quarry before shooting. 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 the DEC’s website.

The 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.

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.

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.

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. 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. The statewide season bag limit is one bird of either sex. Hunting hours are sunrise to sunset.

Safety information: 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 and other important safety tips, please visit DEC’s website and watch videos about hunter safety.

For more information about getting outdoors safely and responsibly during the State’s response to COVID-19, visit DEC’s Website.

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