All About Hunting In Massachusetts

Massachusetts, one of the populous states in U.S., is hemmed in by Atlantic Ocean in the east, Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont in the north, and New York in the west.

It is a small state, renowned for its big game animals such as white-tailed deer and bear. Both resident and non-resident hunters can now purchase the hunting tags and permits online.

This facility allows hunters to take a print out of the permits from home itself before their arrival into the forests. Massachusetts, with its majestic places of American history, offers in addition more advantages to hunting and appeals to hunters from all over the world.

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1. Hunting Seasons

Hunting seasons in Massachusetts mainly varies depending on certain primary factors such as breeding or nesting, age or gender distribution, economic and recreational concerns.

The simple trick to set different hunting seasons for different animals is that if the animal population is large, moderators will time it to give hunters a greater advantage to hunt. If the population is dwindling, they will set the dates to give the animals a greater survival advantage.

The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game has classified the hunting season into two- Big Game Hunting Season and Small Game Hunting Season.

1.1 Big Game Hunting Season

Big game animals found in Massachusetts are mainly, deer and bear. Season dates for all animals vary by zone. The hunting season of deer according to the weapons used is mentioned below.

  • For hunters using shotgun, the deer hunting season is from November 30 to December 12.
  • Primitive firearms users can hunt deer between Dec ember 14 to 31.
  • The deer youth hunting season is from October 3.
  • The paraplegic deer hunting season is from October 29 to 31.

The general season for hunting bear in Massachusetts is from September 8 to 26, November 2 to 21 and November 30 to December 12.

1.2 Small Game Hunting Season

In Massachusetts, small game animals that are found in plenty include turkey, cottontail rabbit, snowshoe hare, Gray squirrel, crow, pheasant, quail and ruffled grouse. The following three points mention the three hunting seasons of wild turkey.

  • The turkey hunting season in Fall is from October 19 to November 28.
  • The Spring turkey hunting season is from April 27 to May 23.
  • The Spring youth hunt for turkey is from April 25.

The general season for other small game species is enumerated below.

  • Cottontail Rabbit and Snowshoe Hare can be hunted between October 17 and February 27.
  • Gray Squirrel can be hunted from September 4 to January 2.
  • Crows can be hunted from July 1 to April 10.
  • Pheasant, Quail and Ruffled Grouse hunting season commences from October 17 to November 28.

2. What Species To Hunt In Massachusetts?

Massachusetts bestows a plethora of different species of game animals that can be hunted in different suitable seasons. The rich wildlife of Massachusetts beckons the aspiring hunters from different parts of the world and leaves them astounded.

2.1 Deer

There are approximately 85,000 to 95,000 deer state-wide. The reforested yet suburbanized landscape of the state is considered to be the perfect habitat of deer and offers shelter, breeding areas in fragmented woodlands containing open areas and shrubbery deemed to be delicious for the deer. They have long, sprightful legs, a diminutive tail and long ears.

‘Bedding area’ are the locations visited frequented by the deer during their daily leisure periods and provide protection and cover. The network of paths connecting the bedding areas to feeding areas are known as “deer runs”.

The bag limit in Massachusetts is 2 antlered deer annually with at least one antler 3 inches or longer. Hunters can pursue as many antlerless deer as long as they have valid antlerless deer permits for the specified permitted zones. 

2.2 Bear

Black bears are native to the forests of the state Massachusetts and is the largest meat-eating mammal in New England. They are solitary animals and are fond of place that supply a food source.

They are great swimmers and can also run 32 miles an hour and climb trees nearly as quick as a squirrel. They are most active during the day, specifically at dawn and dusk.

The bag limit is 1 bear per calendar year, in Massachusetts.

2.3 Wild Turkey

The wild turkey is quite handsome in appearance, with a large, heavy body with bronzy feathers. They feed upon plants, nuts, roots and berries. They can fly for short distances up to 55 miles per hour and are also able to roost in trees at night. The annual bag limit of turkeys in Massachusetts is 2.

2.4 Cottontail Rabbit

Cottontail rabbits are solitary creatures and have a dark back, a broad black stripe on the outer edge of the ear, and a black spot between the ears. They emit a bloodcurdling and a shrill scream, when caught by a predator.

They are very active all-round the year, and do not tend to hibernate. The daily bag limit is 5, with a possession limit of 10.

2.5 Snowshoe Hare

The snowshoe hares have fur on their bodies and open eyes and turns white in order to completely blend with the snowy background. As can be understood from their name, they have large back feet and spread their toes to traverse in the snow.

The bag limit is 2 per day, with a possession limit of 4.

2.6 Gray Squirrel

Gray squirrels are animals having long furry and soft tails, and are usually grey with a white underside. They are quite active throughout the year and are extremely alert and inquisitive. They change their body color slightly during its twice-yearly molt, turning tawny grey in summer and silver grey in winter.

The bag limit is 5 per day, with a possession limit of 10.

2.7 Crow

Crow hunting is allowed throughout the year. The legal hunting methods to hunt crows are bait, electronic and manual calls. The hunter is required to wear a blaze orange cap while hunting crows.

There is no such bag limit for crow hunting in Massachusetts.

2.8 Pheasant

Pheasants were introduced in Massachusetts in 1894. They are beautifully adorned with bright colors and males usually have larger body and tails than females. They feed upon seeds and insects. In Massachusetts, only one party on each Wildlife Management Area can hunt per day.

There are no such well-defined bag limits.

2.9 Quail

Quail is a collective name for several mid-sized birds. They prefer open country where pastures are available. They are shy and are the only ground-dwelling species in the aviary.

The daily bag limit is 4, with a possession limit of 20.

2.10 Ruffled Grouse

Ruffled grouse is a non-migratory bird and are medium-sized having short yet strong wings, with ruffs on the sides of the neck. There is much white on the underside and flanks, and often they have a variegated appearance.

The daily bag limit is 3, with a possession limit of 15.

Hunting season in Massachusetts

3. Where Can You Hunt in Massachusetts?

3.1 Public Lands

A large acre of public grounds or Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) are available in the state of Massachusetts. The public lands are conserved by the government in order to provide habitat for the rich wildlife that it houses and to offer people a large open area to explore the wild.

Other activities that are included in the public lands include walking, hiking, hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife viewing. Through the public hunting lands, the trails are unmarked and parking lots are usually not paved.

These lands are jointly managed by MassWildlife and the Department of Fish and Game.

Certain Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) are mentioned below.

  • Abbott Brook WMA
  • Walnut Hill WMA
  • Great Swamp WMA
  • Southampton WMA
  • Bolton Flats WMA
  • West Hill WMA
  • West Meadows WMA

3.2 Private Lands

In Massachusetts, private hunting lands are available in plenty. The hunters do not need to take permission in order to hunt on private land that is not posted against trespass.

However, it is always advisable to ask the landowner and get written permission well in advance.

The hunters are required to provide the landowner with their name, address, phone number, vehicle description and must be knowledgeable of the property boundaries of the land and respect its boundaries.

In order to find out who owns a particular plot of land, you can view the property boundaries, identify names and contact information of landowners and learn about habitat features which will aid to find the correct place to hunt.

4. License Requirements

In Massachusetts, a person who is 15 years or older must possess a hunting license in order to go for hunting. Hunters of ages 12 to 14 must be followed by a licensed hunter who is 18 or older, and must share a single firearm and a single bag.

4.1 Age Requirements

In Massachusetts, the minimum age for hunting is 12. Hunters of 15 or older must have a hunting license.

4.2 Types of Hunting Permits

4.2.1 Antlerless Deer Permit

The above permit is a must for the hunters who wish to hunt an antlerless deer during archery, shotgun, and primitive firearms season. The state allows antlerless deer hunting with the proper permit in all the hunting zones.

4.2.2 Black Bear Permit

The above permit is necessary in order to hunt bear. You can purchase this permit with your hunting or sporting license or at any time before the end of the bear season.

4.2.3 Wild Turkey Permit

The above permit is required in order to hunt turkey. You can purchase this permit with your hunting or sporting license or at any time before the end of the fall turkey season.

4.2.4 Crossbow Permit for Hunters with Permanent Disabilities

This special permit is for hunters with a permanent physical disability that prevents them from using standard archery equipment. The Crossbow Permit form requires a physician’s sign-off.

4.2.5 Youth Deer Hunt Permit

Hunters of ages 12 to 17 are required to obtain a free permit to hunt deer on the designated day.

4.2.6 Youth Turkey Hunt Permit

Hunters of ages 12 to 17 are required to procure a free permit or authorization to hunt turkey on the designated day.

4.3 License Expiration

All hunting licenses are valid from the date of issue to the end of the calendar year.

5. Hunters Education

All hunters who are beginner and of 18 years or older, must complete a Basic Hunter Education Course before purchasing a hunting license. Certificates of Completion issued by Government of any other province or jurisdiction are accepted.

5.1 Traditional Format

In the traditional format of Hunter education course, students attend multiple sessions, as scheduled, for a total duration of 15 to 18 hours of classroom time.

5.2 Independent Study Format

In this type of format, students are required to attend 2 class sessions, as scheduled, and work independently to complete some of the essential coursework on their own. This format is apt for students with tight schedules who learn well on their own.

6. Rules and Regulations

6.1 Distance Regulations

The law in Massachusetts restricts a person from possessing a loaded firearm or hunting by any means on another person’s land within 500 feet of a building in use, unless allowed by the dwelling’s owner or occupant.

6.2 Legal Hunting Hours

In Massachusetts, the legal hunting hours begin from 30 minutes before sunrise and end 30 minutes after sunset.

6.3 Hunter Orange Requirement

It is required for the hunters to be aware that wearing blaze orange is a legal requirement during some hunting seasons.

All hunters during shotgun deer season and deer hunters during the primitive firearms season must wear at least 500 square inches of blaze orange material on their chest, back and head.

In addition, all hunters on Wildlife Management Areas during the pheasant or quail season on WMAs where pheasant or quail are stocked must wear a blaze orange cap or hat.

Effectiveness of Blaze Orange –

6.4 Bag Limits

The bag limits or tag permits in Massachusetts vary, depending on the size of the game animal. Usually, if the game is big, the bag limit is low and vice-versa.

6.5 Can You Hunt at Night?

Night hunting at Massachusetts is permitted solely for raccoon and coyote as long as the proper permission and spotlight permit is obtained.

Hunters are not allowed to use artificial lights of any type for hunting unless used to track an already wounded animal. Using a motorized vehicle while using artificial light is restricted.

7. Bowhunting

Bowhunter education is not compulsory in Massachusetts. A Bowhunter Education Certificate does not qualify a hunter to purchase his or her first-ever Massachusetts hunting or sporting license.

The Bowhunter education course is devised for novice and experienced hunters. Topics that are taught include bowhunting safety, bowhunting laws and ethics and introduction to archery equipment.

7.1 Bow and Arrow Requirements

  • All bows, that is, recurve, long and compound; except permitted crossbows, must have a draw weight of at least 40 lbs at 28 inches or at peak draw.
  • Crossbows may be used by certain permanently disabled persons by permit only.
  • Arrows must have well-sharpened steel broadhead blades not less than 7/8 inches in width.
  • Expanding broadheads and mechanical releases are permitted.
  • Poisoned arrows, explosive tips, air bows and bows drawn by mechanical means are prohibited.

8. Game Calls

Game calls refer to the signals emitted by the hunters in order to tempt the animals to the trap. There are two kinds of game call: hand-held and electronic. Hand-held game calls are carried out with the aid of wood or plastic and are extremely cost-friendly.

Electronic game calls are, however, not always considered legal. Recorded or amplified sounds may not be used to hunt any non-game bird or non-game mammal except coyotes.


Massachusetts caters to the needs of each and every hunter with its hunter-friendly laws and rich variety of fauna available in the beautiful forested areas. In order to have a truly unique and an adventurous experience, you need to strictly follow the hunting rules.

For further information, please visit the official website of Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game:


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