Hunting in Massachusetts

The State of Massachusetts, officially known as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has some game animals and hunting places that can accommodate most hunters’ hunting desires. With over 215,000 acres of public land alone, this Bay State deserves some level of recognition from both astute and novice hunters.

Below, we have summarized interesting things hunters will need to know before making a hunting pilgrimage to Massachusetts. The summaries were carefully extracted from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s website and other state documents.

Hunting License in Massachusetts

Hunters 15 years and over interested in hunting, chasing, acquiring or killing a game animal in Massachusetts must be in possession of a valid Massachusetts Hunting License. See below for exemptions.

The hunters must possess the licenses at all times during hunting either in paper copy or electronic image. Images displayed on mobile devices must be visible and legible enough to the eyes.
Hunting license in Massachusetts can be grouped into two: residential hunting license and non-residential hunting license.

Resident Hunting License in Massachusetts

  • A hunter will be regarded as a Massachusetts resident when the person has resided legally in the state for at least 6 or more consecutive months prior to applying for the hunting license.
  • Residency status can be proved by providing the following: a Massachusetts driver’s license or Social Security number.

Any persons other than the above are regarded as nonresidents.

Nonresident Hunting License in Massachusetts

  • Nonresidents are regarded as people who have not legally domiciled in the state for more than 6 months prior to applying for the license or permit. These hunters are eligible for a nonresident hunting license.

Irrespective of the type of license above, additional licenses and permits may apply to a specific set of game animals. For example, non-residents require a Big Game license (license Class H5) to hunt deer, wild turkey, and bear.

Note: While hunting, failure to produce a copy of the hunting license or permit or tag while hunting can attract punitive penalties.

Hunting License Exemptions

The following persons are exempted from having a Massachusetts hunting license:

  1. Landowners or tenants of a land that has been leased for agriculture purposes. Additionally, their immediate family members living with the landowner and tenants are allowed to hunt on their property without a license. The law does not specify any acreage to the land.
  2. Minors 12-14 can hunt without a license provided they are in the company of a licensed adult hunter 18 years and over.

Eligibility Requirements for a Massachusetts Hunting License

To be eligible for a Hunting License, applicants 15 years and over must either have a previous Massachusetts Hunting license (before January 1, 2007) or Hunter Education Card (IHEA-USA approved).

In the absence of any of the above, hunters must enroll in a hunter education certification course.

Hunting License via a Hunter Education Certification

Ideally, persons 12 years old or older can enroll in the hunter education course. The course needs a bit of literacy and reading skills to pass the exams.

Note: The state accepts certifications from all states or provinces in the U.S. that meet IHEA-USA (the International Hunter Education Association) requirements. Education Certification from countries such as Canada and Mexico are accepted so long as the course meets official IHEA-USA requirements. Similarly, all U.S. states, provinces, and countries that have compulsory hunter education requirements will accept the Massachusetts Hunter Education Certificate.

A hunter education certificate is issued after successfully completing the classroom course. Students can use free online platforms, such as Hunteredcourse.com and hunter-ed.com, to fully prepare for the classroom course.

All courses in the state are available free of charge to the public. The pass mark for the course is usually 80%. The Hunter Education Card is issued after you graduate from the Hunter Education Course. The entire program takes 10 to 18 hours to complete. Upon finishing the course and passing the test, students have to attend a Field Day exercise. The students must come along with a field day voucher in order to take part in the Field Day.

For more details about the topics and duration of the various Education certification courses in Massachusetts, please click on this link.

How to get a Massachusetts Hunting License

The following are the two primary means of buying a Massachusetts Hunting license:

The first mode involves registering and making the purchase online via MassFishHunt of the Department. The system allows you to conduct a host of transactions such as: purchasing additional permits, stamps or renewing licenses in successive years.

The next relatively easy option is to apply for a license in-person at one of the many authorized state vendors and sporting goods shop.

The final option requires the applicant to physically buy the license or permit from any MassWildlife office in the state.

Note: Hunters 18 years or older can buy their license online. However, those 15-17 can only do so at the MassWildlife office or license state vendor such as a sporting goods shop. They must have on them a letter of consent from their parents or guardian, an ‘adult accompaniment’ letter, and the Hunter Education Certificate.

In all the above options, a valid driver’s license or an official state ID number are the usual pieces of information that has to be furnished by the applicant when buying a Hunting License.

Massachusetts Hunting Licenses are valid from the date of purchase through to the last day of the year.

**It must be noted that all license sales in the state are often final**

How much is the Hunting License/permit?

Resident and nonresident hunting licenses have different fees and application requirements. For more details related to the fees of Massachusetts Hunting licenses, permits and stamps, please visit this link.

Buying a license from sales agents attracts service fees. With respect to online purchases, the state charges a service fee and an additional 3% internet handling charge on the hunter’s total transaction. However, none of these handling or service fees applies when purchases are made from the MassWildlife offices.

Other forms of Hunting Licenses and permits in Massachusetts

Irrespective of one’s residency status, there are some completely essential stamps and permits that every hunter in the state needs. Also, these permits and stamps are required of landowners and tenants of agricultural lands. Here are some common hunting licenses, permits, and stamps in the State:

  • Minor Hunting Licenses are given once to persons age 15 to 17.  These licenses cannot be obtained without a hunter education certification. To be eligible, the minor must have a consent letter from a parent or a guardian. They should also have a signed document by the parent or guardian stating that the minor will be accompanied by an adult licensed hunter 18 or older. Considering the nature of the documents that have to be produced to secure this license, minor licenses can only be bought from MassWildlife office or authorized license vendors.
  • Special Permit for Falconry: persons interested in using birds to hunt must acquire this permit in addition to their hunting license.
  • Antlerless Deer Permit: Prior to taking antlerless deer during shotgun, archery, and primitive firearms seasons, hunters must secure this permit. This application is free.
  • Bear permit: To hunt a bear in Massachusetts, every hunter requires a bear permit in addition to the usual hunting license. See the MassWildlife website for more details related to the fees and deadline for bear permit applications.
  • Turkey Permit is a requirement for hunting turkey in the state.
  • Archery and primitive firearms stamps are needed to hunt deer during the archery deer season and primitive firearms deer season respectively.
  • Massachusetts Waterfowl Conservation Stamp is meant for waterfowl hunting of games such as ducks and geese.
  • Federal Migratory Game Bird Stamp enables hunters 16 or older to take tundra, ducks, geese, swan, and merganser. These stamps can be bought from any local U.S. Postal Office and/or online. The validity period for this stamp is from July 1 to June 30.

Note: All hunting stamps in the state come with a mandatory Harvest Information Program Registration.  All the above permits and stamps must only be used by the hunter to whom they are given. They are completely not transferable.

The application procedure and fees of the above licenses, permits, and stamps can be found at the MassWildlife website.

Places to Hunt in the State of Massachusetts

Hunters in this state have the opportunity to hunt a variety of game animals across a host of Wildlife Management Areas and Wildlife Conservation Easements. There are also Access Areas on both private and public properties in Massachusetts.

Wildlife Management Areas (WMA)

In these areas, the firearm bylaws of the towns don’t apply. Notable WMAs in Massachusetts include Moran, Flat Brook, and Darwin Scott WMAs. For example, the Moran WMA has about 1,200 acres of land. It mainly contains deer.

Wildlife conservation Easements (WCE)

These are privately owned areas opened to the public for hunting. For example, the Nantucket Conservation Foundation lands are about 9,000 acres. These lands are most famous for deer hunting.

State Parks

Hunters can revel in so many state parks and forest. There are about 52 of them dotted across the state. Most worth-mentioning ones are the F.Gilbert Hills State ForestMyles Standish State ForestSavoy Mountain State Forest, and Willard Brook State Forest. Many of these forests are known for large populations of deer, turkey, and small game animals.

Access Areas and Private Lands

Massachusetts is a very small state with a limited amount of public land for hunting. As a result of this, privately owned lands in Massachusetts have been opened to the public. This has enabled the state to meet the varied needs of hunters and trappers in Massachusetts. There are a number of Access Programs. In such cases, hunters are advised to get official permission from these private landowners before going to hunt on their properties. Hunters can view the various lands in the hands of private owners by using OLIVER geographical data viewer.

Liability Claims: Landowners who allow the public to use their lands without charging cannot be held liable for injuries sustained by hunters on their properties. There are a few exceptions though. An example is when there is proof of careless or willful or wanton landowner behavior that leads to injury.

General Hunting Regulations in Massachusetts

The following are key regulations that govern hunting activities in the State of Massachusetts. These were gathered from the latest edition of Massachusetts Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Guide, and website.

  • Hunters must report all personal injuries and death that may occur during hunting to the state or local police.
  • The state forbids the use of arrows that have explosive heads or drugs or poison.
  • All hunters must put on a florescent orange above their waist when hunting, especially during pheasant and quail seasons.
  • It is very much illegal to use motorized vehicles on MassWildlife lands without permission
  • With the exception of rabbit, hare, fox, coyote, turkey, raccoon, migratory game birds and opossum, hunting shall be from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
  • All deer, bear, and turkey require appropriate hunting tag on the carcass until Hunters can report it online or at an official check station.
  • The use of artificial lights for hunting any bird or mammal, except raccoon and opossum, is forbidden.
  • Hunters are prohibited from using electronic calls for hunting migratory game birds, deer or wild turkey.
  • Massachusetts does not allow hunting on Sunday.
  • Machine guns and fully-automatic firearms cannot be used to hunt in the state
  • A rifle larger than .22 caliber cannot be used.
  • It is forbidden to destroy the nest, lair, or den of a game animal.
  • Drones or remotely operated or unmanned aircraft is prohibited.
  • Every killed game must come with a filled game tag. The kills should not be left untagged by the person who killed it.
  • The state prohibits hunters from using any sort of motor-driven vehicles such as aircraft, snowmobile or sailboat for hunting migratory game birds.

Note: The above regulations were sampled from the MassWildlife Hunting Guide. Readers are advised to read the guide very carefully in order to avoid breaching any other state laws and regulations. The penalties for such breaches include revocation of license for one year; fines; and jail time.

Hunting Seasons in Massachusetts

The hunting seasons vary from year to year. They often depend on the type of game and species. Below are the various hunting seasons for turkey, deer, bear, migratory game bird, and small game:

Black Bear Seasons

There are three main bear seasons in the state that often occur from fall to the winter. They are Shotgun Bear Season, First Bear Season, and Second Bear Season. The Shotgun Season takes place from the end of fall to the beginning of winter. The First Bear Season occurs at the beginning of fall. The Second Bear season occurs around about fall ending.

The hunting implements vary from season to season. The bag limit is usually one bear per year. Also, hunters cannot use dogs to hunt bears. Baiting bears is completely forbidden. Every hunted bear must have appropriate tagging. Subsequently, they must be reported within 48 hours online or at an official check station.

Deer Hunting Seasons

The seasons are the Archery, Shotgun, Primitive Firearms, Paraplegic and Youth Deer Hunting Seasons. Collectively, the deer seasons run from fall to mid-winter. For more details related to the hunting regulations and bag limits for deer hunting, please consult the Massachusetts Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Guide.

Turkey Seasons

This game animal has three main seasons. They are the Fall, Spring and Youth Deer Season. The Fall season consists of a relatively short period at the end of fall. The Youth and Spring seasons run for a very short period in spring. Turkey permits are required to hunt turkey. The bag limit for wild turkey is two wild turkeys per person. Hunters are prohibited from hunting more than one turkey per day. For more details related to the hunting regulations and safety tips for turkey hunting, please consult the Massachusetts Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Guide.

Other Upland Gamebird Seasons

The game birds available in Massachusetts are Pheasant, quail, ruffed grouse and crow. All these game birds have varying hunting dates. For example, Crow seasons are often from mid-winter to mid-spring. The Pheasant, Quail and Ruffed Grouse Seasons take place at the end of fall.

For specific season dates and bag, daily and season limits pertaining to these game birds, please visit the Massachusetts Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Guide.

Migratory Birds Hunting Seasons

Examples of the game animals under this category are duck and geese, woodcock, snipe, coots, rails, merganser, coots, sea ducks, Canada Geese, and brant. The state forbids baiting of any migratory game bird. To view up-to-date information related to the migratory birds regulations, maps, season dates, bag limits, and hunting zones, please visit this link.

Small Game and Furbearer Hunting Seasons

Massachusetts has a number of small games ranging from gray squirrel, snowshoe hare, cottontail rabbit, raccoon, and bobcat. The hunting dates for cottontail rabbit, opossum, raccoon, fox (red or gray) and snowshoe hare occur in winter. However, gray squirrel season spans often spans from fall to mid-winter.  Finally, Bobcat and Coyote seasons dates are from mid-winter to early spring. The hunting dates for these game animals occur from early fall to the later part of winter.

Youth Hunting Seasons

The Youth Hunting Seasons are meant for persons 12 to 17 years old. They are Youth Deer, Waterfowl, Wild turkey and Migratory bird seasons. There are varying season dates for Youth hunting in Massachusetts. For example, the Youth Deer hunt days occur in fall. Permits for these youth seasons are often free of charge.

Hunters 12 to 14 must be accompanied by a licensed adult hunter 18 or older. However, Youth Waterfowl hunters 12-17 years old must be accompanied as well. The law forbids the adult hunter from accompanying more than one youth hunters at a single time.

Hunters interested in any of the above game seasons can visit the Massachusetts Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Guide to view all bag limits and hunting regulations.

Hunting Guides and Outfitters in Massachusetts

Hunting guides and outfitters’ operations are aimed at helping hunters get the utmost best of hunting experience in the state. Below is a list of such professional organizations:

Accommodation for Hunters in Massachusetts

Below are some accommodation and places that help hunters recover after a long day of hunting:

The Grafton Inn
25 Grafton Common, Grafton, MA 01519, USA
Telephone: 508-839-5931
Website: thegraftoninnma.com

Hunters Green Motel
553 MA-28, West Yarmouth, MA 02673, USA
Telephone: 508-771-1169
Website: huntersgreenmotel.com

The Lakeside Inn
595 North Ave, Wakefield, MA 01880, USA
Telephone: 781-245-6100
Website: lakesideinnwakefield.com

Hotel 1620 Plymouth Harbor
180 Water St, Plymouth, MA 02360, USA
Telephone: 508-747-4900
Website: hotel1620.com

The Farrington Inn
1704, 23 Farrington Ave, Boston, MA 02134, United States
Telephone: 617-787-1860
Website: farringtoninn.com

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What is the minimum age to hunt in Massachusetts?

A. At the moment, the minimum age to hunt in the state is 12. Persons of the ages 12 to 14 can hunt without a Massachusetts Hunting license. However, such persons must always be in the company of an adult licensed hunter 18 or older. From the age of 15 onwards, adult supervision is not needed, but those persons will need a hunting license.

Q. Can I hunt on private lands that have not been posted?

A. It is absolutely crucial that hunters get written or oral permission from owners of any land that they intend hunting on. Careful attention should be paid to the property’s rules and regulations concerning hunting and discharge of firearms.

Q. Where and how can I tag and register my hunt?

A. Massachusetts requires that a deer, bear, or turkey be tagged upon harvesting. The tags must be filled by the person who shot the game animal. Then, this tag must be affixed to carcass before transporting them.

With respect to registering the harvest game, the Harvest Information Program number is required. Hunters can report their killed game online or at any official check station across the length and breadth of Massachusetts. On the online platform, a report confirmation number is generated. Subsequently, write this number on the harvest tag and left until it is prepared for food or until it gets to the taxidermy. The law requires that hunters report bear, wild turkey, migratory birds and deer within 48 hours of the kill.

Q. What are the provisions made for hunters with disabilities?

A. The state makes provisions for hunters with disabilities. These hunters can have assistants to accompany them on their hunting trips. You can check out the application process online. The link contains application forms that must be mailed to:

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
ATTN: Licensing
51 Causeway St.
Suite 400
Boston, MA 02114

Conclusion

As one of the most densely populated state in the U.S., Massachusetts biggest thorn is to effectively manage its limited land areas in a very a sustainable and green manner.  From our research, the state’s efforts have started paying dividends. Several Wildlife Management Areas and private lands continue to be made available outdoor and hunting activities across the entire state.

Therefore, we confidently hope that the above concise hunting information gives any hunter intending to hunt in Massachusetts all the clarity needed. If properly planned, hunters can take a lot of delight while hunting in this Puritan State.



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