Hunting and Tagging of Deer
1. SEASON DATES: there are four deer hunting seasons, as follows:
(a) Paraplegic season: this season is for the hunting of deer by paraplegics and is by permit only. The MassWildlife Director may select any 3 days for the season, beginning the last Monday in October and ending on the following Saturday;
(b) Archery season (Zones 01-14): this 6-week season begins on the sixth Monday prior to Thanksgiving and ends on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving
(c) Shotgun season (Zones 01-14): this 12-day season begins on the Monday after Thanksgiving and ends on the second Saturday thereafter;
(d) Primitive firearms ("muzzleloader") season: this season begins on the third Monday after Thanksgiving (i.e., the Monday after the close of the 12-day shotgun season) and ends on December 31. Thus, there are a variable number of days in this season.
1A. WAMPANOAG TRIBAL LANDS: Members of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) on their tribal lands in the Town of Gay Head (Aquinnah) may hunt deer by means of archery from the third Monday prior to the first Monday in November until the last day of the primitive firearms season.
(a) the paraplegic season is supervised by MassWildlife and is held only at site(-s) of their choosing;
(b) the archery, shotgun, and primitive firearms seasons are open statewide;
(c) for the hunting of antlerless deer, there are 15 zones (Zone 04 is divided into 2 parts). These zones are described in detail in the annual "Abstracts" of the fish and wildlife laws, and in the formal version of the regulations.
3. HUNTING HOURS: The hunting hours begin at ½ hour before sunrise and continue until ½ hour after sunset, except that on wildlife management areas stocked with pheasant or quail, during the pheasant or quail seasons, the hunting hours are from sunrise to sunset.
4. BAG AND POSSESSION LIMITS:
(a) The seasonal statewide bag limit is 2 ANTLERED deer, and as many antlerless deer as the hunter possesses valid permits and tags for. The seasonal bag limit is thus determined by the number of valid deer tags in the hunter's possession. Hunters may possess antlerless permits for multiple deer management zones or multiple permits for the same deer management zone. Two "antlered-only" tags are attached to the hunter's hunting or sporting license. Antlerless deer tags are attached to the accompanying antlerless permit.
(b) The daily possession limit of unsealed deer is 2. That is, a person may have in possession 2 deer tagged only with the paper tag from the hunter's license or antlerless permit. All deer must be taken to a checking station within 48 hours. The daily and seasonal possession limit of sealed deer (deer checked and sealed at an official check station) is unlimited, provided that the hunter has complied with all license, permit, and checking requirements.
5. LICENSES: A resident of Massachusetts needs a resident hunting or sporting license to hunt deer. A non-resident hunter needs a non-resident big game license. Each hunting or sporting license has 2 antlered deer tags attached. Each antlerless deer permit has an antlerless deer tag attached to it.
6. ANTLERLESS PERMIT:
An antlerless permit is required to take an antlerless deer during ALL deer seasons with the exception of the paraplegic season. Antlerless permits are selected by random drawing, on the basis of the 15 antlerless deer zones. Applicants may apply for only 1 zone through the random drawing process and must apply before the July 16 deadline. An applicant who was not selected for their zone of choice through the drawing process will have the opportunity to reapply for a permit in an undersubscribed zone. Permits remaining after the reapplication process may be made available through a process announced annually by MassWildlife. There are special antlerless permits available for use during the Quabbin Reservation controlled hunt. Questions regarding the Quabbin hunt should be directed to the Division of Watershed Resources.
7. SECOND DEER PERMITS. In previous years, MassWildlife would issue a second deer permit and tag after the hunter harvested and checked the first deer. Since the implementation of the new licensing system, both antlered deer tags are now attached to the hunter's license and antlerless deer tags are attached to the antlerless permits. Check stations will no longer issue so-called "Second Deer Permits".
8. STAMPS: In order to hunt deer during the archery season, a hunter must have an "archery stamp" for which there is an additional fee. In order to hunt deer during the primitive firearms ("muzzleloader") season, the hunter must also have a "primitive firearms stamp" for which there is an additional fee. Archers may hunt during the primitive firearms season but must have a primitive firearms stamp. These stamps must be signed across the face in ink, and must be affixed to the top of the rear of the hunter's license. They must be shown upon demand to a law enforcement officer. Stamps are not needed during the paraplegic or shotgun deer seasons. Stamps must not obscure the face of the license. In instances where stamps are imprinted on the license (automated license format), the hunter must sign the license or equivalent form, but need not sign the actual stamp imprint.
9. DEER TAG: There are 2 deer tags attached to the hunter's hunting or sporting license. There is another deer tag attached to each antlerless deer permit, when issued. Upon killing a deer, the hunter must immediately fill out the respective "deer tag", and must detach it from the license or permit and attach it to the deer in a conspicuous manner. The tag must remain attached to the deer until the deer is presented to an official check station, at which time the official in charge of the station will remove the tag and attach a locking metal seal. Tags which are detached from the license or antlerless deer permit prior to harvesting a deer are void and may be confiscated by a law enforcement officer.
10. CHECK STATIONS: Within 48 hours after killing a deer, the entire carcass (the animal may be field-dressed) must be presented to an official check station, by the person who killed the deer. At this time, the deer will be recorded and examined for research purposes. If lawfully taken, the official will remove the paper tag and affix a locking metal seal. The metal seal must remain on the deer until it is skinned or cut up or otherwise prepared for food purposes or for mounting by a taxidermist. Seals are non-transferable. Deer taken in Nantucket County must be checked only on Nantucket; deer taken in Dukes County (exclusive of Gosnold) must be checked on Martha's Vineyard; deer taken in Gosnold must be checked on Cuttyhunk Island or such other place as the MassWildlife Director may determine.
11. TRANSPORTATION: The carcass of a deer shall not be transported or under a person's control in a motor vehicle unless the carcass is open to view. The entire carcass need not be displayed as long as a portion of the carcass is readily visible. However, after the deer has been checked at an official check station and an official metal seal affixed, the deer no longer need be open to view.
12. HUNTING IMPLEMENTS:
(a) during the paraplegic season, a hunter may use a shotgun not larger than 10 gauge (including a shotgun with a rifled barrel); a muzzle-loading firearm (either rifled or smoothbore), fired from the shoulder, .44-.775 caliber; or archery (as provided below);
(b) during the shotgun deer season, a hunter may use a shotgun not larger than 10 gauge (including a shotgun with a rifled barrel); a muzzle-loading firearm (either rifled or smoothbore), fired from the shoulder, .44-.775 caliber; or archery (as provided below). NOTE: a person using archery or a primitive firearm during the shotgun season must abide by all the shotgun season requirements, including the wearing of "hunter orange" (see below);
(c) during the archery season, a person may use only a bow with a minimum drawn of 40 lbs. at 28 in. (or peak draw for compound bows) and well-sharpened steel broadhead arrows with a minimum width of 7/8 in. Crossbows are not lawful, except by permit. Hunters who are permanently disabled such that the person cannot operate conventional archery equipment can apply to MassWildlife for a crossbow permit (see archery regulations). Expanding broadheads are lawful, provided that at maximum expansion they fall within the acceptable widths stated above. During the archery season, no person hunting deer may have a rifle, shotgun or other firearm or a dog in his possession in any field or woodland.
(d) during the primitive firearms season, a person may use only a primitive firearm as described below except that archers may also hunt during the primitive firearms season, using archery equipment as in (c) above.
13. PRIMITIVE FIREARMS: A primitive firearm which is lawful for use during the primitive firearms deer season:
(a) must be either a flintlock or caplock firearm, and may have either rifled or smooth bores. So-called "in-line" ignition systems which have a horizontal firing mechanism in place of a traditional hammer system are lawful as long as they comply with all other provisions of these requirements;
(b) must be fired from the shoulder and have a barrel length of 18 inches or greater;
(c) must be loaded from the muzzle;
(d) must have only one operable barrel. Primitive firearms with double barrels must have one barrel made inoperable by removal of the nipple and hammer;
(e) must be not less than .44 caliber nor greater than .775 caliber;
(f) must be used only with black powder or an approved substitute such as "Pyrodex" which is approved by the National Muzzle-Loading Firearms Association;
(g) must use only a single lead or lead alloy projectile, including, but not restricted to, a pumpkin ball, Minie ball, Maxi ball, or similar projectile (i.e., buckshot is unlawful). So-called "sabot" rounds are also lawful, despite their composition, as are jacketed or belted projectiles;
(h) may have any type of sight, except laser sights or any other sight which projects a beam of light (see below);
(i) muzzle-loading firearms which use shotgun (209) primers are lawful when in compliance with other provisions of these requirements.
(a) trapping deer, or setting, placing, and tending traps for the purpose of taking deer;
(b) baiting deer, hunting over bait, or the placing of bait for the purpose of taking deer or attracting them to a place where they may be hunted. Bait includes any artificial or natural substance, including but not restricted to salt, corn or other grains, apples or other fruit, vegetables, or any product or substance which constitutes a nutritional attraction or enticement to deer. A baited area is any area where bait has been placed and remains a baited area from 10 days prior to the opening of the archery season to 12:00 noon on the day following the close of the primitive firearms season.
(c) hunting or pursuing deer with dogs, or having a dog in possession during the shotgun deer season, except for the hunting of waterfowl on coastal waters;
(d) hunting deer with a rifle (except a shotgun or a primitive firearm with a rifled bore), a handgun, or a crossbow (except certain disabled persons; see archery regulations);
(e) hunting of deer by means of an artificial light, including laser sights or other sights which project a light beam on to the target. Illuminated sights or so-called "quick point" sights which do not project a light beam are lawful;
(f) hunting of deer with a live or artificial decoy;
(g) hunting or driving deer by means of any noise-making device, except for the use of artificial or natural deer antlers, grunt tubes, or the human voice;
(h) sale of a deer or the meat thereof. A person may sell the head and hide of a deer which has been lawfully taken to a licensed fur dealer or taxidermist, and may sell the hoofs and shinbones to any person;
(i) no person shall construct, maintain, or use a permanent deer stand on land of another without written permission of the landowner. A permanent tree stand is one which is constructed using nails, screws, or other fasteners which intrude into the wood of the tree, or which is in place more than 30 days.
(j) possession of shotgun shells loaded with single ball or slug, or buckshot of any size, except during the paraplegic and shotgun deer seasons, or on a target range.
15. SEASON CLOSURE: During the shotgun deer season, no person shall hunt any bird or mammal except deer or coyote, unless the waterfowl season is open and coincides with the shotgun deer season. After having killed the season limit of deer applicable to the zone or area where hunting, a person shall not hunt in any zone where the deer season remains open, or enter the fields or wood with any firearm, archery equipment or dog, except for the hunting of coyote or for the hunting of waterfowl on coastal waters. There are certain exceptions for licensed commercial shooting preserves.
16. HUNTER ORANGE: During any season when deer may be hunted by means of a firearm, including the paraplegic, shotgun, and primitive firearms deer season, any person entering the fields or woods for the purpose of hunting deer must wear on head, chest, and back a minimum of 500 square inches of "hunter orange" clothing. A person hunting waterfowl or coyote during the shotgun deer season must wear the same 500 square inches of hunter orange, except when hunting waterfowl from within a blind or a boat. During the archery season, a person is not required to wear hunter orange, except that on wildlife management areas stocked with pheasant or quail, during the pheasant or quail seasons, all hunters must wear a "hunter orange" cap or hat (except night hunting for raccoon).
17. DEFINITIONS: There are technical definitions of certain terms, including "antlerless deer", "bait", "baited area", "baiting", "barrel length", "bow and arrow", "caplock", "decoy", "flintlock", "grunt tube", "lead projectile", "loaded from the muzzle" or "muzzle-loading", "loaded primitive firearm", "permanent tree stand", "primitive firearm", "Quabbin Reservoir Area", "scent", "shotgun deer season", and "unloaded primitive firearm". These terms are formally defined in 321 CMR 3.02(4)(a).
This is not the complete law, and is subject to change. Refer to the Deer Hunting regulations in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, 321 CMR 3.02(4), as well as to several provisions of the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 131.
Last Revised: 6-16-11.