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Deer hunting regulations

This page contains regulations for hunting white-tailed deer in Massachusetts.

2020 hunting season dates
Youth Deer Hunt Day: Oct. 3
Paraplegic Hunt:Oct. 29 - 31
Archery Season* (Zones 10 - 14): Oct. 5 - Nov. 28
Archery Season (Zones 1 - 9): Oct. 19 - Nov. 28
Shotgun Season: Nov. 30 - Dec. 12
Primitive Firearms Season: Dec. 14 - Dec. 31

Table of Contents

Hunting hours

Hunting hours begin ½ hour before sunrise and end ½ hour after sunset. (Except on WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season, hunting hours are sunrise to sunset.) Click here for a sunrise/sunset table.

Required licenses, permits, and stamps

To hunt white-tailed deer in Massachusetts you must have the appropriate license, permits, and stamps which you can buy through MassFishHunt.

Massachusetts residents:

  • Hunting or Sporting License (Includes 2 antlered deer tags valid statewide)
  • Archery Stamp to hunt the archery season
  • Primitive Firearms Stamp to hunt the primitive firearms season
  • No stamp required for the shotgun season
  • Antlerless Deer Permit – Required for hunting any deer without antlers or antlers less than 3 inches in length. 

Non-residents:

  • Non-Resident Big Game Hunting License (Includes 2 antlered deer tags, valid statewide)
  • Archery Stamp to hunt the archery season
  • Primitive Firearms Stamp to hunt the primitive firearms season
  • No stamp required for the shotgun season
  • Antlerless Deer Permit required for hunting any deer without antlers or with antlers less than 3 inches in length. 

Youth ages 15-17:

  • Resident Minor Hunting license or Non-Resident Big Game License which are only available at a license vendor and parental consent is required. You cannot buy it online.
  • Antlerless Deer Permit required for hunting any deer without antlers or antlers less than 3 inches in length.
  • Archery Stamp to hunt the archery season
  • Primitive Firearms Stamp to hunt the primitive firearms season
  • No stamp required for the shotgun season
  • A free Youth Deer Hunt Day permit is needed to hunt deer on the youth day.
  • Learn more about youth hunting requirements.

Youth ages 12–14:

  • Do not need a hunting license or stamps but must be accompanied by appropriately licensed adult hunter.
  • A  free Youth Deer Hunt Day permit is needed to hunt deer on the youth day.
  • Learn more about youth hunting requirements.

Bag and possession limits

Bag limit:

  • 2 Antlered deer annually any deer with at least one antler 3 inches or longer
  • Antlerless deer (any deer without antlers or antlers less than 3 inches in length) Hunters may take as many antlerless deer as they have valid antlerless deer permits for the specified permitted zones.
  • Youth Deer Hunt Day: 1 deer (antlered or antlerless)

Possession limit:

In WMZs 1–12 deer hunters may take and possess up to 2 deer in a day before reporting/checking them. Once those deer are reported, the hunter may resume deer hunting on the same day. (Example: A hunter harvests 2 deer in the morning. After reporting the deer online or at a check station, he or she may return to deer hunting that same day.) In WMZ 13 and 14, deer hunters may take and possess up to 4 deer in a day before reporting/checking them. Once those deer are reported, the hunter may then resume deer hunting on the same day.

Hunting implements

  Archery season* Shotgun season Primitive firearms season*
Shotgun            X  
Archery           X          X                   X
Muzzleloader            X                   X

*stamp required to hunt during these seasons

Archery: Archery equipment may be used during all deer hunting seasons. All bows, (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, airbows and bows drawn by mechanical means are prohibited.

Shotgun: No larger than 10 gauge. May only be used during the shotgun deer season. Rifled barrel shotguns are legal.

Primitive fire arms: Shoulder-fired muzzleloaders .44 caliber to .775 caliber; barrel length 18 inches or more with only one barrel operational. Inline ignition systems are permitted providing the firearm loads from the muzzle. Single projectile only (no buckshot). Sabot rounds, 209 primers, break/hinge-action muzzleloaders, and scopes are permitted. Powder limited to black powder or black powder substitutes. A muzzleloader is considered unloaded when cap or pan powder is removed.

Prohibited: Possession or use of rifles and handguns in any woodland or field, or use on any game during the shotgun deer season, including the Youth Deer Hunt Day. 

Blaze orange requirements

All deer hunters, regardless of the hunting implement in use must wear blaze orange during the following seasons or Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs):

  • Youth Deer Hunt Day: 500 square inches of blaze orange on the chest, back and head
  • Archery Season: A blaze orange hat is required when hunting on WMAs stocked with pheasant and/or quail during the pheasant and quail season.
  • Shotgun Deer Season: 500 square inches of blaze orange on the chest, back, and head.
  • Primitive Firearms Season: 500 square inches of blaze orange on the chest, back, and head

NOTE: If using a blind during a season or on a WMA with a blaze orange requirement, all deer hunters must wear the required amount of orange while in the blind. Mass- Wildlife recommends that blaze orange be visible on the outside of the blind.

Hunting methods

Legal:

  • Use of non-food related scents, deer antlers or replicas, or grunt tubes are permitted.
  • It is legal to drive (attempt to move deer in a coordinated effort) deer while hunting.

Prohibited:

  • Rifles and handguns, electronic calls, dogs, and decoys are prohibited.
  • Baiting: Any natural or artificial substance, including but not limited to corn, wheat or other grains, hay, silage, apples or other fruits or vegetables, and salt or other chemical compounds of a like food-related nature to attract or entice deer. Baiting is defined as the deliberate placing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of bait so as to constitute for deer a lure, attraction, or enticement to or on any area where hunters are attempting to take them. A baited area is any area where baiting has taken place. Such area shall be considered a baited area for the period from 10 days prior to the opening of the archery season to the day following the close of the primitive firearms season. NOTE: On the Youth Deer Hunt Day, it is prohibited to hunt deer in any area where baiting has occurred up to 10 days prior to the Youth Deer Hunt Day.

Rules for pheasant-stocked WMAs

Special rules apply on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season:

Tagging, transporting, and reporting requirements

  • Tagging: Upon killing a deer, hunters must immediately fill out and attach the paper tag from the permit or license on the carcass. The deer must remain intact (other than field dressing), with the harvest tag attached until it is reported.

  • Transportation: When transporting the deer, some part of the deer must be visible until it has been reported.

  • Reporting: Deer must be reported online through MassFishHunt or at an official game check station within 48 hours of harvest. If reporting online, a confirmation number will be issued. The number must be written on the harvest tag and attached to the carcass. (During the first week of the shotgun season, ALL harvested deer must be taken to an official check station for biologicial data collection.)

  • Once reported, harvest tag with confirmation number or the metal seal from the official game check station must remain attached to the carcass until prepared for food, taxidermy or other uses.

  • Prohibited: Importing certain parts of deer from other states and provinces where Chronic Wasting Disease has been detected.Get more information about CWD.

More about deer hunting regulations

This page is to be used as a reference, it 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 for more information about deer hunting laws and regulations. 

Hunting season framework

  • Youth Deer Hunt: On the fourth Saturday following Labor Day
  • Paraplegic Hunt: Beginning the last Monday in October and ending the following Saturday, any three days of which may be selected by the Director.
  • Archery Season: Beginning on the sixth Monday prior to Thanksgiving and ending on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, all days inclusive, except Sunday
  • Shotgun Season: Beginning the first Monday after Thanksgiving and ending the second Saturday thereafter, all days inclusive, except Sunday.
  • Primitive Firearms Season: Beginning the third Monday after Thanksgiving and ending on December 31, all days inclusive, except Sunday.

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