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Massachusetts 2020 fall hunting season information

Find the latest information about all fall hunting seasons including impacts of COVID-19, new regulations, controlled hunt status, and safety information.

2020 hunting season date summary

Page updated August 4, 2020

Table of Contents

Licenses and permits

Buy hunting licenses and permits online. Hunters are strongly encouraged to purchase licenses online. MassWildlife offices are closed until further notice due to COVID-19, and some license vendors are closed as well. Hunters can purchase licenses and permits online with a computer or smartphone through MassFishHunt, or through any license vendors that remain open (call first). While hunting deer, bear and turkey, hunters must have in their possession a printed copy of their license and all necessary permits/tags.

NEW minor hunting licenses online purchasing option. Under normal circumstances, minors aged 15–17 must purchase a license in person and provide written parental consent. Due to COVID-19 closures, parents and guardians can now use an electronic form to provide consent and then purchase minor licenses online.

1. First, create an account for the minor in the MassFishHunt system. After entering the minor's information, the system will assign a customer ID. 

minor hunting license screen shot

2. Next, use that customer ID to complete the minor hunting form. Click here to complete the form. Please email mass.wildlife@mass.gov if you have any questions.

Harvest reporting

Black bear harvest reporting

Hunters are required to report their black bear harvest within 48 hours. Hunters are strongly encouraged to use MassFishHunt to report harvested bears online using a computer or smartphone. Due to COVID-19 public health measures, no check stations will operate during the fall 2020 black bear season, including all MassWildlife locations. Please click here for instructions on how to report your bear online. 

If you experience difficulties reporting your harvest online, call your nearest MassWildlife District Office or the MassWildlife Field Headquarters (FHQ). Staff will be available to help hunters report their harvest over the phone. When reporting a harvest over the phone, hunters should be prepared to provide the following information: name and customer ID; date of harvest, town, county and Wildlife Management Zone of harvest; the sex and weight of the bear; the method of take (shotgun/archery/rifle/muzzle loader); and, if the animal had ear tags, the color and numbers from the tags.

MassWildlife Office phone numbers:

  • Western District, Dalton: (413) 684-1646 
  • Connecticut Valley District, Belchertown: (413) 323-7632 
  • Central District, Boylston: (508) 835-3607 
  • Northeast District, Ayer: (978) 772-2145 
  • Southeast District, Buzzards Bay: (508) 759-3406 
  • Field Headquarters, Westborough: (508) 389-6300

NOTE: If you get a busy signal when calling a district office, try again in a few minutes or please call the Field Headquarters at (508) 389-6300 to leave a message. If you need to leave a message, please include your full name, customer ID number from your hunting license, and a phone number where you can be reached. 

Other fall harvest reporting

Information on harvest reporting for other seasons will be provided as soon as it is available. Continue to check mass.gov/fallhunt2020 for updates. 

Where to hunt this fall

Access to some hunting areas may be impacted by COVID-19; hunters should check with landowners about any special restrictions. Additionally, hunters should be aware that more people may be enjoying the outdoors as a result of COVID-19. Avoid crowded areas and have a back-up plan if your usual hunting spot is crowded. Click here for information on where to hunt in Massachusetts, including resources for hunting on state lands, federal lands, municipal lands, and private property. Please note: All MassWildlife Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) remain open to the public for hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation during this time. To find WMAs near you, please visit the MassWildlife Lands Viewer.

Deer hunting announcements

Check Antlerless Deer Permit award status

If you applied for an Antlerless Deer Permit by the July 16 deadline, you still have to check to see if you were awarded a permit. The easiest way to check is to log into MassFishHunt to check your permit status. If you need more assistance, click here for instructions on how to check your award status. The Instant Award Period begins August 1 at 8 a.m. and ends on December 31. Your odds of being awarded a permit are the same regardless of when you check your permit status. If you are awarded an Antlerless Deer Permit, you must purchase it in order to use it. See 2020 allocation and odds of winning.

Surplus Antlerless Deer Permits

Beginning late September, surplus Antlerless Deer Permits will be available for $5 in select zones until sold out. Get instructions here

Surplus permits will be sold by Wildlife Management Zone on the following days:

  • Zone 11: Tuesday, September 29 at 9 a.m.
  • Zone 10: Wednesday, September 30 at 9 a.m.
  • Zone 9, 13, and 14: Thursday, October 1 at 9 a.m.

Youth Deer Hunt Day

The 2020 Youth Deer Hunt Day is Saturday, October 3. Youth Deer Hunt Day permits are available online, beginning August 1. With this permit, youth may take either an antlered or antlerless deer in any zone on the Youth Deer Hunt Day. Learn more about the Youth Deer Hunt Day. 

Controlled Deer Hunts

Applications are open for fall controlled deer hunts at Camp Edwards and at certain Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) properties: Quabbin Reservoir, Wachusett Reservoir, and Sudbury Reservoir.

  • Quabbin Controlled Deer Hunt: Hardwick, Pelham, and New Salem are the only areas that will be open to hunting this year. There will be no lottery for permits; each hunter must apply individually. There is no application deadline for DCR's Quabbin hunt. Learn more about hunting at the Quabbin Reservoir.
  • Wachusett Controlled Deer Hunt: There are 2 types of hunting permits for DCR properties in the Wachusett Reservoir watershed area. To hunt in the “Reservoir Zone” you need to apply before August 31. Permits to hunt in other areas of Wachusett can be requested at any time. Learn more about hunting on the Wachusett Reservoir watershed. 
  • Camp Edwards Controlled Deer Hunt: Camp Edwards on Joint Base Cape Cod, located in Sandwich and Bourne, allows deer hunting. To hunt deer on Camp Edwards, you must pre-register by October 1 and follow special rules. Learn more about hunting on Camp Edwards.
  • Sudbury Reservoir Watershed Deer Hunt: A free, one year permit is required to hunt on the designated property in the Sudbury Reservoir watershed. You can apply any time - there is no deadline. Learn more hunting on Sudbury Reservoir property.

Note: DCR has not yet reached a decision about a 2020 controlled hunt at Blue Hills Reservation. When information becomes available, it will be posted on DCR's Blue Hills web page.

New wanton waste and furbearer regulations in effect

New wanton waste regulation: A new regulation is now in effect that prohibits the wanton waste of game animals taken during the regulated hunting and trapping seasons.  

  • “Waste” means to intentionally or knowingly leave a wounded or dead animal in the field or the forest without making a reasonable effort to retrieve and use it. It is unlawful for any person while hunting or trapping in accordance with 321 CMR 3.02 to waste an animal. Each retrieved animal shall be retained or transferred to another until processed or used for food, pelt, feathers, or taxidermy. 
  • The wanton waste regulation does not apply to: 
    • Animals “unfit for consumption or use” – animals and their parts that are damaged, destroyed, decayed, rotting, diseased, or infected. 
    • Defense of people or property (M.G.L. Ch. 131 Sec 37). 
    • Problem wildlife, such as Beaver Emergency Permitting (321 CMR 2.08) and Problem Animal Control (321 CMR 2.14). 
    • Certain animals listed in M.G.L. c. 131 Sec. 5: English sparrow, starling, crow, chipmunk, flying squirrel, red squirrel, porcupine, skunk, weasel, or woodchuck. 
    • Wounded or dead animals that cannot be retrieved after a reasonable effort has been made. 

New regulations for furbearers

  • Hunting contests for furbearers and predators are now prohibited. 
    • A predator or furbearer contest is where participants compete for prizes of cash value or other inducements in the capture or take of predatory or furbearing animals. 
    • It is unlawful for any person to organize, sponsor, promote, conduct, or participate in a contest for take of coyote, bobcat, red fox, gray fox, weasels, mink, skunk, river otter, muskrat, beaver, fisher, raccoon, and opossum. (Animals regulated under 321 CMR 3.02(3) or 3.02(5)(b)(2, 5-11)). 
  • Fox and coyote must now be reported within 48 hours of harvest and may be checked online or in-person. 

Fall turkey hunting regulation changes

Several changes to turkey hunting regulations were approved by the Fisheries and Wildlife Board in 2019. The summary below provides an overview of the changes impacting the 2020 fall turkey hunting season. Click here to view all turkey hunting regulations. 

  • Increased annual limit of three birds. Hunters may now take 2 bearded turkeys in the spring and 1 of either sex in the fall.  

  • Expanded fall archery season. Hunters may now harvest turkeys with archery equipment during the entire duration of the archery deer season, which varies by Wildlife Management Zone. Hunters may use a shotgun, muzzleloader, or archery equipment during the two week season which begins the second to last Monday in October and ends the second Saturday thereafter.  

2020 Fall Turkey Hunting Season Dates and Implements

Zone 

Oct. 5–17 

Oct. 19–31 

Nov. 2–28 

WMZ 1–9 

No fall turkey hunting 

Shotgun, muzzleloading shotgun, archery 

Archery equipment only 

WMZ 10–13 

Archery equipment only 

Shotgun, muzzleloading shotgun, archery 

Archery equipment only 

  • Changed shot size to no larger than #4. Prior to the regulation change, turkey hunters were only permitted to use #4–#7 size shot for turkey hunting. With this change, hunters may now take advantage of advanced ammunition that will allow for greater flexibility with different shotguns, including #9 TSS shot produced by several manufacturers. 

  • Youth turkey permits issued to young hunters aged 12–14 may be used in the fall. Young hunters 12–14 years old who completed the mandatory training program for the Youth Day were issued a free Youth Turkey Permit with 3 turkey tags (2 tags for the spring and 1 new fall tag). Remember, young hunters aged 12–14 must always hunt with a licensed adult mentor hunter. (Note: Other hunters aged 12–14 who do not have the Youth Turkey Permit must use their mentor’s turkey tags and license. All youth aged 15–17 are required to have their own hunting license and turkey permit, which allows them to hunt in the spring or fall seasons.) 

2020–2021 Migratory game bird hunting

The Fisheries and Wildlife Board recently approved season dates, bag limits, and other regulations for the 2020–2021 migratory game bird hunting seasons. NEW THIS YEAR: There will be two special waterfowl hunt days for veterans. View the 2020-2021 Massachusetts migratory game bird seasons dates and bag limits.

Safety reminders

MassWildlife encourages all hunters to review these safety tips before heading afield.

  • While hunting this year, be aware that more hunters and non-hunters may be out and about in the woods and fields as a result of the COVID-19 situation.
  • Always follow the 10 basic rules of firearm safety.
  • Be completely sure of your target and what is beyond it before you shoot. Always practice firearm safety.
  • Be safe, be seen—wear blaze orange.

Stay informed and help spread the word

Changes to the 2020 fall hunting season—mainly the availability of in-person harvest reporting—may be necessary to accommodate social distancing. MassWildlife will post new information as it becomes available to this page (Mass.gov/FallHunt2020). If you have an email associated with your MassFishHunt account, you will receive occasional emails if there are changes. You can easily add or update your email address by logging into your account at any time. Please help spread the word to other hunters, especially those who may not have access to email or a computer. Although MassWildlife offices are currently closed to the public, you can contact us at (508) 389-6300 or mass.wildlife@mass.gov. 

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