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, tablet, 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. (NOTE: The process of purchasing a minor license online takes several days. If you need a license more quickly, please buy your license in person.)
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.
Hunters are required to report a harvested deer, bear, or turkey within 48 hours. Hunters are strongly encouraged to use MassFishHunt to report harvests online using a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Please click here for step-by-step instructions for online harvest reporting. Due to COVID-19, all MassWildlife offices, including fish hatcheries, will be closed to the public and many other check stations will be closed during the fall seasons. If you experience difficulties reporting your harvest online, call your nearest MassWildlife office for assistance. Hunters should be prepared to provide the following information: name and customer ID; date, town, and Wildlife Management Zone of harvest; the sex and weight of the animal; and the method of take. If you get a busy signal, try again in a few minutes or please call the Field Headquarters at (508) 389-6300 to leave a message with your full name, customer ID number from your hunting license, and a phone number where you can be reached. 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
Shotgun Deer Hunters: Normally, all deer taken during the first week of shotgun season must be brought to a physical check station so that MassWildlife staff can collect biological data. However, due to restrictions related to COVID-19, online harvest reporting using MassFishHunt will be allowed during the first week of the 2020 shotgun season, and is the preferred way for hunters to report their harvest. We expect to return to normal in-person reporting during the first week of the 2021 shotgun deer season.
Furbearers: Otter and bobcat must be checked at a MassWildlife district office; please call ahead to schedule an appointment. MassWildlife encourages hunters and trappers to check all other furbearers online using MassFishHunt. New this year: Fox and coyote must now be reported within 48 hours of harvest.
In-person check stations: If you decide to report your harvest in person, you can use this check station map to find locations that are open this fall. Please remember all MassWildlife offices, including fish hatcheries, remain closed to the public.
Deer hunting announcements
Shotgun Season: Normally, all deer taken during the first week of shotgun season must be brought to a physical check station so that MassWildlife staff can collect biological data. However, due to restrictions related to COVID-19, online harvest reporting using MassFishHunt will be allowed during the first week of the 2020 shotgun season, and is the preferred way for hunters to report their harvest. We expect to return to normal in-person reporting during the first week of the 2021 shotgun deer season.
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. - SOLD OUT
- Zone 10: Wednesday, September 30 at 9 a.m. - SOLD OUT
- Zone 9 (SOLD OUT), 13, and 14: Thursday, October 1 at 9 a.m.
Help Prevent Chronic Wasting Disease
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious neurological disease that is fatal to cervids, including deer, elk, and moose. It attacks the brains of infected animals, causing them to exhibit abnormal behavior, become emaciated, and eventually die. Infected deer may spread the infectious agents through urine, feces, saliva, etc. for months before showing any clinical symptoms. No CWD infected deer have been found in Massachusetts. If you see a deer or moose in Massachusetts exhibiting any signs of this disease or any other disease, please contact MassWildlife at (508) 389-6300.
In order to keep CWD from coming into Massachusetts, certain restrictions regarding the movement of deer and deer parts have been put in place. If you hunt deer outside of Massachusetts, remember it is illegal to import deer parts from states or provinces where Chronic Wasting Disease has been detected (see map here). It is legal to import deboned meat, clean skull caps, hides without the head, or a fixed taxidermy mount. This ban includes all members of the Cervidae family including, but not limited to, white-tailed deer, mule deer, red deer, moose, caribou, or elk. If you are a non-resident hunting in Massachusetts, it's important for you to understand the rules for traveling back to your state with a deer harvested in Massachusetts. Check with your home state before bringing a harvested deer or deer parts back. Please click here to learn more about CWD.
Licensed hunters need an archery season stamp to hunt deer during the archery season and a primitive firearms stamp during the primitive firearms season. Click here for all deer hunting regulations.
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. Youth and mentors are encouraged to wear PPE and take precautions against COVID-19.
New regulations in effect for 2020
Turkey hunting regulations
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.
No fall turkey hunting
Shotgun, muzzleloading shotgun, archery
Archery equipment only
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.)
A new regulation is now in effect that prohibits the wanton waste of game animals taken during the regulated hunting and trapping seasons. It is unlawful for hunters to intentionally or knowingly leave a wounded or dead game animal without making a reasonable effort to retrieve and use it. Each animal must be retained until processed or used for food, pelt, feathers, or taxidermy. This does not apply to animals unfit for consumption or use—animals and their parts that are damaged, destroyed, decayed, rotting, diseased, or infected.
A new regulation is now in effect that prohibits furbearer and predator hunting contests. Contests where participants are awarded prizes for coyote, bobcat, red fox, gray fox, weasels, mink, skunk, river otter, muskrat, beaver, fisher, raccoon, and opossum are prohibited.
Fox and coyote harvest reporting
Fox and coyote must now be reported within 48 hours of harvest and may be checked online or in-person. Click here for more fox and coyote harvest reporting information.
New special waterfowl hunt days for active military and veterans
Two statewide Veterans Waterfowl Hunt season dates are open for waterfowl hunting by members of the Armed Forces on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserve on active duty (other than for training), and veterans. Proof of eligibility is required and must be carried while hunting. All migratory game bird hunting regulations and bag limits apply. Click here for migratory game bird hunting regulations.
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.
Here are some resources to help you find your perfect hunting spot:
- MassWildlife lands: All MassWildlife Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) remain open to the public for hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation. To find WMAs near you, please visit the MassWildlife Lands Viewer.
- State parks and forests: Hunting is allowed in many state parks and forests, as well as DCR watershed properties. Learn which state parks and forests are open to hunting and about special regulations.
- Municipal lands: Many towns allow hunting on municipal lands, which are sometimes called "conservation lands." Some town bylaws do not allow hunting, and others may restrict the use of firearms. Some land trusts and other nonprofit land groups also allow hunting on their lands. Contact the town or group for details. Get tips for hunting municipal lands.
- Federal lands: Massachusetts is home to several National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunting is allowed on 5 of these properties; click here to learn more about hunting on NWRs.
- Private property: Finding a place to hunt on private lands requires research and planning, but can be well worth the effort. Barring a town regulation, in Massachusetts you don’t need permission to hunt on private land that is not posted against trespass. However, it’s strongly recommended that you ask the landowner and get written permission well in advance. Click here for tips on hunting private property, including learning how to find out who owns the land.
- Pheasant stocked areas: MassWildlife will be stocking about 40,000 ring-necked pheasants statewide on public and private lands that are open to hunting. Click here to find pheasant stocked areas near you.
Still need more ideas? Click here for information on where to hunt in Massachusetts.
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.
- If you are planning to mentor or hunt with others who live outside your immediate household, take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Click here for the latest guidance on COVID-19.
- 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.