Deer hunting regulations

Before you go hunting for white-tailed deer, be sure you know the rules. This page contains regulations for hunting white-tailed deer in Massachusetts.

2017 hunting season dates

Youth Deer Hunt Day: Sept. 30
Paraplegic Hunt:Nov. 2 - Nov. 4
Archery Season: Oct. 16 - Nov. 25
Shotgun Season: Nov. 27 - Dec. 9
Primitive Firearms Season: Dec. 11 - Dec. 30

All dates inclusive. Hunting is prohibited on Sundays.

Deer hunting

Archery Deer Hunting Season Log
Bowhunters in Massachusetts keep a daily log of their hunting activities and observations of wildlife during the archery deer season. Because archery hunters are usually very stealthy and camouflaged, they are uniquely suited to track valuable observations of wildlife including deer, wild turkey, black bear, and other species not commonly observed.

Additional Resources

Regulations

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 and 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
  • Antlerless deer permit (needed to harvest deer without antlers or antlers less than 3 inches in length)
  • Archery stamp (needed to hunt deer during archery deer season)
  • Primitive firearms stamp (needed to hunt deer during the primitive firearms deer season)

Non-residents:

  • Big game license
  • Antlerless deer permit (needed to harvest deer without antlers or antlers less than 3 inches in length)
  • Archery stamp (needed to hunt deer during archery deer season)
  • Primitive firearms stamp (needed to hunt deer during the primitive firearms deer season)

Youth ages 15-17:

  • Minor hunting license which are only available at a license vendor and parental consent is required.  You cannot buy it online.
  • Antlerless deer permit (needed to harvest deer without antlers or antlers less than 3 inches in length)
  • Archery stamp (needed to hunt deer during archery deer season)
  • Primitive firearms stamp (needed to hunt deer during the primitive firearms deer season)
  • Youth Deer Hunt day permit (needed to hunt deer on the youth day)

Bag limits

Season Limit:

  • 2 antlered deer per year
  • As many antlerless deer as you have valid antlerless deer permits for.

Note: Youth Deer Hunt Day permits allow for 1 deer to be harvested.

Possession Limit:

  • You may have 2 unreported deer from Wildlife Management Zones (WMZ) 1-12 in your possession.
  • 4 unreported deer from WMZs 13 and 14 
  • Reporting is required within 48 hours of harvest

There is no daily limit. If you have unused antlered tags or antlerless permits, you may continue hunting after reporting your harvest.

Hunting implements

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

*stamp required to hunt during these seasons

Shotgun: Allowed only during the shotgun season. Shotgun, including shotguns with a rifled bore, not larger than 10 gauge (i.e., 12 or 20 gauge is legal). Slugs or buckshot only.

Archery Equipment: Archery equipment may be used during the archery season, shotgun season, and primitive firearms season. Arrows must have a well sharpened steel broadhead blade not less than 7/8 inches in width. Expanding broadheads are legal. All bows must have a draw weight of at least 40lbs at 28 inches or at peak draw. Poisoned arrows, explosive tips, and bows drawn by mechanical means are prohibited. Crossbows may be used by certain permanently disabled persons by permit only.

Muzzleloader: .44 to .775 caliber, barrel length at least 18 inches, fired from the shoulder, using a single projectile. Inline ignition systems are legal providing the projectile loads from the muzzle. Allowed during the shotgun season and primitive firearms season.

Handgun: Handguns are not allowed for deer hunting and may not be in your possession while deer hunting.

Hunter orange requirements

  • Youth Deer Hunt Day: 500 square inches of hunter orange on the chest, back and head required, regardless of the hunting implement you are using.
  • Archery Season: Hunter orange is not required unless on a WMA stocked with pheasants (see below).
  • Shotgun Deer Season: 500 square inches of visible hunter orange on the chest, back, and head required, regardless of the hunting implement you are using.
  • Primitive Firearms Season: 500 square inches of hunter orange on the chest, back, and head, regardless of the hunting implement you are using.
  • NOTE: If using a blind during a season with a hunter orange requirement, hunters must still wear 500 square inches of hunter orange on the chest, back, and head.

      Illegal hunting methods

      It is illegal to hunt deer using:

      • Bait
      • Dogs
      • Electronic calls
      • Rifles or handguns

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

      Tagging, transporting, and reporting requirements

      • You must report your game within 48 hours of harvest.
      • Fill out and attach the paper tag from your permit on the carcass immediately after harvesting a deer.
      • The game must remain intact,(other than field dressing), with the harvest tag attached until it is reported. Once reported, the metal seal or harvest tag with confirmation number must remain attached to the carcass until  prepared for food or taxidermy purposes.
      • When transporting the deer, some portion of the carcass must remain visible until it has been reported.
      • You must bring all deer harvested during the first week of shotgun season to an official check station for biological data collection.
      • Report your harvest at an official check station or online.
      • If you report online, write your confirmation number on the harvest tag attached to the carcass.

      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.

      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. 

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