Black bear hunting seasons opened Sept. 12 in the southeastern part of the state and begin Sept. 19 in the Adirondack region. Ruffed grouse season begins in the Northern Zone on Sept. 20.
In northern New York, the early bear season runs from Sept. 19 to Oct. 16 in WMUs 5A, 5C, 5F, 5G, 5H, 5J, 6C, 6F, 6H, and 6J. Bowhunting season for bears also begins on Sept. 19 in the other Northern Zone units (WMUs 6A, 6G, 6K, and 6N). Muzzleloader season opens in all northern WMUs on Oct. 17, followed by the regular firearms season for bears on Oct. 24.
In southeastern New York, the early bear season runs from Sept. 12 to Sept. 27 in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 3M, 3P, 3R, 4P, 4R, and 4W. The early bowhunting season for bears will open in all of the Southern Zone on Oct. 1, followed by the regular firearms season beginning Nov. 21. New this year, DEC has added WMU 4W to the early bear season in the Southern Zone. The bear population in 4W has been growing and additional bear harvest is necessary to meet the management objective of maintaining a moderate bear population density in the unit. To view all WMU locations and boundaries, visit DEC’s Wildlife Management Units.
During the early season, bear hunters may use a bow (with appropriate bowhunting eligibility), crossbow, muzzleloader, handgun, shotgun, or rifle (where allowed). Because of the likelihood of warm weather, bear hunters should be prepared to skin and cool harvested bears as soon as possible to protect the quality of the meat. Hunters may opt to skin and quarter the bear in the field, then pack out the meat in game bags to a waiting cooler of ice. From roasts, stews, burgers, and sausage to barbequed ribs, bear meat makes excellent table fare. Hunters may also consider rendering bear fat into grease or lard, which is a great oil for cooking or baking and can be used to waterproof leather or to lubricate patches for muzzleloading.
Hunters are required to report their bear harvest within seven days, and DEC also encourages hunters to submit a premolar tooth and the scaled-dressed weights of harvested bears. DEC uses teeth to determine the bear’s age and weight to monitor physical condition. This data helps DEC biologists monitor bear population dynamics and trends. Hunters who report their harvest and submit a premolar tooth from the bear are eligible to receive a commemorative NYS Black Bear Management Cooperator Patch.
DEC regulates black bear hunting to manage populations toward levels that are acceptable to the public. Information about black bear hunting in New York, including season dates regulations, is available on DEC’s website. Additionally, DEC’s booklet Hunting the Black Bear in New York (PDF, 800 KB), includes tips on bear hunting and proper care of harvested bears.