On The Ridge: Hunting season checklist

Published: 9/21/2022 5:12:15 PM
Modified: 9/21/2022 5:11:37 PM

As the legal hunting period across Massachusetts starts up again, it’s always good to stop and reflect for a moment on the months ahead, while being reminded of the important things that make for safe and successful hunting seasons. I took some time this past weekend to highlight some of the more popular things that sportsmen and women should reflect on this fall, especially when you consider that Massachusetts is fast becoming a small state known for big hunting — think white tailed deer and bear

With hunting tags and permits being purchased at a brisk pace by both residents and out-of-state hunters alike, it’s clear that the appeal of Massachusetts hunting is more than just the sport. It’s the ability to hunt in some iconic places of American history which provide a special feeling to hunting in Massachusetts. So let’s spend a moment and recap a few things that might be of help to you as the Bay State 2022-23 hunting season cranks up again.

Upland Game

Massachusetts has a storied history for Upland Game hunting. Whether it be ruffed grouse, quail, American woodcock, cottontail rabbit, snowshoe hare or whatever, it’s the fabled corners of Western Mass. and the Berkshires that New Englanders head for during the Upland seasons. And for those who love ring-necked pheasants, the region is stocked with 40,000 pheasants every year, which can be hunted on both public and private lands. There is a bag limit of two pheasants per day, four in possession, and six total for the season. And there are some regions where only male pheasants may be hunted. Refer to Massachusetts Hunting Regulations for season dates, times, daily bag limits, possession limits, annual limit and other special considerations for all forms of hunting.​

Deer Hunting

Massachusetts state managed forests and parks can have high deer populations due to moderate hunting pressure, especially in the latter days of the season, with large bucks frequently taken. Bag limits are two antlered deer annually, and as many antlerless deer as a hunter has permits for. And although public land can be tough, with a growing, healthy herd, good deer hunting can still be found for those who work at it. 

Fall turkey season

Hunters enjoy moderate success rates in the fall, and a population of 30,000-plus Eastern wild turkeys throughout the state can really help the odds if you stick with it. In the spring season, the bag limit is two bearded birds: in the fall season, one turkey of either sex. However, it is illegal to use electronic calls, dogs, bait, driving, or live decoys to hunt turkeys in Massachusetts.

Black bear

Black bear can be hunted in Zones 1-14 throughout the state. But black bear can be tough to hunt with a keen sense of smell that adds to the challenge. Work at reducing your human scent. Stay clean and scent-free. Keep your clothes in a bag with natural vegetation from the area you’re hunting in like sticks, dry leaves, acorns, pine needles, even dirt. NOT, from your back yard… but from exactly where you’re hunting! Also pay attention to the direction of the wind, and stay downwind whenever possible, which includes approaching your stand. 

Fluorescent orange 

In Massachusetts, this is a common question that confuses people every single year. But it could save a life, and is a legal requirement during some hunting seasons. So here’s the deal:  during shotgun and primitive firearms season for deer, hunters must wear at least 500 square inches of blaze orange material on their chest, back, and head. (Exception: coastal waterfowl hunters in a blind or boat.) All hunters, on wildlife management areas during the pheasant or quail season or where pheasant or quail are stocked must wear a blaze orange cap or hat. (Exception: waterfowl hunters in a blind or boat, and raccoon and opossum hunters at night.) Very simple!

​Youth Hunting: No person under the age of 12 may hunt in Massachusetts. Youths ages 12-14 are not required to have a hunting license to hunt. However, they may only hunt when accompanied by a licensed adult hunter (ages 18 or older). Each adult may only supervise one minor at a time. The adult and the minor must share a single firearm (or bow) and obey a single bag limit. Youths ages 15-17 are required to have all applicable licenses, permits, and tags. Parents must provide consent to these youths when purchasing such licenses. Massachusetts offers youth hunting events for turkey, pheasant, deer, and waterfowl. Youth day hunters must be accompanied by an adult.

And finally, stay abreast of those regulations for any hunting you do this year. Watch out for each other, and make this hunting season your best ever!

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and sportsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association, and a 2019 inductee into the N.E. Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame. Joe is also on the Quaker Boy Game Calls and Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Pro-Staff.

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