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Early bear hunting season opens in New York State

In some areas of New York State, you can begin bear hunting season as early as this weekend.
Black Bear Sightings Are Not Uncommon In WNY. ( Courtesy Paul G. Sharpe )

NEW YORK — In some areas of New York State, you can begin bear hunting season as early as this weekend.

The season starts on September 12 for portions of southeastern New York, and September 19 in northern New York.

"Early black bear hunting seasons are an important tool to manage bear populations and provide a great opportunity for hunters to enjoy a late summer outing," said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos.

Commissioner Seggos added, "Bears are feeding heavily this time of year, gorging on wild nuts, berries, apples, and frequently in corn fields, as well. Hunters can increase their odds of finding a bear by keying in on concentrated natural food sources."

Dates of reopening are based on Wildlife Management Units (WMUs). So far, these are the early bear season dates we know:

  • Southeastern New York, Sept. 12 through 27. This includes several WMUs south of Albany but north of New York City and Long Island: 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 3M, 3P, 3R, 4P, 4R, and 4W 
  • Northern New York, Sept. 19 through Oct. 16. This includes several WMUs north of Albany and primarily in the Adirondack Park region: 5A, 5C, 5F, 5G, 5H, 5J, 6C, 6F, 6H, and 6J 
  • You can view a map of WMUs here.

This year, the DEC says that WMU 4W, which is primarily the southern portion of Delaware County, has been added to early bear season as the bear population has been growing. The extra hunting time will help control the population. 

In early season, hunters can use a bow, crossbow, muzzleloader, handgun, shotgun or rifle (if allowed in that region) and bow with proper eligibility. 

The DEC recommends that with warm weather a possibility this fall hunters should be ready to harvest and cool the bear meet as soon as possible. 

Bears provide meat that can be used several ways, and a fat that can be turned into grease or lard to be used in cooking, baking, waterproofing or lubricating muzzleloading patches. 

If a bear is harvested, it must be reported to the DEC within seven days. The DEC also encourages hunters to provide a premolar tooth and scaled-dressed weights of harvested bears. This helps DEC biologists understand the population and hunters can receive a NYS Black Bear Management Cooperator Patch in exchange for the tooth and weight.

For more on bear season in New York State, click here.