DEC: Outdoor enthusiasts should share the woods safely this season

Department of Environmental Conservation

With the Southern Zone regular big game season beginning Nov. 20 throughout much of the southern part of New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos is encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to respectfully share the woods and follow common-sense safety precautions this fall and winter.

“As New Yorkers head outdoors in search of new adventures this fall and winter, it is critical that visitors are courteous, careful, and responsible when sharing the woods,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Most public lands across New York State are open to multiple forms of recreation, from hiking and nature photography to hunting and trapping. To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, DEC encourages outdoor enthusiasts to be aware of and show regard for other adventurers and share the woods.”

New this year, DEC requires big game hunters using a firearm to wear hunter orange or pink and encourages non-hunters to wear blaze orange, blaze pink, or another bright color during fall and winter months to be seen more easily and from greater distances. In addition, wearing bright colors makes it easier for Forest Rangers, Environmental Conservation Police Officers, and other rescue personnel to find lost, sick, or injured people afield.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos

Pet owners are encouraged to affix a bright colored vest or scarf on their dogs and keep pets leashed at all times. Trapping seasons for many species are open throughout the fall and early winter. Although rare, traps set for furbearers like raccoons and coyotes can also capture dogs that are not under control. Trapping is a highly regulated activity and regulations are strongly enforced. Trappers are required to take an educational course before getting a license and DEC works closely with the trapping community to minimize risks to non-target wildlife and domestic animals.

Hunting is among the most popular forms of wildlife recreation in the state, drawing an estimated 600,000 New Yorkers afield each year. Hunting is safe and economically important, helping to manage wildlife populations and promote family traditions, while fostering an understanding and respect for the environment. Hikers should be aware that they may encounter hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment on trails. Hunters should likewise recognize that they may encounter hikers and others enjoying the outdoors. Hunting-related shooting incidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare.

Hunters looking for solitude can minimize the disturbance associated with other forms of recreation by following a few tips. Before a season opens, when hunters are scouting for the perfect spot or stand location, take the time to check if the planned location is popular. Avoid crowding other hunters and recognize that if a hunting location is near a sought-out hiking spot or stand location, noise can be a factor. If a referred hunting spot is too crowded, identify an alternative location ahead of time. 

DEC maintains hiking, biking, skiing and, snowmobile trails in many areas of Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondack and Catskill parks, as well as in State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, and Unique Areas open to hunting.

Earlier this year, DEC launched the ‘Love Our New York Lands’ campaign to encourage visitors to State-owned and managed lands to practice responsible recreation. The campaign is responsive to the steady increase in the number of visitors to State Lands, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the decade prior. Love Our New York Lands bolsters ongoing State-and partner-led efforts to educate the public about how to responsibly enjoy outdoor recreation on public lands without negatively impacting natural resources.

Find recreation options by visiting DEC’s website Love Our NY Lands - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation or checking out DECinfo Locator DECinfo Locator - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation.

Hunting within state parks

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation offers many places to hunt, including 81 parks, three historic sites, three golf courses, and 50 boat launches that provide opportunities to hunt a variety of wildlife including big game, small game, turkey, furbearers, waterfowl, and migratory bird species. In addition to a valid hunting license, all hunters wishing to take advantage of select hunting seasons within State Parks must obtain a regional hunting permit for each individual park. Trapping is not allowed in State Parks. For more information, visit the New York State Parks website.