As hunting season begins, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has offered guidance for hunters to stay on the safe side of New York’s recently changed gun laws.
On September 1, a number of changes regarding the carrying of firearms took effect, followed on Sunday by changes affecting the purchase of semi-automatic rifles.
The Department of Environmental Conservation has released a Q&A to help hunters go this fall to comply with new state laws passed in 2022 that affect the possession and possession of firearms — at the home, in transit and abroad.
An abbreviated Q&A follows. The full document is available online on the DEC website and on the Olean Times Herald website. Another Q&A has been posted by the state at www.gunsafety.ny.gov for general gun owner questions.
Q. Can hunters use a semi-automatic rifle to hunt?
A. Hunters may use a semi-automatic rifle to hunt game that can be taken with a rifle. To become a semi-automatic rifle owner, individuals must be at least 21 years old and must first acquire a New York State semi-automatic rifle license. The law applies to changes of ownership, including purchases and gifts. However, a person of any legal hunting age may temporarily own or borrow a hunting legal semi-automatic rifle. Those under 21 who already had a semi-automatic rifle before September 4 will be able to keep it without a license, but will have to wait until they are 21 to apply for a license and take possession of another. The law applies to all semi-automatic shotguns, regardless of caliber or type of primer.
Q. Can a non-resident licensed hunter use a semi-automatic rifle in New York?
A. If the rifle can be legally possessed in New York, a non-resident hunter may bring the rifle to New York and use it to hunt without a semi-automatic rifle license. It must comply with the NY SAFE Act of 2013.
Q. Is a background check required to purchase ammunition?
A. Not currently. Going forward, the law will require ammunition sellers to contact the New York State Police to conduct a background check.
Q: How does the new gun law affect hunting?
A: The new law does not affect how and where hunting can take place, as it exempts hunting in areas listed as “sensitive” or “restricted”. However, the law will affect certain activities such as transportation.
Q: Does the new law prohibiting the possession of a firearm, rifle or shotgun in “sensitive places” affect my ability to hunt on public land?
A: No. The new law allows possession of a firearm, rifle or shotgun in “sensitive locations” when “lawfully engaged in hunting activity”. Be sure to clarify with land managers to confirm what activities are permitted at a specific site before heading out into the field. Hunting is still permitted on DEC lands where it was previously permitted, including DEC Wildlife Management Areas and State Forests, as well as in many areas of the Forest Reserve, including wilderness areas and wild forest. Visit www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7844.html to learn more. Other state, county, or city land may be permitted, but access may still be restricted by land managers. State parks will continue to provide hunting opportunities, and hunters should check with the state agency or municipality that controls the property to confirm what activities are permitted.
Q: Can I own a gun, rifle or shotgun in the Adirondacks and Catskills?
A: Yes. Certain areas of the parks are not considered “sensitive places” under the law, as land owned or managed by the state is legally classified as state forest reserves or is generally private land.
Q: I have permission to hunt on private property, but the owner does not want to advertise their land as “gun-open” or provide access to other hunters. Am I still able to hunt? Do I need permission from each owner if I am hunting on multiple properties?
A: Yes. The display of firearms is optional and owners may authorize possession on an individual basis. Permission is required from each owner.
Q: Does the new law affect where hunter training can take place?
A: No. Possession of firearms, rifles and shotguns is legal for hunting training in “sensitive locations”.
Q: Does DEC’s Hunter Education Training meet the new gun license firearms safety training standards?
Q: Can I shoot targets on public land?
A: Target shooting at designated ranges and in organized shooting sports activities is legal under the new law. Target shooting is legal on state forest properties unless otherwise stated, and is permitted if specifically designated as open for target shooting in wildlife management areas. Most other public fields do not allow target shooting.
Q: Can marksmanship with rifles and shotguns be taught at summer camps, including DEC summer camps? Does the law allow sports shooting programs in schools?
Q. Can I carry a firearm while hiking (but not hunting) on public land?
A: Depending on your itinerary, possession of a firearm while hiking, biking, canoeing or other outdoor activities may be permitted; but do your research thoroughly as many trails or routes cross multiple types of land.
Traveling with a gun, rifle or shotgun
Q: When traveling to hunt or participate in a hunting-related activity in the vehicle, do I need to store my firearm in a fireproof, shockproof, and burglar-resistant secure storage container in my vehicle?
A: All ammunition must be removed from the weapon, and it must be locked in a secure storage depot and hidden if the hunter leaves it unattended in their vehicle. Any hard-sided plastic or metal lockable gun case or safe will work. If an adult is staying with the vehicle, a secure storage deposit is not required.
Q: On the way to the hunt camp, I usually stop to buy groceries and supplies for the trip. Can I shop if I leave my gun locked in my vehicle?
A: Unless otherwise restricted, in publicly accessible parking lots not designated as “sensitive locations”, hunters may leave the tool unattended if properly secured.