Find a Place

Hunting is a great way to get out in nature and truly connect with where your food comes from, whether you’re duck hunting on the Bay’s salt marshes or following deer in its quiet forests. Around Buzzards Bay, hunting is open for several different species seasonally, including rabbits, deer, turkey, upland game birds, and waterfowl. Be sure to follow Massachusetts state regulations to ensure you’re following harvest limits and taking only what’s in season, which helps to preserve our area’s vital biodiversity.

 

Licensing & Training

A man firing an arrow from a bowMassachusetts requires that all hunters above age 15 obtain a state hunting license. If you held any hunting or sporting license before January 1, 2007, you are automatically eligible for your license. Everyone else must earn a government-issued Basic Hunter Education Certificate offered by any U.S. state, Canada, or Mexico. This certificate is awarded after completing a free in-person course, which can be between 2 and 6 days in length, or an independent study session.  For those interested in archery, we recommend taking an additional bowhunter education course.

State law allows that minors between ages 12-14 can hunt alongside a licensed hunter 18 years of age or older. The licensed hunter and the minor must share a single firearm/bow, and they are together restricted to the bag limit for one individual.

Youths ages 15-17 can also hunt with a certified hunter age 18 or older. Or, they can legally hunt without supervision if they obtain a Basic Hunter Education certificate. Either way, youth ages 15-17 must have a minor hunting license, which can only be purchased at MassWildlife offices or from specific vendors.

Once you have your hunting license, you may also have to obtain specific permits and stamps depending on the type of hunt. These include an archery stamp, a primitive firearms stamp, a waterfowl stamp, an antlerless deer permit (when issued), and a turkey permit. Migratory birds, such as ducks and geese, are federally managed and require a federal duck stamp. The fees for these stamps and permits goes to help fund land conservation purchases across the state, ensuring the continued protection of land for hunting and all forms of outdoor exploration.

How to Get Started

Two adults and a child in camouflage in front of a marsh

If you didn’t learn to hunt as a kid, it can seem intimidating to get into the sport as an adult. But with a little patience and willingness to learn, anyone can take part in this vibrant and varied sport.

Here are a few tips to get started.

1. Do your research

Hunting is all about getting out of the house and connecting with the great outdoors. Before you step out your front door, however, it will help to narrow down your interests. Do you want to track deer through the woods, or wait for ducks beside a scenic salt marsh? Are you interested in archery, trapping, or hunting by shotgun? Narrow down your interest to help focus the additional training and research you need to do in order to get started, as well as any gear you may need to buy.

2. Take additional classes

Completing your Basic Hunter Education is a required part of starting off your education as a hunter, but if you’re starting from scratch, it may not cover all of the skills you need to go on your first hunt. MassWildlife Learn to Hunt Programs can help fill in the gaps, providing the training needed to pursue different types of game.

You will likely also find it helpful to take classes in skills that will better help you navigate the habitats where you hunt. These skills may include orienteering, wilderness survival, ecology, or tracking. Many organizations throughout New England, including local gear outfitters, offer courses in these outdoor skills.

Women hunters should check out the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program, offered by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife. This program provides training in an assortment of valuable outdoor skills – from bow and shotgun skills to map and compass usage, game cooking, woodland tracking, and much more.

3. Get familiar with hunting ethics

A woman hunter aiming a gun through tall grassEthical hunting means going above and beyond the laws that govern your activities. Ethical hunters care for the lands and wildlife that make hunting possible. Ethical hunters also act as a good ambassador for the sport, and in doing so ensure that hunters remain welcome in the broader community and hunting lands stay open.

Hunter’s ethics will be part of your Hunter Education Course, but you should continue to think about and evaluate hunting ethics throughout your time in the sport. As you have different experiences in the field, consider if your behavior aligns with hunting ethics, and how it will impact the animals, habitats, and other humans around you.

4. Connect with the community

The best way to learn about hunting is to draw from the wide breadth of knowledge held by your fellow outdoorsmen and women. You can connect with more experienced hunters at classes like those mentioned above, or by becoming a member of a hunting community organization. These organizations often provide meetings, workshops, and other events that can provide continuing learning experiences.

Most communities have local sportsman clubs or rod and gun clubs where you can meet and learn from experienced hunters.  These clubs are also great places to practice your shooting before heading out into the field for hunting season.

Once you have gotten to know hunters in your area, we also recommend asking if you can shadow someone hunting in a method that interests you. Don’t bring along any gear of your own just yet – focus on following, watching, and most importantly, asking questions.

Bay Hunting Community Groups:

5. Spend time in the field

Once you’re feeling confident in your interests, your outdoor skills, and any gear that you’ve purchased, take it all outside for a few test runs before your first hunt. Get to know the trails you’ll be walking. Learn how to move silently and carefully. Figure out how much gear you’re comfortable carrying for long periods, and if there’s anything you’ve forgotten. And most importantly, take time to stop and observe the habitat and the animals you’ll be pursuing within it. Pay attention to the paths that deer travel, the corners where waterfowl like to hang out, and the way everything around you changes with the time of day and the seasons.

Scouting habitat and animal movement patterns can be done all year long, and plays in important part in the success you will have during the hunting season. Even once you’ve become a seasoned hunter, taking time to observe will be an invaluable part of growing your knowledge of and connection to the places where you hunt – making you even better at the sport.

6. Practice!

Over the months and years you spend outdoors, you will continue to gain wisdom and see improvements in your skills. Like any sport or hobby, hunting takes time and practice to get good! And like any other sport or hobby, there’s no point at which you ever stop learning.

Safety & Regulations

Hunting remains an extremely safe way to experience the outdoors. However, it’s important for all hunters to be aware of the potential risks that the sport can pose, for both themselves and others. Your hunting training will provide a great background in the best ways to stay safe in the outdoors. In addition, we recommend regularly reviewing firearms safety recommendations. If you plan to use treestands for hunting, Massachusetts Fisheries & Wildlife has also compiled a useful treestand safety guide to help you stay safe.

brown dog wearing a blaze orange vest in the woods

Your dog, too, should wear a blaze orange vest in the woods during hunting season.

Annually, all hunter should review the state hunting season dates, as they can change year by year.

Blaze orange clothing is also a vital piece of your hunting gear, which will make the sport safer for you and for others. During many hunting seasons, this color is legally required. All hunters during shotgun deer season, and all deer hunters during primitive firearms season, must wear at least 500 square inches – roughly the size of a vest or a backpack – of blaze orange. (This rule does not apply to coastal waterfowl hunters in a blind or boat.)

During pheasant or quail season, hunters on state Wildlife Management Areas where these game birds are stocked must wear a blaze orange hat or cap. (This rule does not apply to waterfowl hunters in a blind or boat, as well as raccoon and opossum hunters at night.)

Learn More:

Places To Go

Displaying 1-20 of 20
two people looking out over a salt marsh from an observation platform at Brandt Island Cove District in Mattapoisett
Anchorage Way, Mattapoisett, MA 02739
|Directions

Discover spectacular coastal scenery among protected woods and wetlands at Brandt Island Cove District in Mattapoisett.

Size: 132 acres
Parking: Roadside parking at the end of Anchorage Way and Whalers Way
Facilities: None
A red kayak traveling up the marsh channels of Broad Marsh Conservation Area
Great Neck Rd., Wareham, MA 02751
|Directions

Surround yourself with bird-filled salt marshes on a paddle through this water access-only preserve in Wareham.

Parking: None
Facilities: None
A flat stream reflecting the trees in green woods at Carvalho Farm in Fairhaven
201 Shaw Rd., Fairhaven, MA 02719
|Directions

An array of stunning habitats fit into a small package at this Fairhaven preserve, featuring fields, forests, and wetlands.

Size: 61 acres
Parking: Street parking on the south side of Shaw Rd. next to the Carvalho Farm field
Facilities: None
Mattapoisett River at dusk
81 Mattapoisett Rd., Rochester, MA 02770
|Directions

Hunt for remnants of an old settlement among fields and forest along the Mattapoisett River at Church's Field in Rochester.

Size: 32 acres
Parking: Small gravel parking area
Facilities: Picnic table
Stairs along the trail at Dunham's Brook Conservation Area in Westport
1510 Main Rd., Westport, MA 02790
|Directions

Explore forest, streams, wetlands, and a summer corn field, all at Dunham's Brook Conservation Area in Westport.

Size: 159 acres
Parking: Small unpaved parking area
Facilities: None
Young girl at Frances A Crane Wildlife Management Area
744 Nathan Ellis Hwy., Falmouth, MA 02536
|Directions

The wildlife-rich forests and fields of East Falmouth's Frances A. Crane welcome hunters, hikers, bikers, and equestrians alike.

Size: 1,800 acres
Parking: Small pull-off on north side of Route 151 (western area); Large unpaved parking area at end of dirt road off Route 151 between Hamilton Tree and Allietta softball field (eastern area); Small unpaved parking area on Hayway Road (southern area)
Facilities: None
Profile Rock at Freetown-Fall River State Forest
110 Slab Bridge Rd., Freetown, MA 02702
|Directions

For a true adventure, head to vast Freetown-Fall River State Forest, part of the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve.

Size: 5,441 acres
Parking: Large paved parking area at forest headquarters; Medium-sized unpaved parking areas at Profile Rock and on Copicut Road and Bell Rock Road; Roadside parking at trailheads throughout forest
Facilities: Restrooms (seasonal), Picnic Tables, Trash
Snow on the trail between pines at Halfway Pond WMA
201 Halfway Pond Rd., Plymouth, MA 02360
|Directions

Venture through deep pine and beech forests that provide a vital lakeside home for Plymouth wildlife.

Size: 124 acres
Parking: Small unpaved pull-off at intersection of Halfway Pond Rd. and Mast Rd.
Facilities: None
129 Hartley Rd., Rochester, MA 02770
|Directions

Take in scenic water and woodland views around the seven ponds of this wildlife management area in Rochester.

Size: 70 acres
Parking: Small unpaved parking area off Hartley Road (space for 3-4 cars)
Facilities: Canoe/Kayak Launch
Tall, ramrod-straight trees along the trail at Haskell Swamp Wildlife Management Area
200 Dexter Ln., Rochester, MA 02770
|Directions

This 3,100-acre forest in Rochester, Marion, and Mattapoisett is maintained for hunting, though adventurous explorers will also find much to love.

Size: 3,104 acres
Parking: Large unpaved parking area at the end of Dexter Lane
Facilities: None
fallen tree on Acushnet River in autumn
Blain Street, Acushnet, MA 02743
|Directions

With nearly 50 acres of meadows and forests on the Acushnet River, LaPalme Farm celebrates Acushnet’s pastoral charm.

Size: 47 acres
Parking: Limited street parking at the end of Blain Street
Facilities: None
people walking through the woods at Myles Standish State Forest
194 Cranberry Rd., Carver, MA 02366
|Directions

With over 12,000 acres to hike, bike, fish, camp, and hunt, you'll never run out of ways to have fun at Myles Standish in Carver.

Size: 12,400 acres
Parking: Several paved parking areas throughout forest
Facilities: Restrooms (seasonal), Picnic Tables, Trash, Visitor Center
Two women walking on a trail of bog boards through a muddy part of the woods.
325 New Boston Rd., Fairhaven, MA 02719
|Directions

Groves of stately beech trees shade New Boston Trail in Fairhaven, where you can take in peaceful views of forest and wetland habitat.

Size: 66.9 acres
Parking: Small gravel parking area
Facilities: None
A misty dawn over the wildflowers of Old Aucoot District in Mattapoisett
18 Bowman Rd., Mattapoisett, MA 02739
|Directions

Travel miles of trail through wildflower meadows, coastal forests, and wetlands at Old Aucoot District in Mattapoisett.

Size: 307 acres
Parking: Small unpaved parking area at the end of Bowman Road; small unpaved parking area on east side of Prospect Road, across from Spruce Avenue; small unpaved pull-off near kiosk on west side of Hollywoods Road
Facilities: None
flat trail through the forest at Rocky Gutter Wildlife Management Area in Middleborough
Rocky Gutter Street, Middleborough, MA
|Directions

Take a wild adventure through thousands of acres of remote forest and swamp at Rocky Gutter in Middleborough.

Size: 3,178 acres
Parking: Two small unpaved parking areas on either end of Rocky Gutter Street (Purchase Street and France Street); a third small unpaved parking area on Wildlife Area Access Road at Purchase Street and Faye Avenue
Facilities: None
Blue waters peek out through the trees along the trail at Shallow Pond Woodlands
218 Thomas Landers Rd., Falmouth, MA 02536
|Directions

Traverse hilly woodlands with lovely water views at Shallow Pond Woodlands in Falmouth.

Size: 70 acres
Parking: Large unpaved parking lot on Thomas Landers Rd.
Facilities: None
Mattapoisett River from Shoolman Preserve in Rochester
204 New Bedford Rd., Rochester, MA 02770
|Directions

This farm and forest along the Mattapoisett River in Rochester was preserved for birds — and explorers like you!

Size: 79.74
Parking: Roadside parking along New Bedford Road
Facilities: Picnic table
freshwater swamp at The Bogs in autumn
141 Acushnet Rd., Mattapoisett, MA 02739
|Directions

In the heart of the Mattapoisett River valley lies The Bogs, an oasis of forests, freshwater swamps, and cranberry bogs.

Size: 212 acres
Parking: Small gravel parking area on Acushnet Road
Facilities: None
vernal pool at the Woodcock Preserve in Mattapoisett
29 Long Plain Rd., Mattapoisett, MA 02739
|Directions

Tinkhamtown Woodlands and neighboring Woodcock Preserve include over 100 acres in the Mattapoisett River Reserve.

Size: 107 acres
Parking: Small gravel parking area on Long Plain Road
Facilities: None
the remnants of a former mill on Tinkham Pond in Mattapoisett
Acushnet Road, Mattapoisett, MA 02739
|Directions

History and nature abound at Tripps Mill, a scenic trail and fishing spot on Tinkham Pond in Mattapoisett.

Size: 212 acres
Parking: Small gravel parking area on Acushnet Road
Facilities: None

Related Stories

Fall and winter fishing around the Bay is “cooler” than you think

The weather is turning chilly, and you’ve replaced your shorts and T-shirt for pants and a parka – but that’s no reason to hang up your fishing pole.

Full Story ›
6 tips to enjoy the outdoors during hunting season

With proper awareness and some simple precautions, both hunters and hikers can enjoy the outdoors this time of year.

Full Story ›
Clear and bright: winter brings excellent conditions for stargazing

When the days grow short, nature offers consolation: an amazing light show that takes place every clear evening. Winter is a fantastic time for stargazing here in New England.

Full Story ›

Upcoming Events

Paddlers’ Guide to Safety
Thu, December 03
7:00PM - 9:00PM
Onset Bay Center,
Wareham
Wading for Wednesday
Wed, December 02
2:00PM
Shell Point Beach,
Wareham
New Bedford Casual Bakery Bike Tour
Sat, December 05
9:30AM
Buzzards Bay Coalition HQ,
New Bedford

Things To Do