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ok so i have done a bunch of reading on the dec website and i know which animals are unprotected. the regulation guide says that they may be taken at any time without limit and unless you are taking them with a bow or firearm, a hunting license is not needed. that is where the confusion begins for me. the website defines an air gun as a "firearm" capable of 600fps or more. i know that an air rifle is not considered to be a firearm by state or federal regulations but the dec defines an air gun as a type of firearm. so if i plan to take pest animals (such as red squirrels, sparrows, starlings, etc..) with an air rifle, do i need a hunting license to do so? (i would mainly be hunting on my brothers' property but would eventually like to go to other places)
 

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Any break barrel air rifle is going to be above 600fps. So according to what you put you would need a license.
 

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Hunting on family land is one thing, especially if it's agricultural and unprotected game. But to step off said property and hunt without a license could cost you considerably more than a small game license would have in the first place.
As of April 23rd 2014 the DEC put in an amendment adding air guns to part 180: Miscellaneous Regulations.
§180.3 Definition and use of firearms, guns, and airguns For the purposes of the Fish and Wildlife Law and this Title:

(a) The terms "firearm" or "gun" shall mean any rifle, pistol, shotgun or muzzleloading firearm which by force of gunpowder, or an airgun as defined in subdivision (b), that expels a missile or projectile capable of killing, wounding or otherwise inflicting physical damage upon fish, wildlife or other animals.

(b) The term "airgun" shall mean any implement which by the force of a spring, air or other non-ignited compressed gas expels a missile or projectile and has a rifled or smooth barrel, using ammunition no smaller than .17 caliber, producing projectile velocities of not less than 600 feet per second. For the purposes of the Fish and Wildlife Law, an implement meeting the above specifications shall be considered a firearm or gun, and may be used to take protected wildlife whenever such protected wildlife may legally be taken with a rimfire rifle.

This also means that you may use an air rifle capable of pushing a projectile at 600 fps or more legally for small game hunting.
 

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Or if you are the nefarious terrorist lowlife felon type, you not only don't need a license, you don't need a legal firearm. Just shoot away. Protected or not, it doesn't matter.
 
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