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PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife announces that Rhode Island's small game hunting season opens on October 18. Beginning on that date, all users of state management areas, and all hunters statewide, must wear at least 200 square inches of solid daylight-fluorescent orange material through the end of the season, February 29. The fluorescent orange has to be worn above the waist, and must be visible from all directions. Hunters during the shotgun deer season (November 29 through December 14) must wear a total of 500 square inches of fluorescent orange.

Small Game Hunting

The legal shooting hours for most small game, which includes partridge (ruffed grouse), ring-necked pheasant, bobwhite quail, rabbits, hare, squirrel, and fox, are sunrise to sunset, except on October 18, when legal shooting hours begin at 7 a.m. There are also other exceptions. Hunting hours for coyotes, which have no closed season, are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. The raccoon season opens on October 1 at 6 p.m., with no restricted hours.

Season end dates differ. For ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasant and bobwhite quail, the end date is December 31; for rabbits, hare, squirrel and fox, February 29, 2004. The small game hunting season will be closed in Providence, Kent and Washington counties during some or all of the shotgun deer season, beginning on November 29. Small game season resumes on state lands on December 8 and on private lands on December 15.

Daily bag limits for small game are consistent with previous years: pheasant (2), bobwhite quail (3), ruffed grouse (1), rabbits (3), hare (2), and gray squirrel (5). There is no bag limit for fox or raccoon.

New Pheasant Permit, Extended Stocking

Pheasant hunting requires the purchase of a new pheasant permit at a cost of $15.50, which will be used to enhance the existing pheasant stocking program and allow for an extended season for pheasant stocking, until January 19, 2004. Hunters can purchase up to two permits, each containing six pheasant tags that allow hunters to harvest six pheasant, which must be tagged immediately.

According to Brian Tefft, principal wildlife biologist with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, the Division will release about 5,500 Ringneck pheasants at wildlife management areas from opening day through January 19, representing a 57 percent increase over last year's stocking. About 4,500 of the pheasant will be stocked during October and November, nearly 30 percent more than were stocked during the same period last season. Pheasant stocking will occur at Arcadia, Great Swamp, Carolina, Durfee Hill, Black Hut, Buck Hill, Sapowet, Nicholas Farm and Big River and Eight-Rod Farm. In Tiverton, both Sapowet and Eight Rod Farm wildlife management areas are closed to Sunday hunting.

Upland Migratory Bird Season

Season and bag limits for Rhode Island migratory game birds are established in accordance with guidelines set by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The first segment of the mourning dove season will open on September 27 and will run until October 13, with shooting hours from noon to sunset. The dove season will reopen on October 18 and run until November 23 and again from December 31 to January 14, 2004, from sunrise to sunset, except on October 19 when it begins at 7 a.m. The daily bag limit for dove is 12 birds.

Woodcock hunting opens on October 30 and closes on November 28, with a daily bag limit of three birds. The season for rails, already open, runs to November 14. The snipe season, also already open, runs to November 14.

Federal law requires migratory bird hunters to use a shotgun capable of holding no more than three shells. Federal law also requires all hunters to carry a Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit while hunting migratory game birds. HIP permits are available at all hunting license vendors in the state at no cost.

Check Stations Open

To assist DEM in gathering information on hunter effort and game harvested, all hunters using Arcadia, Great Swamp, Carolina and Durfee Hill Management areas on weekends through November 9 must check in and out of check stations at those management areas and record their harvest. Special permits are required to hunt the Great Swamp and Burlingame North Camp areas.

Hunting licenses, pheasant permits, and abstracts that summarize the hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits by species, are available at various license vendors throughout the state and at DEM's Licensing Office at DEM Headquarters, 235 Promenade Street in Providence. The abstract is also available on DEM's website,, by clicking on Fish and Wildlife on the Regulations page. The fee for a resident hunting license has been increased to $18, with all money collected going into a special restricted account used specifically to fund the state's wildlife restoration program. These funds benefit both game and non-game species. Hunters are advised to check with local authorities before hunting in unfamiliar areas, as municipalities may impose additional restrictions on hunting within their boundaries.

Hunters may contact the main office of DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife in Wakefield at 789-3094 or the Division's Great Swamp field office in West Kingston at 789-0281 for further information.

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