Maine is located in the north-eastern parts of USA and is hemmed in by a rocky coastline, dense forests and nature areas like the granite and spruce islands of Acadia National Park. For hunters who have decided to explore the East Coast, Maine might be the apt place for them.
Besides bestowing vast opportunities for hunting deer, moose, bear and small game animals, the state of Maine is renowned for the lobster shacks that populate the coast and thus harvesting the majority of the lobster in the United States.
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1. Hunting Seasons
Maine offers deer, moose, bear and small game seasons throughout the fall and spring. Hunting seasons in Maine mainly varies depending on certain factors like breeding or nesting, age or gender distribution, economic and recreational concerns.
There is a simple formula to set the hunting seasons for different game animals, that is, if the animal population is large, moderators will time it to provide hunters a greater advantage to hunt.
However, if the population is dwindling, they will set the dates to give the animals a greater survival advantage.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has set the season dates and the hunting season is mainly classified into: Big Game Hunting Season and Small Game Hunting Season.
1.1 Big Game Hunting Season
Big game species in Maine mainly consists of deer, moose and bear. The season dates vary by zones or Wildlife Management Districts (WMDs). Maine Deer seasons for different type of hunters is mentioned below.
- The hunting season for residents is from October 31 and for youths from October 24.
- For firearms and bowhunters, the hunting season is from November 2 to 28 and October 3 to 30, respectively.
- The muzzleloader Maine Deer Hunting Season is from November 30 to December 5.
The general hunting season of Bears is from August 31 to November 28. However, if you hunt with dogs, the season is from September 14 to October 30 and for hunting with baits, the season commences from August 31 and ends on September 26. For youths, the hunting season is from August 29.
Moose hunt seasons vary by location. However, the general hunting season is from September 28 to November 28.
1.2 Small Game Hunting Season
The category of small game animals in Maine mainly incorporates Turkey, Gray Squirrel, Snowshoe Hare, Bobcat, Coyote and Bobwhite Quail. The season dates vary by zone. The following points mention the general season of the small game animals in Maine.
- Wild Turkeys can be hunted between September 14 and November 7.
- Gray Squirrel hunting season begins from September 26 to December 31.
- Snowshoe Hare can be hunted between September 26 and March 31.
- Bobcats can be hunted from December 1 to February 20.
- Woodchuck, Coyote, Porcupine and Red Squirrel have open hunting season.
- Ruffed Grouse and Bobwhite Quail can be hunted between September 26 and December 31.
2. What Species to Hunt in Maine?
Maine has been given the suitable nickname of “Vacation land” and offers not only beautiful summertime beaches but also an excellent experience of hunting for the hunters.
Possessing over 17 million acres of vast swathes of land and waterways, Maine provides equal opportunities to both the hunters and anglers. Availability of a diverse species of game animals automatically makes the land of Maine an absolute paradise for the hunters.
Forests having little or no canopy closure, wetlands and active farmlands produce the best forage within reach of deer. 30 recognized subspecies of white-tailed deer dwell in Maine.
They are considerably smaller, and have reddish brown fur in the summer which changes to a grayish brown int winter. They have a very strong sense of smell and communicate using a diverse range of sounds like explosive “whooshes”.
There are certain rules and regulations for deer hunting which are clearly laid out in the official website of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Black bears have stocky legs, small eyes, short and rounded ears, curved claws and a short tail. They have flat foot and they leave broad footprints of 5-toed tracks that may confuse an individual since they resemble human footprints.
The annual bag limit is 2 bears per year with one taken either by hunting, trapping or both. Trappers and non-resident deer hunters are required to purchase a permit to harvest a black bear.
A large and healthy population of moose can be found in the forests of Maine. It is considered that if you can catch a glimpse of the majestic moose, you are quite lucky enough.
They are mainly found at dawn and dusk from mid-May through July and again in the fall. They shed their antlers in November or December and new antlers begins to grow in the spring season.
In Maine, if you go for moose safaris, you can spot as many as 20 moose in one outing. Moose are usually docile animals, but they may attack people, if they feel threatened. Therefore, you must not tempt them.
2.4 Wild Turkey
Wild Turkeys were introduced into Maine by IFW in the year 1977. It is the largest upland game bird of North America. They have the ability to fly up to 60 miles per hour and a distance of 1 mile. Once the wild turkeys reach adulthood, they may live as long as 10 years.
While going for a Turkey hunt, it is suggested that you should avoid to wear red, white or blue clothing; since they are the same colors as a gobbler’s head and may draw a hunter’s fire. Hunting dates may vary depending on region, and some areas may be closed to hunting.
2.5 Gray Squirrel
Gray Squirrels are small animals that feed upon almost everything that they find to be edible, like worms, insects, eggs, tomatoes, etc.
A unique feature of the squirrels is that they perform ‘scatter hoarding’, that is, they will pretend to bury food if they perceive that they are being watched.
The daily bag limit is 4 with possession limit of 8.
2.6 Snowshoe Hare
The hare has its name ‘Snowshoe’ because of the large size of its hind feet which prevents it from sinking into the snow. The ears turn white in the winter in order to blend with the snow.
The most noticeable sign that hares are present in an area is the proof of browsing on small woody branches such as of roses or raspberries. The daily bag limit is 4 with a possession limit of 8.
A bobcat weighs between 15 to 35 lbs and is so robust and violent that it has the ability to take down a deer! They are secretive animals but they can be found to be habituating to urban areas since they visit the towns in search of food.
In Maine, bobcats can be trapped by a licensed trapper during the hunting season. There is no such well-defined bag limit in case of bobcats. However, a hunting license is a prerequisite for hunting bobcats.
2.8 Ruffed Grouse & Bobwhite Quail
Ruffled grouse is an upland gamebird and its plumage has an effect of camouflage, that is, it blends perfectly with its habitat. They are omnivores and feed on leaves and insects.
They can live up to 7 years of age or older. An important factor that boosted the habitat conditions for grouse is expansion of the pulp and paper industry in Maine. The daily bag limit is 6, with a possession limit of 8.
Bobwhite Quail is a ground-dwelling bird and has a white throat and brow stripe bordered by black. The syllables of the recognizable whistle ‘bob-bob-WHITE’ are slow and widely spaced.
They are usually shy and crouch and freeze when threatened. The daily bag limit is 6, with a possession limit of 8.
2.9 Woodchuck and Coyote
Woodchucks, more commonly called groundhogs, are greyish brown creatures having a six-inch tail and weigh between 6 and 12 pounds. The average lifespan of a woodchuck is 5 to 6 years. There is open season for hunting woodchuck in Maine.
Coyotes are quite intelligent and adaptable animals, having pointed muzzles, long tails and a combination of tan, black and grey skin coats. Up to this day, there have been no reports of coyote attacking humans in Maine. There is an open hunting season for coyotes with no such well-defined bag limit.
2.10 Porcupine and Red Squirrel
Porcupines are nocturnal creatures and weigh between 12 to 35 pounds. They are good climbers and can scale great heights. There is an open hunting season for porcupines with no bag limit.
Red Squirrels are terrestrial and omnivorous animals. They are usually active during the day. They are somewhat larger than chipmunks. There is an open hunting season for squirrels with no well-defined bag limit.
3. Where Can You Hunt in Maine?
3.1 Public Lands
For the purposes of hunting and trapping, the state of Maine manages over 70,000 acres of public land. Hunting is also permitted in many of the State parks, in accordance with the laws of the state of the Maine. The public hunting lands available in Maine are enumerated below.
- Camben Hills State Park, having 5500 acres of land, offers deer, bear and grouse hunting in large numbers.
- Popham Beach State Park, having 556 acres of land, offers ample opportunities for hunting and fishing.
- Acadia National Park, having 47,000 acres of land, provides excellent fishing opportunities, specially brook trout and landlocked salmon.
3.2 Private Lands
About 94% of Maine’s forest land is privately owned and a majority of these lands are open for hunting to the public. The landowners have made a huge contribution by willingly opening up more than 10 million acres of farms and forests to the public.
Since the private lands used by the hunters belong to someone else, the hunters need to treat the property with due respect and must abide by the rules and restrictions as defined by the landowner.
If demanded by the landowner, you must give the landowner your name, address, phone number and vehicle description and consider using pre-printed Landowner or Land User Courtesy Cards.
The most noble way to develop mutual respect is good communication.
4. License Requirements
If you wish to hunt any birds or animals in Maine, the first and foremost thing that you will need is a hunting license. In order to obtain a hunting license, you are required to show that you have either held that license in a prior year or you have taken a hunter safety course.
Residents and Non-residents may obtain their hunting licenses from the MDFIW office in Augusta or can purchase from state-authorized agents in Maine.
The hunters must carry with them an electronic or paper copy of their hunting license and any other necessary permits while hunting or transporting wild birds and animals.
4.1 Age Requirements
In Maine, hunters under age 16 must have a junior license, and those who are 16 and up require an adult license. Also, a junior license holder who turns 16 may hunt with that junior license for the remainder of the calendar year.
4.2 Types of Maine Hunting Licenses
4.2.1 Maine Resident
A resident means a person who has lived in Maine for at least 1 year. Regular or full-time pupils enrolled in an educational institution in Maine for at least 1 year may be considered residents. All Maine residents are required to have a resident hunting license. Moreover, additional permits may sometimes also be required.
All non-residents are required to have a non-resident hunting license. Additional permits may also be necessary.
4.2.3 Youth Hunting License
Maine residents and non-residents under 16 years old must have a junior hunting license. An adult hunter must accompany hunters of ages 10 to 15.
Hunters under the age of 10 must be followed by an adult supervisor who is within 20 feet of the junior hunter. Completion of a hunter education course or possession of a valid hunting license is a must for the adult supervisor of age 18 or older.
4.2.4 Senior Hunting License
Maine residents of age 65 or older may purchase a reduced-fee lifetime hunting license. Residents of age 70 or older may pay a one-time fee for a lifetime license that includes privileges for hunting, trapping, fishing and archery.
4.2.5 Disability License
Residents who have lost the use of their lower extremities may be eligible for a free hunting license. Non-residents may be eligible for free hunting license if their home state extends the same privilege to the residents of Maine.
4.2.6 Military and Veteran License
Active-duty military members who are stationed in Maine and their dependents may purchase a resident hunting license. Moreover, active-duty military members who are residents of Maine but stationed elsewhere and their dependents may purchase a reduced-fee hunting license.
Resident veterans and non-resident veterans from New Hampshire and Vermont who have 50% or more service-connected disability may be eligible for a free hunting license. This kind of special license can be availed only at the main office of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in Augusta.
4.3 License Expiration
Hunting licenses are valid from the date of issue to December 31 of the same year. Maine residents and non-residents can purchase a lifetime hunting license.
5. Hunters Education
The aim of Hunter Education is to impart skills to aspiring hunters and evolve them into safe, responsible and law-abiding hunters. Hunter Education programs have always educated young hunters the practice of firearm and hunting safety.
In Maine, you need Hunters Education to purchase an adult hunting license unless you can show proof of having previously held an adult license to hunt with firearms in any year starting with 1976. However, you must be at least 10 years old to take this course.
5.1 Classroom Course
The classroom course consists of a minimum of 10 hours of classroom instruction. The pupils must showcase their skill of handling a bow, participate in different activities and pass a 50-question test with a grade of at least 70%.
5.2 Online Course
Students of age 10 to 15 years can complete the course online and will be provided a voucher upon completion of the online exam to then attend later the required skills and exam day. The students must pass a 50-question test with a grade of at least 70%.
6. Rules and Regulations
6.1 Distance Regulations
There is only one hunting regulation regarding the distance in Maine. It is unlawful to discharge a firearm within 100 yards of residential dwelling without permission from the owner or occupant.
6.2 Legal Hunting Hours
In Maine, it is legal to hunt animals from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. There are certain exceptions to raccoon and coyote hunting, that is, hunting of both these animals shall cease at midnight each Saturday and resume at 12:01 A.M. on Monday.
6.3 Hunter Orange Requirement
In Maine, Hunter orange clothing is not required while hunting with deer a bow and arrow during the archery seasons.
However, anyone who hunts any species with a firearm or crossbow in a Wildlife Management District that allows moose hunting must wear one article of solid-colored hunter orange clothing.
When hunting bears, turkeys and upland game birds, hunter orange clothing is only needed when hunting with a firearm or crossbow during the firearms hunting season on deer.
6.4 Bag Limit
In Maine, the bag limit or tag permits vary depending on the size of the game animal. If the game is small, the daily bag limit is more and vice-versa.
6.5 Can You Hunt at Night?
If not separately provided, wild birds and animals may not be hunted from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise the following day.
However, raccoons may be hunted at night in the open season by hunters if they are accompanied by a dog, or use a rifle of no greater power than one which uses 0.22 caliber long rifle ammunition, or load the rifle or handgun only while dispatching a raccoon that is held at bay by a dog or has been identified by flashlight.
The regular archery license allows bow and arrow hunting for all game animals, except for deer during the muzzleloader season. Certain regulations regarding bowhunting are mentioned below.
- Junior hunters having a valid Junior Hunting License are permitted to hunt with bow and arrow, provided that they are followed by an adult supervisor.
- To carry a handgun while bowhunting is allowed, but that must not be used to dispatch deer.
- Hunters 65 years of age or older may hunt any bird or animal with a crossbow during any open season on that wild bird or animal.
7.1 Bow and Arrow Requirements
- Hand-held bow must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds and broad-head arrow.
- Arrowheads including expandable mechanical broad-heads must be at least 7/8 inch in width.
- It is unlawful to set bow or to use arrows with poisonous or explosive tips.
- In WMDs where no any-deer permits are issued, archers and junior hunters are not allowed to harvest antler-less deer during the archery season on deer or within a portion of a WMD that is outside of the area where any deer-permits are allocated.
8. Game Calls
Game calls refer to the signals emitted by the hunters in order to tempt the animals to the trap. There are two types of game call: hand-held and electronic. Hand-held game calls are carried out with the aid of wood or plastic and are extremely cost-friendly.
Electronic game calls are, however, not always considered legal. Recorded or amplified sounds may not be used to hunt any non-game bird or non-game animal except coyotes.
Hunting is an extremely renowned sport worldwide and Maine offers exactly the best opportunities to the hunters. The beautiful lush green forests with its rich variety of wildlife attract hunters from every nook and corner of the world.
In order to have a unique experience, the hunters need to take care of all the precautions and must adhere to all the hunting rules and regulations.
For further information, you can visit the official website of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife: https://www.maine.gov/ifw/.
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