Early humans were hunters and gatherers. They survived by knowing where to find edible plants and how and where to find the animals that provided everything from meat to clothing and shelter. Using little more than obsidian pointed spears and a spirit of cooperation, these early hunters would bring down animals much larger than themselves, including the occasional woolly mammoth.
We live in an age of refrigeration, of processed foods and synthetic fibers, no longer needing to head to the woods or the nearest stream to stock our pantries. Yet some cultures still live off the land, whether by necessity or design. Maine’s hunting traditions began long before Christopher Columbus or any other European explorer landed on North American shores.
It is the echo of that early lifestyle that takes hunting in Maine beyond being a mere sport. By carrying on the tradition of hunting, we honor those that have come before. If we hunt with respect, we honor Mother Nature as well.
Maine Moose Hunting
The task of keeping a species healthy and in enough numbers for successful reproduction goes to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. In the case of the moose, this means an annual lottery for hunting permits. Interested parties must apply by the end of May to be eligible for the June drawing. A permit allows you to take one moose in your designated Wildlife Management District, WMD for short.
There are 25 districts in the state with most being in the northern end. The Department tries to make sure you get the WMD you requested. An application fee, usually around $15 is required and if you win a permit, you must pay for that as well. Currently permits for residents run $52 each and for non-residents $585. You may only win a permit every three years. You also need a Maine big game hunting license. Junior hunting licenses are available for children as young as 10.
Hunting season dates vary slightly in each WMD but generally fall between September and mid-November. Some permits allow you to take a bull, or male moose only; others allow hunting both sexes during certain periods. Hunting season corresponds with the mating, or rutting season. This means the males will be in peak condition, but they will also be short-fused and ready to charge anything in their path.
Your best chance of safely taking a moose, especially if you are a novice hunter, is to find a Registered Maine Guide. Many are affiliated with sporting camps close to your designated WMD. Guides also offer services for deer, bear and other types of hunting. Cost depends on the length of the hunt, whether you are camping out in the back country or spending your nights in a sports lodge. As an example, a six-day, seven-night guided moose hunting vacation including lodging, all meals and your guide could run $3500 for the permit holder and one companion.
Maine Deer Hunting
Anyone who is eligible for a Maine big game license may apply for an Any-Deer permit. This allows the taking of one deer, with or without antlers during the hunting season. Bonus Deer permits are issued in WMDs that haven’t used up the allotment of Any-Deer permits. This allows a hunter to take a second antlerless deer. Any-Deer permits are by lottery; Bonus Deer permits may or may not be. Currently permits run $12 each.
Archery season lasts from early September until late October, followed by firearms season which closes by the first week in December. Some WMDs have specific open dates. Separating the bows and arrows from the rifles helps minimize accidents.
Maine Bear Hunting
The black bear hunting season is divided into three segments. Basic hunting, without using bear bait or dogs starts the end of August and runs through late November. If you’re hunting with bait, that season also starts the end of August and runs through the end of September. Those with dogs may hunt from the second week in September through the end of October.
A bear permit is currently $27 for residents and $74 for nonresidents. The permit allows you to take one bear. You also need a Maine big game hunting license. The taken bear must be registered and a tooth surrendered to the wildlife agency. Maine is conducting an age survey on bears and that tooth helps determine age. You can help insure the health of the species.
Bears are found mostly in the remote, lightly populated areas of Maine, such as the Aroostook or the Kennebec & Moose River Valleys. This is another case where using an experienced Registered Maine Guide or signing on with a sporting camp is a good idea. A startled and/or angry bear is no more pleasant than an angry moose.
Maine Bird Hunting
There are three main categories of bird hunting, migratory game, pheasant and wild turkey. All require a hunting license and special permits. The ruffled grouse have an open season and requires a hunting license only. As far as migratory game birds, there are so many species that fall under this category, with differing seasons and regulations that it is just best to check with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (maine.gov) for the type of bird you wish to hunt. Some of the birds on that list include the Canada Goose, an assortment of ducks and woodcocks
Pheasant hunting is found in Cumberland and York Counties, in the south of Maine. These are not native birds and the populations are supplemented by several releases of farmed birds in the fall. Hunting season runs from late September through November. A Maine hunting license and pheasant permit is required. The permit allows the taking of two birds per day, male or female.
There are two hunting seasons for the wild turkey, fall and spring. A spring/fall permit, currently $20 for residents and $54 for nonresidents, allows the taking of one bearded wild turkey, the male, in the spring and one male or female in the fall. Taken birds must be registered. If you are hunting with bow and arrow, you need a special archery license as well as the permit. Hunters using firearms need a Maine big game license and a permit.