Black Bear Hunting in Maine: A Guide for Beginners
If you are looking for a thrilling and challenging hunting adventure, you might want to consider black bear hunting in Maine. Maine is home to one of the largest populations of black bears in North America, with an estimated 30,000 bears roaming the state’s forests. Black bears are also the only bear species living in the eastern United States, making Maine a unique destination for bear hunters.
However, black bear hunting is not for the faint of heart. Bears are powerful and intelligent animals that can run up to 35 miles per hour and have a keen sense of smell. They also require a lot of preparation and planning, as well as respect and responsibility. Here are some things you need to know before you embark on your black bear hunting trip in Maine.
Average Weight and Size of Black Bears in Maine
Black bears vary in size and weight depending on their age, sex, season, and food availability. Adult males average 250-600 pounds, and measure 5-6 feet from tip of nose to the tip of their tail. Females are smaller, weighing 100-400 pounds, and measuring 4-5 feet in length. Males stand about 40 inches tall at the shoulder; females seldom exceed 30 inches in height.
Black bears in Maine are normally black, but they may have a brown muzzle or a white chest patch. They have small eyes, short ears, a straight facial profile, and a massive skull. Their claws are short and curved, and their feet leave five-toed tracks that sometimes resemble human footprints.
Biggest Black Bear Taken in Maine and in the USA
The current state record for the heaviest black bear taken in Maine belongs to Matt Knox, a U.S. Army veteran who shot a 699-pound bruin on his first-ever bear hunt in September 2012. Knox was hunting with his father-in-law and a guide from Foggy Mountain Guide Service near Greenville when he encountered the massive bear at a bait site. The bear was so big that it took six men to load it onto a trailer.
The biggest black bear ever taken in the USA was a 880-pound male that was killed by a hunter in North Carolina in 1998. The bear measured 9 feet 4 inches from nose to tail and had a chest girth of 70 inches. It was estimated to be about 9 years old.
Hunting Season and Methods for Black Bears in Maine
The hunting season for black bears in Maine runs from late August to the end of November. There are four methods of hunting allowed: baiting, hounding, still hunting/stalking, and trapping. Each method has its own rules and regulations that hunters must follow.
Baiting is the most popular and successful method of hunting black bears in Maine. It involves placing food or scents at a site to attract bears. Hunters must obtain a permit from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) to bait bears, and follow strict guidelines on when, where, and how to bait. Baiting season runs from August 30 to September 25.
Hounding is another method of hunting black bears that involves using trained dogs to track and chase bears until they tree or bay. Hunters must also obtain a permit from MDIFW to hunt with dogs, and follow rules on dog training, identification, care, and control. Hounding season runs from September 13 to October 29.
Still hunting or stalking is a method of hunting black bears that involves quietly walking through the woods and looking for signs of bears or spotting them from a distance. Hunters must wear hunter orange clothing during this method, except during archery-only season. Still hunting or stalking season runs from August 30 to November 27.
Trapping is a method of hunting black bears that involves using snares or cable restraints to capture bears alive. Hunters must obtain a permit from MDIFW to trap bears, and follow rules on trap types, sizes, locations, checking intervals, tagging, and reporting. Trapping season runs from September 1 to October 31.
Cost and License Requirements for Black Bear Hunting in Maine
To hunt black bears in Maine, hunters must have a valid Maine hunting license and a black bear hunting permit. The cost of the permit varies depending on the residency and method of hunting. For residents, the permit fee is $10 for hunting over bait, $27 for hunting with dogs, and $39 for trapping. For non-residents, the permit fee is $74 for hunting over bait, $74 for hunting with dogs, $146 for trapping, and $40 for hunting during the regular firearms season on deer only. Additionally, hunters must pay an agent fee of $2 for each permit.
Hunters must also purchase a valid Maine hunting license, which costs $26 for residents and $115 for non-residents. There are also special licenses available for junior hunters (under 16 years old), senior hunters (65 years or older), disabled veterans, and landowners.
Where to Buy Your License and Register Your Bear
Hunters can buy their licenses and permits online at the MDIFW website, where they can also find a list of authorized agents that sell licenses and permits in person. Hunters can also visit any MDIFW office to buy their licenses and permits.
Hunters must register their harvested bears at an official registration station within 18 hours of taking the animal. They must present the whole bear or the bear’s head and hide with evidence of sex attached. They must also submit a tooth from the bear for age analysis. Hunters can find a list of registration stations on the MDIFW website or by calling 207-287-8000.
What You Are Allowed to Hunt With
Hunters can use various types of firearms, archery equipment, or traps to hunt black bears in Maine. However, there are some restrictions and regulations that hunters must follow.
Firearms: Hunters can use rifles, handguns, shotguns, or muzzleloaders to hunt black bears. However, they must use ammunition that is larger than .22 caliber rimfire or that has a soft point or expanding bullet type. They must also use a shotgun slug or a single ball when using a shotgun larger than 20 gauge. They must not use full metal jacket bullets or tracers.
Archery: Hunters can use bows and arrows or crossbows to hunt black bears. However, they must use broadhead arrows that have at least two sharp cutting edges and are at least 7/8 inch wide. They must also have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds for bows and 100 pounds for crossbows. They must not use arrows with explosive tips or poison.
Traps: Hunters can use snares or cable restraints to trap black bears. However, they must use traps that have a minimum loop diameter of 10 inches and a maximum loop diameter of 15 inches. They must also use traps that have a stop device that prevents the loop from closing to less than 2.5 inches in diameter. They must not use traps that have teeth or serrations on the cable or that are powered by a spring device.
How to Have a Safe and Successful Black Bear Hunt
Black bear hunting is an exciting but challenging sport that requires preparation, patience, and skill. Here are some tips on how to have a safe and successful black bear hunt in Maine.
- Do your research. Learn about the biology, behavior, and habitat of black bears. Study the hunting laws and regulations for your chosen method and season. Scout your hunting area before the season and look for signs of bear activity such as tracks, droppings, claw marks, or bait sites.
- Plan ahead. Make sure you have all the necessary licenses, permits, equipment, and clothing for your hunt. Check the weather forecast and pack accordingly. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Carry a map, compass, GPS, cell phone, first aid kit, and survival gear in case of emergency.
- Be ethical. Respect the landowners, other hunters, and the wildlife. Follow the rules of fair chase and only take shots that you are confident will result in a quick and humane kill. Recover your wounded animals as soon as possible and do not waste any edible parts. Report any illegal or unethical activities to MDIFW or Operation Game Thief.
- Be safe.