General Hunting Laws

hunting laws book cover

On this page:

Sunday Hunting is Illegal in Maine

To hunt means to pursue, catch, take, kill or harvest wild birds and wild animals (wild by nature, whether or not bred or reared in captivity), including any physical part of that species of mammal or bird.

Back to top

Unlawful Conduct

The hunting, possession, transporting of any species of wild animal or wild bird, or parts thereof, for which an open hunting season is not specifically provided, and except as provided in the fish and wildlife laws, is unlawful. It is also unlawful to take, possess, or needlessly destroy the nest or eggs of any wild bird except the English or European house sparrow, the European starling and the rock pigeon (a.k.a. rock dove).

Back to top

Prohibition Regarding Selling of Wild Animals

Wild Birds: A person may not sell or possess for sale a wild bird, except for the plumage of lawfully taken wild birds, and only if that sale does not violate regulations of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Finished Wildlife Products: A person may buy, sell, barter or trade legally obtained finished wildlife products, excluding federally protected wild animals and birds.

Deer, Bear, or Moose: A person may, without a hide dealer's license, buy or sell naturally shed deer or moose antlers.

A person who has lawfully killed and registered a deer, bear or moose may (without a hide dealer's license) sell:

  • The head, hide, antlers* and feet of that deer.
  • The head, hide, antlers*, feet and bones of that moose.
  • The head, hide, teeth, gallbladder,* fat not attached to the meat, and claws (not attached to the paws) of that bear.

*Raw antlers, bear fat (not attached to the meat), and bear gallbladders may only be sold (including for money, barter, or trade) to a licensed hide dealer, and they must be tagged or accompanied with documentation containing the name and address of the person who legally killed the animal.

You Need a Hide Dealer's License to: Commercially buy, sell, barter, or trade any raw, untanned animal hides (including fur-bearing animals) or parts of wild animals or birds not prohibited above. Any parts bought or sold may not be attached to wild animal or wild bird parts that are prohibited from being sold.

Contact MDIFW if you are interested in becoming a Hide Dealer or you are looking for a list of dealers in the state at (207) 287-8000.

Night hunting:

Except as otherwise provided, wild birds and wild animals may not be hunted from 1/2 hour after sunset until 1/2 hour before sunrise the following day. Exceptions: migratory game bird, raccoon, and coyote.

Raccoon hunting:

Raccoons may be hunted at night during the open season only when the hunter:

  • Is accompanied by a dog.
  • Uses a rifle or handgun of no greater power than one which uses .22 caliber long rifle ammunition.
  • Loads the rifle or handgun only when dispatching a raccoon that is treed or held at bay by a dog or dogs and has been identified by flashlight.

Placement of bait for hunting purposes:

As used in this section, "bait" means an animal, plant, or part thereof used to attract wild animals for the purpose of hunting.

A Person Placing Bait for Hunting Purposes Must:

  • Obtain oral or written permission from the landowner or landowner's agent.
  • Plainly label the bait with a 2-inch by 4-inch tag containing the name and address of the baiter.
  • Clean up the bait site immediately upon landowner request; or if not requested, within 20 days of the last day the site is hunted.

A Person May Not:

  • Hunt over another person's bait site without the baiter's permission.
  • Place any medicinal, poisonous, or stupefying substance to entice any animal.

Species-specific Baiting Laws:

  • Baiting or feeding of deer is prohibited from June 1-December 15, see Deer Hunting.
  • Baiting and feeding moose and turkey is prohibited from September 1 to December 15.
  • Baiting and feeding turkey is prohibited during the spring wild turkey season.
  • Further restrictions apply to bear baiting, see Bear Bait.

Minimum Shooting Distances

Shooting within 100 Yards of Dwelling:

It is unlawful to discharge any firearm or muzzleloader or cause a projectile to pass as a result of that discharge, within 100 yards (300 feet) of a building without permission from the owner or, in the owner's absence, an adult occupant who dwells in that building. This provision also applies to state-owned boat launches that are posted accordingly. See Hunting Areas: Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) for distance requirements when hunting on Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL).

Discharge of Archery Equipment Near Dwelling or Building: It is unlawful to discharge an arrow or a bolt from archery equipment when on land of another person and within 100 yards of a building on that land without permission of the owner (or in the owner’s absence, permission from an adult occupant) of that building or cause an arrow or a bolt from archery equipment to pass across the land of another person and within 100 yards of a building on that land without the permission of the owner (or in the owner’s absence, permission from an adult occupant) of that building.

Definitions, as Used in This Section:

"Building" means any residential, commercial, retail, educational, religious or farm structure that is designed to be occupied by people or domesticated animals or is being used to shelter machines or harvested crops.

“Projectile” means a bullet, pellet, shot, shell, ball, arrow, bolt or other object propelled or launched from a firearm or archery equipment.

Back to top

Target identification while hunting:

Summary of 12 MRSA §11222

A hunter may not shoot at a target without at that point in time being certain that the target is the wild animal or wild bird sought. A reasonable and prudent hunter:

  • Risks losing legitimate prey so as not to risk destruction of human life
  • Neither disregards, nor fails to be aware of, the risk of causing the death of another human being as a consequence of misidentification
  • Never bases identification upon sound alone, or even upon sound combined with what appears to be an appendage of the wild animal or wild bird sought.
  • Bases identification upon an essentially unobstructed view of the potential target's head and torso.
  • Recognizes that sound and sight target-determining factors are affected by a number of other considerations including, but not limited to, the distance to the target, surrounding or intervening terrain and cover, lighting and weather conditions, the hunter's hearing, eyesight, and experience level, and other people nearby.

Back to top

Hunting under the influence:

It is unlawful to hunt while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs.

Possession of hunting equipment on Sunday:

Possession of hunting equipment in the fields and forests or on the waters or ice of this state on Sunday is prima facie evidence of a violation of Sunday hunting law, unless the equipment is securely wrapped in a complete cover, fastened in a case, or carried in at least two separate pieces in such a way that it cannot be fired without the pieces being joined together (for the purpose of this paragraph, a firearm clip, magazine, or cylinder is not considered a "piece").

Archery equipment must be kept in a case or cover if broadheads or field points are kept attached to the arrows or bolts.

Exceptions: A person may possess hunting equipment on Sunday for legitimate activities such as target practice, sighting in rifles, etc., or for persons carrying hand guns as prescribed by Title 25 subsection 2001-A.

Airborne hunting:

A person on the ground or airborne may not use aircraft (including drones & remote-controlled aircraft) to aid or assist in hunting deer, bear, or moose.

Shooting from a motor vehicle or motorboat or possessing a loaded firearm or archery equipment in or on a motor vehicle:

It is unlawful to shoot while in or on a motor vehicle, motorboat, snowmobile or ATV or have a loaded firearm or archery equipment while in or on a motor vehicle, trailer, or other type of vehicle being hauled by a motor vehicle except as specifically allowed.


  • A holder of a valid Maine concealed weapon permit may carry a loaded pistol or revolver in a motor vehicle as prescribed by Title 25 subsections 2001A.
  • Persons who are at least 21 years of age, or are at least 18 years of age and a member or honorably discharged veteran of the armed forces or National Guard, may carry a loaded pistol or revolver in or on a motor vehicle if they are not otherwise prohibited from carrying a firearm. Upon contact with a law enforcement officer, a person carrying a concealed handgun without a permit must notify the officer immediately.
  • Paraplegics and leg amputees may shoot from a motor vehicle that is not in motion.
  • Migratory waterfowl may be hunted from a motorboat in accordance with federal regulation.
  • While hunting, a person who is not in or on a vehicle may rest a loaded firearm or archery equipment that is under the person's control on the vehicle to shoot only when the vehicle is not in motion and the engine of the vehicle is not running.
  • A person may shoot from a motorboat if that boat is not being propelled by the motor and forward momentum of the boat has stopped. However, the wanton waste law allows you to shoot crippled waterfowl from a motorboat under power on coastal waters and all waters of rivers and streams lying seaward of the first upstream bridge.
  • A person who is hunting and is on but not within an enclosed area or passenger compartment of an ATV or snowmobile may shoot a firearm or archery equipment or rest a loaded firearm or archery equipment that is under the person’s control on the ATV or snowmobile to shoot only when the vehicle is not in motion and the engine is off.
  • While target shooting, not hunting, a person who is on but not within an enclosed area or passenger compartment of a vehicle may shoot a firearm or archery equipment or rest a loaded firearm or archery equipment that is under their control on the vehicle to shoot only when the vehicle isn’t in motion and the engine is off.

Note: A loaded clip may be carried in a motor vehicle, but it must not be inserted in, or attached to, a firearm; a crossbow may be carried as long it is not cocked and armed; a muzzleloader is considered to be loaded only if charged with powder, projectile and a primed ignition device or mechanism.

Shooting From or Over a Public Paved Way:

A person may not shoot or discharge any firearm or archery equipment at any wild animal or bird from any public paved way (any road treated with bituminous or concrete material), from within 10 feet of the edge of its pavement, or from the right-of-way of any controlled access highway.

Shooting of domestic animals:

It is unlawful for any person, while hunting to negligently, carelessly, or willfully shoot and wound or kill any domestic animal or bird.

Firearms on school property:

Possession of a firearm on public school property or discharging one within 500 feet of school property, except as used in supervised educational programs or by law enforcement officials, is illegal.

Harassment of lawful hunter or trapper:

It is unlawful for any person to willfully interfere with the lawful hunting or trapping of any wild animal or wild bird, including the willful disturbance of wild animals or wild birds with intent to interfere with their lawful taking.

Disposal of Remains:

A person may not dispose of a carcass, waste parts or remains of a wild animal, except as a result of normal field dressing of a lawfully harvested wild animal or the lawful use of waste parts or remains of wild animal as bait.

Back to top

Notice to Dog Owners

It is unlawful to allow any dog to run at large at any time, except when used for hunting or training. "At Large" means off the premises of the owner and not under the control of any person by means of personal presence or attention. It is unlawful to allow any dog to chase, wound, or kill a deer or moose at any time or any other wild animal in closed season.

Hunting with Dogs and Dog Training

Hunting Bear, Bobcat, Coyote, Raccoon, and Fox with Dogs

Anyone 16 years of age or older who is using a dog to hunt for bear, coyote, fox, bobcat, or raccoon; or train for bear, fox, and raccoon must possess a Dog Training and Hunting permit, which can be purchased online or at a local license agent.

Exception: A person who is training or hunting with a dog under the supervision of and in the presence of a registered Maine hunting guide who has a valid Dog Training and Hunting Permit is exempt from possessing the permit.

Any dog engaged in the above activities must have a functioning tracking collar which allows the handler to track the dog’s location at all times such as a GPS or VHF tracking device. The dog must also have a collar that legibly provides the name, telephone number, and address of the dog’s owner.

A person is in violation of civil trespass with a hunting dog if:

  • They turn a hunting dog loose onto posted property;
  • They turn a hunting dog loose onto property where the landowner has communicated to the dog handler that they do not want hunting dogs on their property; or
  • A hunting dog enters property upon which a hunting dog has been previously found and a law enforcement officer has warned any handler of the hunting dog (within the past 365 days) that hunting dogs are not permitted on the property.

A person or persons may not use more than six dogs at any one time to hunt bear, bobcat, coyote, raccoon, and fox.

A person may not use a dog to hunt during the period from ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise, except for raccoon (see raccoon hunting).

More information on hunting bears with dogs.

A person with a suspended or revoked hunting license may not train dogs.

Dog Training Season

  • From July 1 through the following March 31, including Sundays, dogs may be trained on fox, gray and red squirrels, snowshoe hare, and raccoons. During such training, it is unlawful to use or possess a firearm, other than a pistol or a shotgun loaded with blank ammunition, except during the applicable open hunting seasons on these species.
  • Dogs may be used to hunt snowshoe hares during the firearm season on deer.
  • Sporting dogs may be trained on wild birds (not including wild turkey) at any time. The commissioner may authorize with a permit the use of firearms during such training to shoot and kill wild birds propagated or legally acquired by the permittee and possessed in accordance with the laws pertaining to breeders, licenses.
  • Residents may train up to six dogs on bear from July 1 - August 25, 2023. Exceptions: in portions of Washington and Hancock counties that are situated south of Route 9, landowner permission is required to train dogs on land used for wild blueberry production (this is a new law that will remain in effect through the 2024 training season). Nonresident Maine Guides are not eligible to train dogs in Maine.
  • A person must possess a valid hunting license to engage in all dog training activities, except Sunday or when training on pen-raised birds.
  • Propagation permits for domesticated fowl are no longer required to possess or use them for dog training purposes.

Leashed Dog Tracking License

A license is available which allows the tracking of wounded deer, moose, and bear with dogs. The fee for this license is $81 for 3 years and is in addition to a one-time application fee of $25. A person who holds a valid license may charge a fee for dog tracking services without having to hold a guide’s license, as long as that is the only service provided. Find the application form here.

Releasing Dogs from Traps

A dog’s reaction to being caught in a foothold trap can vary from calm to frightened, but upon being released, they do not normally sustain injury. Foothold traps are designed to hold an animal by the foot. The most common type of foothold trap used in Maine is shown here. If your dog gets caught in one of them, follow these steps:

Courtesy of Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies

Stay Calm and Get Help: If available, get a second person to assist you.

Protect Yourself: Some dogs may attempt to bite, especially as the trap is removed from their foot. Protect yourself by securing the dog’s muzzle using a jacket or vest, or by placing a barrier between you and the dog.

Open the Trap: If possible, put the trap flat on the ground. To open the trap, push down using your hands or feet on the levers located at either end of the jaws (see arrows in the diagram). This will release tension on the jaws and allow you to remove the dog’s foot.

Respect the Trapper, and Obey the Law: It is unlawful to take or destroy a trap without permission from the owner.

Prevent Future Incidents: Trappers commonly use lures and urine to attract furbearers such as foxes and coyotes. You can train your dog to avoid trap locations by utilizing these scents in mock trap sets.


Back to top