Laws Pertaining to Hunting Equipment

hunting laws book cover

On this page:

General Laws

Wild animals and wild birds may be hunted only by the use of rifles, handguns, shotguns (not larger than 10-gauge), muzzleloader, handheld bow and arrow, crossbow, or falconry.

Deer and moose decoys are legal, as are laser sights (red dots or beam) for firearms and bows.

Electronic calling devices are legal for deer, bear, turkey, moose, and coyote, but are illegal for migratory game birds.

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Illegal Devices

  • It is unlawful to hunt with the use of (or sell or offer for sale for the purpose of hunting) a set gun, or any medicinal, poisonous or stupefying substance (except rodenticide for orchard mouse control and gas cartridges for woodchuck control).
  • Drawlocks and set bows are illegal unless otherwise permitted for disabled hunters.
  • Crossbows cannot be used to hunt wild turkeys in the fall season, or deer during the expanded archery, regular October archery, or the muzzleloader season. Please see exceptions and additional information related to Crossbow Hunting.

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Illegal Use of Lights

From September 1 to December 15, it is unlawful to use artificial lights from 1/2 hour after sunset until 1/2 hour before sunrise to illuminate, jack, locate, attempt to locate or show up wild animals or wild birds except raccoons which may be hunted at night with electric flashlights during the open season (see General Hunting Laws for details).

An exception to this may be made for agents appointed by the commissioner to hunt coyotes at night during this period under policies established by the Department.

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Firearms Laws

It is Unlawful to Hunt with, or Possess for Hunting, Any:

  • Automatic firearm (a firearm that continues to fire as long as the trigger is held back.)
  • Auto-loading firearm (a firearm that reloads itself after each shot and requires a separate trigger pull for each shot) with a magazine capacity of more than 5 cartridges (plus 1 in the chamber for a total of 6), unless the magazine has been permanently altered to contain not more than 5 cartridges.
    Note: This provision does not apply to .22 caliber rimfire or smaller caliber guns or to auto-loading pistols with barrel lengths of less than 8 inches.

3-shell Max for Migratory Game Birds:

It is unlawful to hunt any migratory game bird with a shotgun capable of holding more than 3 shells unless the magazine has been cut off, altered, or plugged with a one-piece filler (incapable of removal without disassembling the gun), so as to reduce the capacity of the gun to not more than 3 shells in the magazine and chamber combined.

Silencers:

It is unlawful to hunt with or possess for hunting any firearm fitted or contrived with any device for deadening the sound of the explosion without a permit.

Bullet Types:

It is unlawful to hunt with cartridges that contain tracer bullets or explosive bullets.

Cartridges:

  • Firearms with .17 or .22 caliber rimfire cartridges may not be used for deer, moose, or bear hunting, except that .22 magnum can be used for deer hunting.
  • Shotguns using shot loads can not be used to hunt bear or moose.

Archery Season Provisions:

No firearms of any kind may be carried while hunting deer with a bow and arrow during the special or expanded archery seasons on deer, except person may carry a handgun in accordance with title 25 section 2001-A; but it cannot be used to shoot a deer or dispatch a wounded deer.

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Loaded Firearms in Motor Vehicles

It is unlawful to have a loaded firearm or crossbow in or on a motor vehicle (including trailer, ATV, aircraft, snowmobile, or railway car), unless otherwise specified.

A loaded magazine may be carried in a motor vehicle, but it must not be inserted in or attached to a firearm.

Firearms may be transported in a motor vehicle without a concealed firearms permit provided they are (1) unloaded and in plain view, or (2) are unloaded and placed in a remote secure area (such as a locked trunk) away from the control of the occupants of the motor vehicle.

For the purpose of this law, a muzzleloader is considered to be loaded only if charged with powder, a projectile, and a primed ignition device or mechanism. A crossbow is considered loaded if cocked and armed. Exceptions apply when carrying a concealed pistol or revolver.

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Carrying Concealed Firearms

A person may carry a concealed handgun without a permit and may have that concealed, loaded pistol or revolver in, or on, a motor vehicle or trailer if:

  • The person is 21 years of age or older and is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm or;
  • The person is 18 years of age or older and under 21 years of age and on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States or the National Guard or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States or the National Guard and is not otherwise prohibited from carrying a firearm.

Upon contact with a law enforcement officer, a person carrying a concealed handgun without a permit is required to notify them immediately.

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Archery Information

Seasons: The regular archery license allows bow and arrow hunting for all legal game throughout the year, except for deer during the muzzleloader season.

Licenses: You must have an archery license to hunt during the regular and expanded archery deer seasons, or hunt with a bow and arrow in general.

Permits: In addition to an archery license, hunters participating in the expanded archery deer season (designated areas only) must also purchase permits. Multiple antlerless deer permits may be purchased for $12 each, and an either-sex permit for the expanded archery deer season is $32.

Exceptions: Complimentary archery license holders (Disabled Veteran, Native American) and junior hunting license holders may hunt with those licenses during the expanded archery deer season.

Obtaining an Archery License: Applicants for the regular archery license must show proof of having successfully completed an archery hunter education course or of having held a Maine adult archery license in any year after 1979. When proof or evidence cannot be provided, the applicant may substitute a signed affidavit. Native Americans are exempt from safety course requirements for archery, crossbow, and trapping.

  • Junior hunters who hold a valid Junior Hunting License are allowed to hunt with bow and arrow when accompanied by an adult supervisor (see Junior Hunters).
  • A hunter may carry a handgun while bowhunting, but it may NOT be used to dispatch deer.
  • Laws which allow you to hunt without a license on your own land under certain conditions apply to archery hunting (see Who Needs a License).
  • Deer & bear may be taken under the archery provisions only by means of hand-held bow with a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds (for moose a minimum draw weight of 45 pounds is required), and broad-head arrow. Arrow heads (including expandable mechanical broadheads) must be at least ⅞ inch in width. It is unlawful to use a set bow, or to use arrows with poisonous or explosive tips. Hunters 65 years of age or older may hunt any wild bird or wild animal with a crossbow during any open season on that wild bird or wild animal.
  • Hunter orange clothing is not required when hunting with bow and arrow. Anyone who hunts with a firearm or crossbow must wear hunter orange (see Hunter Orange Requirements).
  • All deer killed by bow and arrow during the archery seasons must be inspected and registered at the first open deer registration station.
  • It is legal to hunt until   hour after sunset during both archery deer seasons.
  • In WMDs where no any-deer permits are issued, archers and junior hunters are not allowed to harvest antlerless deer during the archery season on deer. (Deer taken during the expanded archery deer season are by appropriate permit (see Permits).

In addition, all other laws pertaining to deer hunting shall apply to archery hunting.

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Hunter Orange Requirements

Hunter orange is defined as a daylight fluorescent orange color with a dominant wave length between 595 and 605 nanometers, excitation purity of at least 85% and luminance factor of at least 40%. A decal on an article of clothing that is otherwise solid hunter orange is permissible. Articles of hunter orange clothing must be in good and serviceable condition and visible from all sides.

Firearms and Muzzleloader Seasons on Deer

Anyone who hunts any species with a firearm, muzzleloader, or crossbow during any firearms or muzzleloader season on deer (also on Youth Deer Day) must wear two articles of hunter orange clothing. One article must be a solid- colored hunter orange hat; the other must cover a major portion of the torso, such as a jacket, vest, coat or poncho and must be a minimum of 50% hunter orange in color (camouflage).

Archery Seasons on Deer

Hunter orange clothing is not required while hunting with a bow and arrow during the archery seasons.

Moose Hunting Season

Anyone who hunts any species with a firearm or crossbow in a Wildlife Management District that is open to moose hunting must wear one article of solid-colored hunter orange clothing (hats count). When moose season overlaps the firearms season on deer, then two pieces must be worn. All laws pertaining to deer hunting apply to moose hunters during these seasons.

Bear, Turkey, and Upland Game Bird Hunters

When hunting bears, turkeys, and upland game birds, hunter orange clothing is only required when hunting with a firearm or crossbow during the firearms hunting season on deer, the muzzleloader season on deer, or within an open moose hunting district during moose hunting season.

Waterfowl Hunters

Are not affected by the provisions above while hunting from a boat, blind, or in conjunction with waterfowl decoys.

Exception: Any hunter whose religion prohibits wearing hunter orange may wear red instead.

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Trail/Game Cameras Law

People using trail and game cameras may not place a camera upon another person's private land without written permission. All cameras must be labeled with the person's name and contact information.

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Releasing Dogs from Traps

top and side view of a trap

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. The most common trap type used in Maine is the coilspring variety (shown here), and other types that you might come across operate by similar mechanisms. If your dog gets caught in one of them, follow these steps:

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 on the levers located at either end of the jaws. 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.

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Observation Stands

It is unlawful to insert any metallic or ceramic object into a tree on another person's land for the purpose of erecting a ladder or observation stand, unless you have permission from the landowner. You must obtain verbal or written permission of the landowner (or representative) to erect or use a portable or permanent ladder or observation stand, and the ladder or observation stand must be plainly labeled with a 2-inch by 4-inch tag with the names and addresses of everyone the landowner has authorized to use it.

Exception: Portable ladders or observation stands used on land within the jurisdiction of the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission and attended by the person who owns the ladder or observation stand do not require landowner permission or labeling, but permanent ones do.

Note: For additional information on the use of private property, see Hunting and Trapping on Private Property. Observation stands do not include portable blinds utilized at ground level that remain in the hunter's physical possession.

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Crossbow Information

Crossbow Hunting Permit Fact Sheet

Crossbow Permit:

To purchase a crossbow hunting permit, you must first a valid hunting license (big game license for big game species or small game license for turkey and small game species), and must submit proof of having successfully completed an archery hunting education course and a crossbow hunting course or satisfactory evidence of having previously held adult archery and crossbow hunting permits in any year after 1979. If you cannot provide proof or evidence, a signed affidavit can be substituted.

Valid junior hunting license holders may hunt with a crossbow without purchasing permits.

Crossbow Seasons

By Maine State Law, a crossbow is not considered a firearm. A person may hunt any wild bird or animal with a crossbow during any open season on that bird or animal while still following all the other laws pertinent to that species, except that a licensed crossbow hunter 64 years of age or younger may not hunt wild turkey during the fall turkey season or hunt deer during the expanded archery, special October archery or muzzleloader seasons.

Hunters 65 years or older, or who have a special handicap permit to use a crossbow, may use a crossbow for any species in season with the appropriate permits.

For Native Americans, see Special Licenses.

Crossbow Equipment Laws

Required Features:

  • Only crossbows with a shoulder-type stock may be used.
  • Draw weight must be at least 100 pounds (there is no max).
  • Arrowheads, including mechanical broadheads when open, must be at least ⅞ inch wide.
  • Crossbows must be equipped with a mechanical trigger safety device in working condition.

Prohibited Features:

  • Hand-held pistol-type crossbows are prohibited
  • Arrows with explosive or poisonous tips are prohibited

Optional, but Allowed Features:

  • Crossbows equipped with scopes or sights may be used.

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