Deer Hunting

This website page is part of the 2021-2022 hunting law book and has not yet been updated with information for the 2022 deer hunting season. If you are looking for information about the antlerless deer permit lottery, please click here. The 2022-2023 hunting law book and website pages will be updated July 2022.

hunting laws book cover

On this page:

Hunting of antlerless deer (a deer that has no antlers or has antlers less than 3 inches in length measured from the skull) is prohibited except by special permit during both the firearms season and the muzzleloader season.

In WMDs where any-deer permits are not issued for the entire WMD, archers and junior hunters are also not allowed to harvest antlerless deer.

Multiple deer may be taken during the expanded archery season, or as a result of receiving a bonus antlerless deer permit(s), or due to having purchased a superpack antlerless deer permit, otherwise one deer may be taken during any one of the remaining seasons (with appropriate licenses or permits).

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Deer Hunting Prohibitions

Baiting deer by placing salt, grain, fruit, nuts or other foods or bait known to be attractive to deer or hunting from an observation stand or blind overlooking such bait, is prohibited from June 1 to December 15. This does not apply to hunting from an observation stand or blind overlooking:

  • Standing crops
  • Foods that have been left as a result of natural or normal agricultural operations
  • Bear bait that has been placed at a bear hunting stand or blind in accordance with bear baiting laws

Illegal equipment: Deer may not be hunted with the use of dogs, artificial lights, snares, traps, airbows, set guns or any firearm using .17 or .22 caliber rimfire cartridges, except that .22 caliber rimfire magnum cartridges are permitted. Deer decoys are legal.

Driving Deer: A person may not participate in a hunt for deer during which an organized or planned effort is made to drive deer. Four or more persons working together to move deer constitutes such an effort.

One and done: It is unlawful to hunt deer after having killed or registered one during the open season of that calendar year, unless you are participating in the expanded archery season on deer (see Expanded Archery Permit) or possess a valid bonus or superpack antlerless deer permit.

Gift deer: Gift deer may not be possessed unless clearly labeled with the name and address of the person who registered the animal, and the year it was registered.

Buying, selling, and bartering deer: For information on buying, selling or bartering animals, see Prohibition Regarding Selling of Wild Animals.

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The Following Areas are Closed to Deer Hunting

  • Mt. Desert Island in Hancock County;
  • Cross and Scotch Islands, located in Washington County;
  • The town of Isle au Haut and islands within that town, located in Knox County; and
  • In wildlife sanctuaries. See exceptions below.

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The Following Areas are Open to Deer Hunting

But with These Special Restrictions:

  • Beauchamp Point Sanctuary in Camden and Rockport, Knox County, is open to archery hunting for deer during any open hunting season that allows archery equipment to be used to hunt deer (crossbows are not permitted).
  • Cranberry Isles in Hancock County is open to bow and arrow hunting for deer only during the archery and firearms seasons on deer and to shotgun hunting during the firearms season on deer (crossbows
    are not permitted).
  • The area within Drake’s Island and Wells Sanctuaries, situated in the Town of Wells in the County of York: shall be open to the hunting of antlerless deer with a hand‑held bow and arrow (crossbows are prohibited), by permit only, during a specified period between November 1 and January 30; permits may be issued by the department to licensed archery hunters authorized by a landowner.
  • The Island of Frenchboro is open to deer hunting with shotgun only during the firearms season on deer.
  • Islesboro, Waldo County, is open to deer hunting with bow and arrow only during the archery, expanded archery, or firearms seasons on deer.
  • Prout’s Neck: Richmond’s Island; Cape Elizabeth Sanctuary contains approximately1,600 acres open to deer hunting,with bow and arrow only (crossbows are not permitted), during the open special archery season and the firearms season on deer. Note: Landowner permission required.
  • Southport: In the town of Southport, Lincoln County, and on all islands within its confines, it is lawful to hunt deer with shotguns and crossbows only during the firearms season.

Please refer to municipal ordinances that may prohibit certain hunting methods.

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Deer Permits & Licenses

Muzzleloader Permit

  • Muzzleloader means a firearm that is capable of being loaded only through the muzzle; is ignited by a matchlock, wheel lock, flintlock, or caplock, including an in-line caplock or shotgun or rifle primer mechanism; has a rifled or smooth-bored barrel capable of firing only a single charge; propels a ball, bullet, or charge of shot; and may have any type of sights, including scopes.
  • New technology: There are new types of muzzleloaders on the market that allow for a pre-measured amount of factory loaded gun powder that is encapsulated and is not loaded through the muzzle as a traditional muzzleloader would require. The bullet is still loaded through the muzzle. This still meets the definition of a muzzleloader and is legal for hunting during the muzzleloader hunting season.
  • A muzzleloader permit, in addition to a valid adult big game hunting license that allows the use of firearms, is required for hunters 16 years of age or older prior to hunting deer during the muzzleloader deer season. The muzzleloader permit is included in the junior hunting license and the senior (age 70+) lifetime license.
  • Hunter orange clothing is required during this season (see Hunter Orange Clothing Requirements).
  • Hunting hours are from 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.
  • Except as specified, all other laws relating to the taking of deer with firearms shall apply to the taking of deer with muzzleloaders.
  • Only muzzleloaders that are .40 caliber or greater and capable of firing only a single charge and crossbows by persons 65 years of age or older or crossbows by persons with a special disability permit to hunt with a crossbow may be used to hunt deer during this season.

Expanded Archery Permits

  • Restricted to designated areas (see Expanded Archery Season on Deer or contact the Department for maps and descriptions of areas).
  • Archery hunting only except for a hunter who is 65 years of age or older or who hasa special disability permit to hunt with crossbows may use crossbows.
  • Hunters who have a valid archery license can purchase multiple antlerless deer permits and one either-sex permit.
  • Deer must be legally transported and registered as required for other deer seasons.
  • All other archery deer hunting laws apply.
  • Junior hunters may hunt during this season with their junior hunting license.The junior hunting license includes one expanded archery antlerless deer permitand one either sex permit. If the hunter wants to take additional deer, unlimited expanded archery antlerless deer permits may be purchased.

Antlerless Deer Permit

  • Hunting of antlerless deer during the regular (Oct) archery season (with a crossbow if you are under the age of 65 and do not possess a special disability permit), and during the firearms season and muzzleloader season is restricted to those hunters who possess a valid anydeer permit, bonus antlerless deer permit, or superpack antlerless deer permit.
  • Antlerless deer may be taken by hunters during the expanded (Sep–Dec) and regular (Oct) archery seasons when archery equipment is used or if the hunter is 65 years of age or older or has a special disability permit to hunt with crossbows. Archers may not take antlerless deer in WMDs where any-deer permits are not issued. Any-deer permits are acquired by lottery only and applications are available mid-June.
  • In several WMDs, there may be more anydeer permits available than applicants. Unclaimed bonus antlerless deer permits will be allocated in a chance drawing until all permits in that district have been issued.
  • Maine's antlerless deer (firearms) hunt is a "permit only" hunt. See Any-Deer Permits or contact the Department at (207) 287-8000 for more information.

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Deer Population Monitoring Project

MDIFW biologists annually collect weather-related data (i.e., temperature, snow depth, and deer sinking depth) from 26 representative sites across Maine to calculate a weather severity index (WSI).

This index has been used since 1973 at the statewide and WMD levels to estimate an all-inclusive annual over-winter mortality rate (WMR) of white-tailed deer, which accounts for predation, malnutrition, physical limitations of deer, etc.

Since the correlation between WSI and WMR was identified, it has become a cornerstone of Maine's deer management system.

But because the metric derives from an ecological relationship, which may change over time, our high wildlife management standards require that we continue to monitor its efficacy.

To that end, MDIFW has initiated a population monitoring project that uses GPS Satellite collar technology to track survival/mortality trends among Maine’s antlerless deer populations. The project’s primary goals are to:

  1. Reevaluate the correlation between WSI and WMR for white-tailed deer
  2. Assess seasonal survival rates for the adult female (>1.5 years) and fawn segments of the population
  3. Assess cause-specific mortality of adult female and fawn populations
  4. Reassess the current winter severity index and try to identify a new, more simplistic, metric
  5. Continue to understand predator-prey dynamics for white-tailed deer in Maine

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2021 Deer Seasons and Bag Limits

Season Dates Annual Bag & Possession Limit
Expanded Archery
(limited area/permit required)
September 11, 2021 - December 11, 2021 Only 1 may be taken annually.

Exception: Additional deer may be taken by participants in the ExpandedArchery Season within the expanded archery zones or by anyone possessing a bonus antlerless deer permit or superpack antlerless deer permit.
Regulary Archery/Crossbow (Statewide) October 2, 2021 - October 29, 2021*
(allows use of bow and arrow, crossbows*, firearms, or muzzleloaders)
Maine Residents Only:
October 30, 2021
All Hunters:
November 1, 2021 - November 27, 2021
Muzzleloader Week 1:
All Wildlife Management Districts (WMDs)
November 29, 2021 - December 4, 2021
Week 2:
WMDs 12, 13, 15-18, 20-26, 29
December 6, 2021 - December 11, 2021

All dates are inclusive except that hunting is prohibited on Sunday.

*See Laws Pertaining to Hunting Equipment for information on the use of crossbows. A new law began January 1, 2020 and lasts through December 31, 2022, that expands crossbow hunting to the Regular October Archery Season on deer and during the Fall Wild Turkey Hunting Season.

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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.

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Reporting Accidents and Aiding Victims

Any person who knows or has reason to believe that they have inflicted injury to another person by the use of firearms, crossbow or bow and arrow is required to make themselves known to the victim and render such first aid and assistance as they are capable of under the circumstances. The incident must be reported by the quickest means, to a game warden or other law enforcement officer.

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Harassment of Hunters

It is illegal for any person to willfully interfere with the lawful hunting 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. Note: This law does not limit the ownership, use, access, or control of property rights otherwise provided by law.

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Hunters for the Hungry

Attention hunters! Some Maine citizens lack adequate nutrition. A gift of meat from your hunt can help reduce hunger in Maine. Hunters for the Hungry is a program for donating wild game meat to food kitchens, shelters, and charitable organizations statewide. To find out how you can help call 207-287-7513.

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Big Buck Club

Maine has a club for deer hunters called "The Biggest Bucks in Maine Club," which is sponsored by:
The Maine Sportsman
183 State Street, Suite 101
Augusta, ME 04330

To qualify, the minimum dressed weight (without heart, lungs, and liver) must be 200 pounds. Application blanks are available from the Department wardens and biologists or by calling the Maine Sportsman at (207) 622-4242.

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