My, my, how times have changed. A hundred years ago, come fall, the New York magazines would come with images of moose, grouse, trout, hunters and anglers on their covers. Cartoonists would draw “Hunting camp: expectation versus reality” themes, with “expectations” depicting a small mountain of moose, deer and bear trophies, and “reality” a pile of empty cans and one small miserable bird. Humorists would write about lodges being just coverups for consuming whiskey smuggled from Canada. The word “Maine” would feature prominently in these stories of how the denizens of emerging great cities escaped into the relatively remote, and yet, relatively close wilderness. In fact, Maine was one of the first destinations for hunting and fishing tourism in the USA, and remains a great choice for residents of large East Coast urban areas even today.
Maine is one of the northernmost states, and its North Woods house many species that are usually associated with Canada, such as Canada Lynx. The Maine moose population is one of the most abundant in the Lower 48. Another highly sought-after species Maine is famous for is the black bear. Maine also offers challenging white-tailed deer hunts, great turkey hunting, and iconic hunts for ruffed grouse. Waterfowl hunting enthusiasts will find excellent sea duck hunting along the coastline, as well as outstanding Canada geese hunts. Ridges overgrown with hardwood, rolling hills and swamps intermixed with pine and spruce forests make some of the most picturesque American landscapes. Last but not the least, the well-developed system of lodges and registered guides provides excellent service to both in-state and visiting hunters and anglers.
Black bears in Maine typically weigh in the 250-300 lb range, but exceptional trophies that tip the scales at 400 and all the way to 600 pounds are harvested each year. The state has a 16-week fall season for black bear that runs from last Monday in August to last Saturday in November. However, there are limitations on certain hunting methods at various parts of the season. Running hounds after bears is limited to six weeks in the end of September and throughout November, and hunting over bait is only legal in September. Stalking or still-hunting bears are possible from the beginning to the end of the season.
Baiting is perhaps the most popular method of black bear hunting during both the spring and the fall season in Maine. Out-of-state hunters would require the assistance of an outfitter, who would prepare and keep stocked the bait site, as well as ground blinds or tree stands, taking care that your field of view and line of fire are clear of all obstructing branches and twigs. Hunting over bait is not as easy as it may seem from the first glance. Bears are careful and cautious beasts, and may appear and disappear like a ghost as soon as they sense danger.
Scent and sound control are critical, and so is the perfect shot. How can shooting a stationary animal from a stand at 75 yards or less with arifle,and even closer with a handgun or bow, be a challenge? Easily, considering that the part of the bear’s vitals that ensures a quick death makes only a 4 by 5 inch zone, and you want to hit that if you don’t want to be dealing with a wounded bruin. Bow hunters are further challenged by the fact that the angle at which the arrow penetrates the body has to be just right: from behind towards the head. But the most difficult part is selecting the right time for your shot, waiting patiently for a good opportunity, but at the same time not overdoing it by waiting too much for a perfect angle – as already mentioned, the bruin may disappear at any moment as if by magic.
Bear permits and big-game licenses are required for bear hunting in Maine, and are available over-the-counter. However, out-of-state hunters need to show proof they have a hunting license in their home state.
Maine is not on everybody’s tongue as the prime white-tailed deer destination – states like Kentucky and Nebraska are higher in most hunters’ rankings – but you don’t want to spill that data in front of a Maine deer guide. Big-bodied, thick-beamed Maine bucks are big enough to make any deer hunter proud, and even more so that they present a great challenge.
It is said that if you can get a mature buck in Maine’s big woods, you can do it anywhere. A deer hunt in the big woods of Maine is different from deer hunting in most other states, that usually takes place in agricultural areas close to human habitat. Those bucks are less habituated to people, and are much more wary and cautious. In addition, they have an almost unrestricted freedom of movement.
But to outweigh it, you too have a wide choice of hunting methods. Just as anywhere else, you may hunt deer from a tree stand, located on known travel corridors. If you’re an out-of-state hunter, you will likely have a hard time figuring where these corridors are; here a good local guide is invaluable. Another great option, though, is to still-hunt hardwood ridges. Walking quietly through the magnificent autumn panorama of New England woods is a treat in itself, and how will your heard beat when you notice that big-bodied buck in the distance, and prepared for a stalk!
You should be prepared for caprices of the weather, and pack a few warm layers. At least two of your items of closing, such as a hat, a jacket, a vest, and/or a poncho, must by law be of solid blaze orange while deer hunting. A good trekking backpack, where you can carry an extra bit of warm clothing, rain gear, and a small emergency kit, is highly desirable, especially if you’re planning to stalk or still-hunt. Snow can begin any day; but on the other hand, it will give you a rare opportunity of hunting your deer by tracking.
Check out if black bear season is open during the time you plan to hunt your white-tailed deer. If yes, in addition to the Maine Nonresident Big Game Hunting License, that costs $115, and apart from a whitetail buck allows you to hunt coyote, snowshoe hare, red fox, and other upland species if the season is open on them, including ruffed grouse, it is advisable to get a $40 black bear permit as well. You’re not guaranteed to encounter a bruin during a deer hunt, but you run a fair chance of it.
Wild turkey has been reintroduced to Maine only a few decades ago, but the birds have already made a spectacular comeback. Even though the Eastern Turkey populations on the whole are on the decline, Maine appears to be the exception. In fact, outfitters who post their turkey hunts on BookYourHunt.com say that turkey hunting “has never been better!”
Spring turkey season runs from early May to early June. The bag limit is two toms in most of the state, one in others. Turkey hunters in Maine are allowed to use not only the traditional box or diaphragm calls, but also electronic calling devices. 2021 is promising to be another great spring turkey season in Maine, and you’ve still got time to book you turkey hunt!
Waterfowl and Upland Birds
Shooting ruffled grouse and American woodcock over pointing dogs is a kind of an exclusive pursuit: not many people are into it, but those who are won’t trade it for the African Big Five. Maine woods host a fair number of grouse and woodcock, and good hunting opportunities for both.
As for ducks and geese hunts, Maine is known to waterfowl hunters as the place where Canada geese make their first stop during their migration south. Book your hunt early to be one of those hunters to get a goose this fall, and answer with authority the questions on the prospects for the next season coming from hunters further out South! Or hunt both dabbling and diving ducks at the shoreline or in the swamps.
Now for the juiciest piece of hunting in Maine. This is the state where you find the biggest numbers of moose in the Lower 48, and Maine distributes a generous amounts of tags: 2,000 to 3,000, depending on the season. Of course, residents get 9/10 of the permits, and the chance of drawing a tag for a non-resident is slim, something like 1 in 82.
The moose hunting season in Maine runs from early September to late November, but it is open only for a few weeks in each management unit. If you draw a tag, the permit you receive will give you the specific dates of your hunt. This is done to prevent overcrowding and decrease unnecessary disturbance on moose herds, as well as for better control of compliance with the rules.
The long season means you have to be flexible with your moose hunting methods. Of course, everybody wants to hunt a bull moose during the rut, by calling. A close encounter with the rut-crazed great deer, that may weigh over 1,000 lb (no kidding, monster moose are harvested in Maine with regularity) is something that leaves no true hunter’s pulse at its usual rate. But, obviously, some Maine moose hunts have to be pre-rut or post-rut. Post-rut hunts can be just as successful as hunting during the rut, with the leaves on the ground, which gives an opportunity to glass for the great beasts and then stalk them. But pre-rut hunts can be quite a challenge, and success on self-guided hunts is not very high.
However, drawing a tag is not the only way to hunt moose in Maine. Two per cent of moose permits are distributed among registered moose hunting lodges, via a special lottery. The lodges are allowed to sell these permits for their clients, and barring Governor’s Tags and other auctions, this is the only opportunity to buy an OTC moose tag in the Lower 48. Naturally, these hunts are not cheap, and are priced in the 15,000 to 20,000 USD range. But this year, with the uncertainty regarding the opening of the Canadian border, and travel in general, hunting in Maine is something you should seriosuly consider.
Some Outlook for the 2021 Spring Turkey Season
Turkey hunting in the spring is one of the highlights of the great American outdoors. Few outdoor pursuits are as filled with emotion as calling in a big, wary tom. Outfitters from all over the USA post their turkey hunts on BookYourHunt.com, and if you have booked or are going book a hunt, here are a few notes on what the 2021 spring turkey season may look like in the states where they operate. Read more
Moose Hunting in the Lower 48: Problems and Opportunities
The Lower 48 have hardly been on top of anyone’s moose hunting destination list – until COVID-19 and related travel bans made many Americans look more closely at hunting opportunities at home.
So, what can the heart of the USA offer to an aspiring moose hunter? Read more
Best Outfitters’ Bear Baiting Tips and Techniques
Bear baiting sounds simple enough. Place a load of expired doughnuts in a barrel, put up a stand, and wait for a bear to appear. But like with many other apparently simple deals there are many tips, techniques and secrets to know if you want to bait bears successfully. It’s a time consuming process that starts well in advance of the opening day of the bear hunting season, it takes a lot of work and requires solid knowledge of terrain. For this reason, an average big city hunter is seldom able to set up a good baiting site, and has to seek an outfitter if they want to hunt a bear in spring. Read more