The population of black bears in Maine is healthy and hunters should expect a good season. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Another fall hunting season is nearly upon us and the overall picture looks pretty rosy. With very few exceptions, game populations are robust and contain a harvestable surplus that should provide plenty of opportunity for outdoor recreation and free-range protein. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Bear season kicks off the fall hunt schedule in late August. The bear population is also increasing faster than existing seasons and methods can accommodate, and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) continues to explore ways to control the population as complaints and interactions with humans increase. Several options were proposed this year but all eventually failed in the legislative process. Wildlife managers will keep trying and hopefully it won’t take a serious incident to finally propel the process. In the meantime, bait hunters will get first dibs, followed by trappers and those hunting with dogs. The general season runs the gamut from the start of bait hunting to the end of firearms season on deer, and while few hunters target bears outside of the seasons for specialized methods, some bears are taken incidentally by deer and moose hunters.

While most hunters target ducks and geese, the migratory game bird season also includes snipe, woodcock and rails. The latter season starts on Sept. 1, and while participation is low there are a few diehards who still practice traditional methods like poling through the flooded wild rice beds that border lakes and rivers. The early goose season starts on the same date with generous daily bag limits designed to promote higher harvest of yet another overabundant species. Resident Canada geese continue to be a problem, primarily as a public nuisance, defiling public parks and golf courses and fouling drinking water supplies.

This year’s rain during key breeding times could have an impact on the turkey population in Maine. Phil Lowe/Shutterstock

Fall turkey season kicks off Sept. 20, preceded by a Sept. 18 youth day. Turkeys should be abundant but possibly not as much as in recent years. Things were looking good at hatching time but several cold, rainy days during a critical period for poult survival could depress productivity. The local flock I watch on a daily basis started with 12 poults but quickly dwindled to four during the rains.

Regardless, there will still be enough to warrant the effort, and a regulation change may encourage a few more folks to chase fall turkeys. Wild turkey harvested in the fall season (only) do not need to be registered or have a transportation tag attached. Participation rates among fall turkey hunters in Maine have been relatively low, in part due to the suite of other hunting opportunities available, particularly starting in October.

Deer hunting opportunities abound. The expanded archery season, which begins annually on the Saturday after Labor Day, gives bowhunters a first shot at deer in certain areas where firearms hunting may be prohibited or impracticable, or where harvest during other seasons is insufficient to meet population reduction objectives. The IFW continues to adjust and modify specific area boundaries where changes are warranted so be sure to check the most recent regulations.


Hunters who target antlerless deer during regular archery and firearms seasons will have even more opportunity with a 40% increase in any-deer permits, up from last year’s previous all-time high of 109,990. Under Maine’s time-tested any-deer permit system hunters have failed to meet harvest objectives in recent years, largely in central and southern areas. It is hoped this increase will help stem the burgeoning herd, but more changes are likely on the way for next year.

Regular duck and goose seasons begin on the traditional Oct. 1 start date.

Expectations are questionable as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service again canceled its annual waterfowl breeding population and habitat surveys. Surveys from North Dakota suggest that drought will impact North America’s “duck factory” in the prairie pothole region and while production was likely down, overall numbers are still above the long-term average. The daily duck limit remains at six with certain more restrictive exceptions.

Will reducing the moose population depress the tick population and ultimately lead to better moose survival? IFW officials want to know. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Let’s not forget about moose. There are several seasons in September, October and November for those fortunate enough to have drawn a permit. Within those will also be an Adaptive Unit Moose Hunt. Winter ticks appear to be having a significant impact on moose productivity in some areas. IFW biologists have installed this hunt to test if reducing the moose population could depress the tick population and ultimately lead to better moose survival. Time will tell, but if it works we might see more hunting opportunity in the short term and lower moose numbers in the long term.

There’s a saying in business school that you should view challenges not as a problem, but an opportunity. That seems particularly true with some of our more abundant wildlife species. Deer, bear, moose and turkey populations are robust, and in at least some areas more abundant than the general public would like. Fortunately, there’s a very simple and cost effective remedy in the folks who buy the licenses that fund wildlife resource protection and management.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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