While many Mainers think of October and November when considering heading afield with a shotgun or rifle, September is the month when the hunting seasons begin in earnest.
Bear hunting got underway last week and continues through Sept. 25 (over bait), while the final day is Oct. 29 with dogs and Oct. 31 if trapping. Those seeking a tougher challenge also can attempt to harvest a bear using still-hunting techniques through Nov. 27.
Hunting bear prior to the start of the firearms season for deer on Oct. 30 (Maine residents only) requires a big game license and a special permit, which costs $27.
Jennifer Vashon, the bear and Canada lynx biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said getting a bear permit is a way for hunters to stay in the game while engaged in other activities, such as scouting for deer, bird hunting or turkey hunting.
The natural crop of berries, including raspberries and blueberries, has run its course in many places. That means bears are on the move in search of other foods on which to fatten themselves for a long winter in the den.
Acorns and beechnuts, other favorite bear foods, are expected to be in good supply but likely remain mostly on the trees at the moment.
In the meantime, if you play your cards right and remain in good cover, stay quiet, and get lucky with wind direction, you might get an opportunity.
“People could maybe scout for deer and if they’re up on a hardwood ridge — and they want to carry a rifle with them — and they see a bear in the beech [trees], they can harvest it,” Vashon said.
While a hunter’s odds of coming across a bear while tromping through the woods admittedly isn’t great, the prospect of putting some meat in the freezer seems like a good incentive to carry your rifle.
It so happens that I have some new deer hunting territory to scout prior to firearms season in November, so I’ll be on the lookout for bears as I try to get the lay of the land.
Did I mention the odds aren’t very good? Vashon said only 1-2 percent of all bears harvested in Maine are taken using still-hunting or spot-and-stalk tactics.
To put that in perspective, 2 percent of last year’s statewide harvest of 3,083 equals fewer than 62 bears. So, yeah, it’s possible.
If that’s not up your alley, you’ll soon have plenty of other hunting opportunities.
The fall wild turkey hunt — which for the first time will not require hunters to tag their harvested birds — kicks off Sept. 20 in all Wildlife Management Districts where it is permitted. Zones that are closed to turkey hunting include 1-5, 7-9 and 14.
The bag limits vary considerably from zone to zone, so make sure to consult DIF&W laws to know how many birds you may take. Birds of either sex are fair game in all WMDs open to turkey hunting.
That season concludes on Nov. 6
If turkeys aren’t your thing, hunting for upland and migratory birds such as ruffed grouse, woodcock, ducks and geese, opens on Sept. 25 and runs through Dec. 31. If you have a crow problem on your property, you can target them through Sept. 24.
The expanded archery season for deer begins on Sept. 11 and runs through Dec. 11 in the select areas where it is offered.
And, of course, the lucky recipients of moose hunting permits this year will start patrolling the roads and fields in 12 Maine WMDs starting with the first week of the hunt on Sept. 27.
If smaller critters are on your list of targeted species, the hunting seasons for gray squirrels and snowshoe hares gets underway on Sept. 25.