Maine’s hunting and other laws are complex, often amusing, and sometimes confusing

DIF&W LogoIt takes 462 pages to give us all of Maine’s laws governing hunting, fishing, trapping, and other outdoor fun. I just finished reading through the law book and found some very interesting things that I will share with you.

But first, it’s what I didn’t find that puzzled me. Last year I wrote a series called, “What Can I Shoot and When Can I Shoot It?” Warden Corporal John MacDonald helped me answer that question, explaining that you can shoot red squirrels, woodchucks, and porcupines, anytime, anyplace, except on Sunday, without having to report that to the Maine Warden Service, as long as you have a hunting license.

That was really fortunate, because while talking to Corporal MacDonald, I confessed to shooting all three of those critters. If you don’t have a hunting license you cannot shoot those animals, or any others, unless they are damaging your crops or attacking your animals.

Lots of minor laws are in the book. We may not hunt waterfowl on Haley Pond in the Town of Rangeley. We can’t use a motorboat within the Merrymeeting Bay Game Sanctuary. We can’t carry loaded firearms on any of the roads bordering the Limington, Hollis and Waterboro Sanctuary. Etc.

I already knew that fishing on Carleton Pond in Winthrop is against the law. This is used as a water supply for the city of Augusta. I will say, growing up in Winthrop, that some of us kids may have biked up there and caught some bass in that pond!

If you are a migratory bird or wild turkey hunter, did you know that you can’t shoot within 50 yards of another hunter’s decoys?

Given that we just had a discussion of the damage that turkeys do to farm crops, especially apples, I was surprised to learn that “Whenever the Commissioner determines it impossible to keep deer from doing damage to young orchards, the commissioner may enter into an agreement with the owner of a young orchard in which the department assumes ½ the cost of fencing the orchard.”

Representative Jeff Timberlake, testifying for my bill to increase turkey hunting opportunities, reported  that, to keep deer out of his family’s apple orchards, they’d just built a $250,000 fence. Bet they’d liked to have had DIF&W’s help with that!

Perhaps you don’t know that you “may not take, possess or needlessly destroy the nest or eggs of a wild bird, except the English or European house sparrow, the rock dove and the European starling.” I can’t tell you why we don’t like those birds.

Now I’ve got a real incentive to live a lot longer. On page 106 I learned, “A complimentary antler-less deer permit… may be issued to a resident of the State who is 100 years of age or older.”

I found the section on “Recreational Use Limits” to be interesting. It notes that “increased use has resulted in increased environmental impact on the Kennebec River and the West Branch Penobscot River, as well as their valleys, nearby roads and the social structure of the areas.”

This apparently justified the limits placed on rafting companies, which are limited to 1,000 commercial passengers per day between Harris Station and West Forks on the Kennebec River, and 560 commercial passengers per day on the West Branch Penobscot River between McKay Station and Pockwockamus Falls.

It takes 8 pages to outline all of DIF&W’s special funds: the Lifetime License Fund, Fish Hatchery Maintenance Fund, Maine Endangered and NonGame Wildlife Fund (which includes the WE CARE support program), Maine Wildlife Park Fund, Maine Environmental Trust Fund, Land Management Fund, Lake and River Protection Fund, Snowmobile Enforcement Fund, Whitewater Rafting Fund, Blake Bear Research Fund, Boat Launch Facilities Fund, Warden Service Aircraft Fund, Moose Research and Management Fund, Maine Deer Management Fund, Landowner Relations Fund, and Camp North Woods Fund.

In the index at the back of the book, there are three references to laws governing caribou, but I couldn’t find them in the laws, so I guess the laws disappeared along with the caribou.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.