Maine

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Image: ImageBy_David_Brace_ME

Check out the latest info for Maine. Image by David Brace

Season Dates (2024):

Archery runs Sept. 30 to Oct. 27. Youth deer day is Oct. 20. Resident-only day is Oct. 28. Firearms season is Oct. 30 to Nov. 25. Muzzleloader varies by location but occurs in late November and early December. Last, the expanded archery season runs Sept. 9 to Dec. 9 (designated areas only). Please check the MAINE DEPARTMENT OF INLAND FISHERIES & WILDLIFE WEBSITE to confirm deer season dates.

The Grade: C

Maine’s herd took a hard hit during the late 2000s, but numbers have been on a slow and steady increase since then. Recent mild winters and good mast crops were what deer needed to rebound.

“Regarding the deer population, we had a pretty easy winter but a hard spring for fawns,” said Nathan Bieber, deer specialist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “Only time will tell how deer numbers look coming out of that. Regarding the hunting seasons, the quality of a hunting season is mostly determined by the individual, not by deer, I think. Those hunters that focus on enjoying their season however they like will have a great season.”

In an effort to increase deer numbers, the MDIFW has also limited most hunters to one antlered deer per season. If you want to take an extra deer, check into areas that offer additional deer or even antlerless deer permits by lottery draw.

In 2021, the department implemented a system that uses data on deer-human conflict levels to issue additional antlerless deer permits IN AREAS WITH TOO MANY DEER. That’s an interesting development.

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Also, CHANGES ARE BEING MADE to crossbow hunting, which will affect the 2024 season. Antlerless permit changes will also have an impact.

“We transitioned from issuing either-sex (any-deer permits), which required a hunter to choose between taking an antlered or an antlerless deer, to instead issuing antlerless deer permits, which allow a hunter to take both an antlered and an antlerless deer,” Bieber said. “Permits went from free to now having a fee attached, and the fee is used to buy deer wintering habitat with any acquired lands also being managed as wildlife management areas for public use.”

All considered, Maine gets a C again this season.

Antler Nation Knowledge:

Though you won’t get to take a high number of deer in Maine, you might fill your freezer with a true North Woods giant. Mature bucks in the state regularly tip the scales at 300-plus pounds, which is something Southern hunters rarely see, if ever.

“If you want big, heavy, old deer, you’re going to want to head to northern Maine, where the deer are relatively few and far between,” Bieber said. “It’s tough hunting up there, but pressure is very low, and there’s a lot of room to roam. Also, Maine has a lot of coastal islands with a lot of deer and very few hunters. If you’re interested in a pretty unique hunt and willing to do some extra legwork, consider looking for a hunting spot off the coast.”

Although the northern woods automatically come to mind when most people think of Maine hunting, the southern counties continue to hold higher deer numbers. And as mentioned, don’t forget the coastal areas, and especially ISLAND OPPORTUNITIES.

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Northern counties such as Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Waldo, and Washington are the top producers for bigger-antlered deer. According to Bieber, Maine has a unique tradition of open land access, but you’ll always get a warmer reception and maybe even some insider info if you talk to the landowner first. Nobody knows deer in an area like the people who live there.

“Maine is almost all private land, which can make it intimidating to find a hunting spot,” Bieber said. “While we do have an open-access tradition for unposted lands, it’s always going to be best to get permission to hunt on any private lands. Most landowners are going to be very happy you took the time to ask. You do need to add some door knocking or phone calls to your scouting routine, but you should be able to find many private parcels to hunt this way.”

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>