What can you shoot and when can you shoot it?

This is the first in a series that will answer the questions: What can you shoot and when can you shoot it?

gray squirrelAre those greedy gray squirrels crowding the birds out of your bird feeders? Well, you’ve got just one day left in the squirrel hunting season to shoot them, unless you hunt them with a falcon – and I’m not talking about the Ford Falcon. For those hunting with a falcon, the squirrel season extends until February 28.

What? You say you don’t hunt but you’ve been shooting those darned squirrels off the bird feeders, and you certainly didn’t know there was a hunting season on them? Yes, indeed, and you can’t shoot them without a hunting license. But don’t worry, I won’t tell.

According to a survey by Responsive Management, the wildlife species causing the most problems in Maine are skunks and squirrels. Deer, raccoons, and woodchucks are not far behind.


woodchuckMy avid gardener wife Linda hates woodchucks, for good reason. So I get to shoot all of those that wander onto our property to dine in her gardens. One year we had three chucks stopping by her garden on a regular basis. I managed to shoot two of them, but didn’t get a chance at the third one. So when we headed upta camp one week, our neighbor, Dona Seegers, set a trap near Linda’s hoop house and caught that third chuck, a lucky fella because Dona released him alive well way from our house, where, I’m sure, he became someone else’s problem.

However, when we got back from camp, the neighbor’s boy stopped by to tell us that he’d seen a Bald Eagle flying up our road carrying a woodchuck, and he’d dropped the chuck right on our lawn, where it skirted into the bushes. He searched for it but it had escaped. Great, I said, now the Eagles are delivering woodchucks to us!

When Can You Kill Them?

Unless you live on a farm bigger than 10 acres, you can’t just up and shoot any wild critter. Here’s what the law says, “a person may lawfully kill, or cause to be killed, any wild animal or turkey, night or day, found in the act of attacking, worrying or wounding that person’s domestic animals or domestic birds or destroying that person’s property.”

I wonder how you can tell that a wild animal is “worrying” your cat or dog? Oh, I guess it’s that worried look on his or her face. “Yes, Mr. Game Warden, that turkey on the front lawn was worrying my cat, and that’s why I shot it.” Good luck with that defense!

There is also no definition of property, which might also cause some confusion. One year, just before Christmas, we got a call from a lady who asked if my friend Ed Pineau and I could come immediately and kill the turkeys on her property. They’d been getting up onto her deck and eating her Christmas decorations. We weren’t sure Christmas decorations would meet that definition of property, so we took a pass, although we did hunt turkeys there as soon as the season opened in April.

Red Squirrels are particularly destructive, getting into and chewing the heck out of your house. I watch them on the bird feeder in front of our house and if they get down and head towards the woods, they get to live another day. If they head toward the house, I shoot them.

I’m a little more tolerant of chipmunks, perhaps because they are so darned cute. One winter I had one in my workshop, and we almost became friends. He didn’t seem to mind my working there, so I let him be.

Coming up next

In the next column on this issue, I’ll get into more details about what you can shoot and when, and alert you to a law that I’m sure you are violating every time you shoot a problem critter.

Special thanks to DIF&W’s Mark Latti for answering my questions and providing me with information on this issue.

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, georgesmithmaine.com, 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.