What can you shoot and when can you shoot it? Part Two

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

There are lots of animals and birds you can shoot, with a hunting license, in season, and plenty that you can trap as well. The hunting season on crows opened recently, for example. Perhaps you didn’t know there was a hunting season on crows! Yup. But I’m focusing this series on birds and animals you can shoot without a hunting license. It’s proving to be a more difficult question to answer that I expected.


Even the hunting and trapping laws divide the animals between the two groups. For example, you cannot shoot a beaver under any circumstances. Beaver can only be trapped and we’re in the midst of the beaver trapping season now. I asked a friend to trap some beaver that had flooded the bog in my woodlot a few years ago, and he caught a bunch of small beaver but not the parents.

This fall, I noticed that the beaver had now created a lake that spread from my woodlot across the woodlots of my two neighbors. So I asked my friend back, but when he stopped by to check it out, he saw no fresh sign of beaver, so apparently they’ve moved on. He suggested I dig out the beaver dam on the small brook that meanders out of my bog, and I intend to do that.

Oh, wait a minute! That was just a hypothetical statement. It is illegal to remove a beaver dam. Only DIF&W’s staff can do that.

Some landowners do shoot beaver. We all know it. But it’s illegal.


porcupineThe Dairy of Daniel E. Heywood: A Parmachenee Guide At Camp Caribou, Parmachenee Lake (1891) (a Legacy Reprint from Kessinger Publishing) is a fascinating account of hunting and trapping above Rangeley in 1891. It includes this story about porcupines (hedgehogs):

I once saw a hedgehog swimming in the lake and killed it. It had crossed from an island one-fourth mile distant, and was near the shore when I saw it. I never knew any good to come from a hedgehog, and there is no end to the trouble which comes from them in localities where they are plenty. Besides their quills and their gnawing of articles left around camps, one hedgehog will reduce a shade tree to ruin, be it poplar, elm, birch, maple, beech or any other hard-wood tree, in one night; therefore I always expend the contents of my revolver on one, wherever I meet it, and think I take no charms from these woods by doing.

I do the same thing! I once had a dog that just never learned. Several times I had to pull quills out of him, until one day he got a big load of them in his mouth and I had to take him to the vet to get them extracted. Because they are so destructive to trees, I usually shoot them if I see them in the yard or on my woodlot. There’s a group of big boulders on the edge of my woodlot where porcupines live in the crevices underneath the boulders, and I often find them in the trees nearby.

One fall, a friend shot a porcupine in a tree on his grandmother’s front lawn in Mount Vernon. His grandmother had died and the house was for sale. A porcupine had been causing a lot of problems there, so when he arrived one day to deer hunt on the family’s property and saw the porcupine in the tree, he shot it.

Unfortunately, the neighbors across the road were folks from away who were not happy to have someone shooting a gun in their neighborhood, and they complained to the Maine Warden Service, which gave my friend a summons for shooting within 100 yards of the neighbor’s house. The friend was distraught, and I thought the summons was unfair, given the damage the porcupine was doing, so I contacted DIF&W’s Commissioner at the time and asked him to look into this. He did and the summons was withdrawn.

This fall, I saw a porcupine on the front lawn, hunkered down next to one of our apple trees, so I loaded a shell into my .22 rifle and walked right up to it, aimed for the back of its head, and shot it. Imagine my amazement when it sauntered away, crossed the road, and continued on into the woods. Yes, they are some old tough!

Was that legal?

Well, I am not sure. I guess I could say the porcupine was worrying our cat. We no longer have a dog.

Unless you are a farmer with more than 10 acres, you can only kill wildlife in the following circumstances:

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.

The question of what you can shoot and when you can shoot it appears to be difficult even for Maine game wardens. A month ago I asked the Warden Service a series of questions so I could be sure I was giving you correct information and advice. But apparently the answers to these questions are not obvious even to game wardens who are responsible for enforcing these laws. I have yet to receive answers to these questions from the Warden Service. Here’s what I asked:

  • What wild animals and birds can you kill without a hunting license?
  • Do those animals and birds have to be causing damage to your domestic animals, crops, or property, before you kill them?
  • Ca you kill those animals and birds any time day or night year-round?
  • The law on nuisance animals 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.” How do you define worrying and property?
  • Is the person who kills a wild animal obligated to file a report with the Warden Service?
  • Do you have any examples of people who have been prosecuted for violating these laws? I’m thinking gray squirrels and other smaller animals, not the big game animals.

The law requires you, once you have killed a wild animal, to report it to the Maine Warden Service within 12 hours. I am certain most people don’t do that.

When I receive a response and answers to my questions from the Warden Service, I’ll share that with you.

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.