After Saturday’s youth-only day, the hunting season on bears starts today (August 28). Between 10,000 and 12,000 hunters are expected to get out after bears this year, the smallest group of all those seeking game animals. For example, 16,000 hunt turkeys.
Of course, bear hunting is a major commitment, and much of it is done with guides, making the bear hunt a very important one for that segment of our outdoor economy. Many bear hunters also stay in Maine sporting camps.
DIF&W issued a very informative press release about this year’s bear hunt, and I want to share that with you today. Here it is.
DIFW Press Release
AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s bear season begins on Monday, August 28 throughout the state of Maine, and youth hunters get their own day on Saturday, August 26. Last year, 10,936 hunters purchased a permit to hunt bear, with 2,859 hunters harvesting a bear for a success rate of 26%.
“Conditions look promising for hunters to have a better year than last year, but just how successful hunters are depends on the abundance of natural foods and how long those natural foods remain available” said IFW Bear Biologist Jen Vashon.
Maine’s black bear population is closely monitored by Department biologists through one of the most extensive, longest-running biological studies in the U.S. The study began in 1975 and continues today. Over nearly 40 years, Department biologists have captured and tracked over 3,000 bears to determine the health and condition of Maine’s bears and estimate how many cubs are born each year.
“Over that time, our research has shown that when natural foods are in low supply, hunters have more success taking a bear since bears are more likely to seek out other food sources,” said Vashon.
Maine’s bear season is divided into three segments, as hunters can hunt with bait from August 28 to September 23, hunters can hunt with dogs from September 11 to October 27, and hunters can still hunt or stalk bear from August 28 to November 25. Maine has one of the longest bear seasons in the country since Maine has one of the largest bear population estimated at over 36,000 animals. In addition to a season that starts in August and ends after Thanksgiving, Maine allows hunters to take two bears, one by hunting and one by trapping.
In 2016, hunters harvested 2,859 bear and 68% were taken over bait, 21% with dogs, 2% by deer hunters, 1% by still-hunting or stalking prior to deer season, and 4% in traps. The remaining 4% was taken without the method of harvest being reported.
Even with the lengthy bear season, only about 25% of all bear hunters are successful. By contrast, 75% of moose hunters were successful last year, turkey hunters enjoy success rates between 30-35% and deer hunters in Maine are successful 14-18% of the time.
Young hunters will once again get their own day on Saturday, August 26. Youth hunters who have a junior hunting license can hunt bear with a firearm, bow, or crossbow on this day. Youth hunters may hunt bear with the use of bait, or still hunt; however the use of dogs during youth hunting day is prohibited. Last year, 27 youth hunters were successful in taking a bear on youth day.
Youth hunters may hunt only in the presence of an adult supervisor who is at least 18 years of age. The adult supervisor may not possess a firearm, bow, or crossbow while the youth hunter is participating in the bear hunt. Any person who accompanies a junior hunter other than the parent or guardian, must either possess a valid adult hunting license or have successfully completed a hunter education course.
While the abundance of natural foods this year is likely to impact hunters, in-state research shows that it is also what drives nuisance bear complaints. In years when there is a good natural food crop, the numbers of complaints drop. In poor natural food years, nuisance complaints increase.
Over a span of 40 years, Maine’s bear study has shown that not only does the availability of natural foods drive bear cub survival and bear birth rates, but it also directly influences when bears den for the winter, as well as hunter success rates. In poor natural food years, hunter success is higher than in years when natural food is abundant.
Successful bear hunters are reminded that it is mandatory to submit a tooth from their bear when registering. Tagging agents will provide envelopes and instructions to hunters as to how to remove the tooth. Biologists age the tooth, and the biological data collected help biologists adjust season lengths and bag limits for bears. In August, hunters can learn the age of the bear they harvested the previous season by visiting www.maine.gov/ifw/hunting_trapping/hunting/bear/index.htm.
Hunters and trappers must have a bear permit in addition to a big game hunting or trapping license to harvest a bear in Maine. However, during the deer firearm season, resident hunters can harvest a bear without a bear permit. Bear hunting is most popular and bear populations are the densest in the northern and downeast regions of the state.