Maine’s bear hunting season runs for three months — September, October and November — and during that time, hunters harvest bears using four methods.
— Baiting: Hunters have a month where they can attract bears to piles of bait (a variety of human food such as old pastries, raw meat, oats and scraps). At these bait sites, which require permits and must be 500 yards from dwellings, hunters wait in a tree stand (a platform in a tree) or ground blind to shoot the bear.
— Hounding: During a seven-week period, hunters can use specially-trained dogs to chase a bear, typically until it climbs a tree. They then track the dogs by radio collar to find the bear.
— Trapping: Hunters have a two-month period when they may trap a bear with one cage-style trap or foothold snare (a wire loop with a minimum size of 2 ½ inches) set at or below ground level with a special trapping permit. Traps must be checked every 24 hours.
— Still-hunting: This method, known as “fair chase” is hunting without the aid of bait, traps or hounds. It typically involves tracking and stalking bear in areas where bears’ natural food is plentiful, such as beech groves, oak ridges and berry patches. This method is allowed for all three months of the bear hunting season.
If the referendum passes, still-hunting will be the only legal method to hunt bear in Maine.
In recent history, few bears have been harvested by still-hunters in Maine. For example, in 2013, about 93 percent of the 2,845 bears harvested were taken by hunters using bait, dogs or traps. Only 7 percent were taken by still-hunters — 81 bears were harvested by deer hunters who happened upon a bear, and 131 bears were registered by tagging stations that did not record the method used to take the bear.