Archery hunters in Maine should be aware of a new law that took effect Monday that changes some of the dynamics for hunting with a bow and arrow.
The new law prohibits a bowhunter on someone else’s property from discharging an arrow within 100 yards of a building, or residential dwelling on that land, without the permission of the owner or an adult occupant authorized to act on behalf of the owner.
The law further makes it illegal to allow an arrow shot from a bow and arrow to pass across the land of another person, and within 100 yards of a building or dwelling on that land, without permission of the landowner or adult occupant.
Previously, bowhunters were exempt from the law that prohibits hunters from discharging firearms and crossbows within 100 yards of a building or residential dwelling without the permission.
Numerous instances of bowhunters killing animals close to residences prompted the change in the law.
“We’ve had some archery hunters over the years who basically have been killing deer and turkeys right on people’s front lawns,” said Col. Dan Scott, Maine’s chief game warden. “They drive up the road, they see a deer, they get out and walk across somebody’s mowed lawn, and they shoot a deer or they shoot a turkey, literally amongst the pink flamingos.”
There were multiple instances last year of wild game being shot with a bow and arrow in close proximity to homes, Scott said. He cited Down East and the Lewiston-Auburn area as two places that experienced such activity.
“This law basically says, if you’re on my property, and within 100 yards of a building on my property, even if you’re only hunting with a bow, you need to ask my permission,” Scott said.
“It actually promotes the kind of behavior you’d like to see anyway, which is people being responsible and asking for permission before accessing private land,” he added.
Under Maine law, permission is not required for rifle and crossbow hunters on private, unposted land who are more than 100 yards from a dwelling or building and who do not allow a projectile to pass within 100 yards of those structures.
The Maine Warden Service nonetheless encourages hunters to ask the landowners of property where they plan to hunt for permission as a matter of courtesy.
“We encounter a lot of traditional access issues in the state of Maine with access by the public on private land,” Scott said. “If you’re out in somebody’s back 40 and it’s unposted, we encourage you always to seek permission, even when it’s not necessarily required.”
Those who hunt with a bow entirely on their own property, despite their proximity to adjacent residences, are not affected by the new law.
“So if I’m on my own property and my neighbor’s house is 40 yards away, it doesn’t apply to me,” Scott said. “I can target practice or hunt with a bow and arrow.”
The new law is a compromise to proposed legislation that suggested imposing a strict 100-yard limit for all bowhunting. That would have created issues in regard to the expanded archery hunt.
The expanded archery program was established to provide additional deer hunting opportunities in locations where populations can withstand the additional pressure without disrupting existing harvest opportunities or human safety.
However, expanded archery locations often are in residential areas that cannot be hunted using firearms because of discharge ordinances.
“We need people to be able to hunt in and around some suburban areas to control deer populations,” Scott said.
Maine’s regular archery/crossbow season ends on Oct. 29.