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Night Hunting

Premiere Hunting Attorney in Maine

Because it’s one of the most rural and environmentally pristine states in the northeast, and perhaps even in the entire U.S., Maine has some of the most extensive hunting and conservation laws in the country. Encapsulated in Title 12 of the state’s statutes, these laws affect many Mainers on a regular basis, regulating essentially everything to do with Maine’s natural resources.

One of the many ways that Title 12 regulates the natural resources of the state is through its provisions on night hunting.

The general rule is that it’s illegal to hunt wild birds or animals at night. If you’re caught hunting at night, or if you’re found in possession of game that you hunted at night, you’ll face the following penalties:

Jail TimeFine
1st OffenseMinimum 3 daysMinimum $1,000
2nd or Subsequent OffenseMinimum 10 daysMinimum $1,000

Other factors will add to these base penalties. If you’re caught hunting at night, or with a game that you hunted at night, and you’re in possession of a light amplification or thermal imaging device, you’ll be facing at least another 3 days in jail and $2,000 in fines, on top of the base penalties. Additionally, repeat offenders could face increased fines and imprisonment.

The regulations are very specific about what it means to hunt “at night.” “Night” means the time between 30 minutes after sunset, until the time 30 minutes before the sunrise of the following day, based on the official Eastern Standard Time in Bangor, Maine. The Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has put together a helpful PDF of the legal hunting hours, for the 2014-15 hunting season, based on this statutory definition of “night.”

Like most laws, however, there are exceptions to Maine’s rules making it illegal to hunt at night. These exceptions, however, are still subject to the law making it illegal to hunt in Maine on Sunday, so hunters have to stop before midnight on Saturday night, and have to start after midnight on Sunday night.

One of these exceptions is for hunting coyote. You can get a Coyote Night Hunting Permit to hunt coyote at night from December 16 to August 31. Between these dates, from September 1 to December 15, the Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife can also appoint specific agents to hunt for coyote, as well. To facilitate their hunting at night, coyote hunters can use artificial lighting while hunting.

Another exception to the rule against night hunting is for raccoon hunting. However, there are additional requirements that you have to meet, to hunt raccoon during the nighttime. Firstly, you can only hunt raccoons at night during the open season. Secondly, the method of hunting is highly regulated. You can only hunt when accompanied by a dog, and can only use an electric flashlight to find raccoons that have been treed, or held at bay by your accompanying dog(s). Further, you can only use a rifle or handgun that uses .22 caliber ammunition or under. This gun can only be loaded once a raccoon has been treed or held at bay.

Between September 1 and December 15, it is also illegal to use artificial lights during the nighttime to illuminate, jack, locate, or show up any wild animal or bird. This does not apply to hunting raccoons with electric flashlights, or to hunting agents appointed by the Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to hunt coyote.

Lastly, the general rule is that hunting cannot be done from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise. However, this changes for migratory birds, which cannot be hunted from sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise. If you intend on hunting migratory birds in Maine, make sure you abide by the state’s legal hunting hours.

Maine’s hunting and conservation laws are extensive, and often highly complex. Consult an experienced law firm that understands the nuances and pitfalls of the law, to make sure your enjoyment of the outdoors doesn’t result in an arrest. Contact The Maine Criminal Defense Group today.

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