Why you soon may be hearing shots in the dark

The first thought that may cross your mind when you hear the report of a rifle in the still of the night next week could be ‘Poachers!’ – But that may be jumping the gun. Maine’s night hunting season on coyote opens Saturday December 16th at 12:01 a.m. 

This is a transition time in the hunting woods for both hunters and landowners. The routines and sights we have been accustomed to during the hunting seasons starting with black bear in late August and finishing up with muzzle loader season on deer has now been turned upside down. Blaze orange clothing has been stowed away and camouflage once again comes out. The biggest change for non-hunters is seeing lights in the woods at night and the crack of a predator rifle when the sun is down.

It is not uncommon during the initial opening weeks of coyote night hunting season for the local game warden to start receiving calls about poaching activity. Most folks don’t realize that the night season has started and are unaccustomed to hearing a shot in the night. That is very understandable.

In hopes of getting both hunters and non-hunters ready for the coyote night season, and keeping the game wardens from running all over the willywags for no cause, I thought a refresher on the ins and outs of night hunting coyotes might be a good idea.

The coyote night hunt opens on Saturday December 16th and runs through August 31st next year, right up to bear season.  All general hunting laws still apply with special exceptions for holders of a coyote night hunting permit. The cost of the permit is $4.00 and may be added to either a general or small-game hunting license. Remember that your license expires on December 31st. You’ll need to renew during the season.

Hunters with the coyote night hunting permit may hunt 24 hours a day, excluding Sundays. There are no daily bag or possession limits on coyote and they do not need to be registered like big game. While hunting at night you must have an electronic, hand-held or mouth-operated predator call and the use of artificial lights is authorized. Dogs may not be used to hunt coyote at night – daylight is ok.

Semi-automatic rifles are very popular for coyote hunting. Be sure to keep in mind the magazine capacity rule when using one. The magazine needs to be factory made or permanently altered to accept no more than five rounds of ammunition plus one in the chamber for a maximum total of six rounds in the gun. Also, suppressors are legal to hunt with. You’ll just need to fork over another few dollars for an additional permit.

The author in a blind overlooking a bait site during the coyote night hunting season

Baiting coyote is legal and is defined as placing an animal, plant, or part thereof used to attract wild animals for the purpose of hunting. The hunter must obtain oral or written permission from the landowner or agent and must label the bait site with a two inch by four inch tag with the name and address of the bait site owner.

Tree stand and trail camera laws apply all year long regardless of season. Tree stands require oral or written permission on private property and must be labeled with the names and addresses of everyone the landowner has given permission to use it on a two by four inch tag (minimum). Game cameras need written permission from landowners and must be labeled with name and contact information. While there is no requirement for the labeling of portable ground blinds, it is a good idea to do so.

Along with the things you must do to be in compliance with the law, there are a few things to keep in mind that are unlawful – for both hunters and non-hunters.

  • A person may not hunt over another’s bait site without the bait site owner’s permission.
  • Bait sites may not contain poisonous or stupefying substances.
  • You may not discharge a firearm or cause a projectile to pass within 100 yards of a building. Pay special attention to the projectile portion of that statement.
  • It is illegal to willfully interfere with lawful hunting
  • It is illegal to shoot from or over a paved public way
  • It is illegal to transport a loaded long gun in or on a vehicle – a loaded magazine detached from an unloaded gun is legal

Lastly, night hunting carries with it inherent risk. If you choose to hunt coyotes at night, be sure to leave a hunt plan with someone in case you are injured or get lost at night. Most important of all, positively identifying your target and what is beyond it is absolutely critical while hunting at night.

Leave a Reply