Here are the key dates for fishing and hunting seasons

By V. Paul Reynolds

In Maine, this time of year, mud season can be a slow period for an outdoorsman. There are sportsman shows, of course, and there is shed hunting. If you are lucky enough to own some woodlands with maple trees, and you don’t mind working up a sweat, there is the tapping of maple trees and the boiling down of sap into Nature’s most heavenly elixir: the incomparable pancake topping, real Maine maple syrup!

Oh yes, smelting and fiddle heading is not far off either.

Some of us use this time to look ahead toward fishing and hunting season, and make plans. Here are some dates to keep in mind as you mark your outdoors calendar.

Open water fishing season starts April 1.  Spring wild turkey hunting begins April 29 and goes until June 1. In many southern zones, two bearded turkeys may be taken during the season. Check your law book.

Bear season starts with a youth day on August 24 and the general bear season starts the following Monday, August 26.

For bow hunters, the deer season kicks off in the expanded zone on September 7. The firearms season for deer begins November 4 this year and extends until November 30, with a statewide muzzle loader option on its heels December 2.

Some dates of the fall 2024 Adaptive Unit moose hunt remain in a state of flux, or, in IF&W speak, TBD (to be determined).  When it comes to the Maine moose hunt, the focal topic continues to be user conflicts during the staggered fall moose seasons. A study group of assorted stakeholders has been looking into ways to reduce user conflicts, especially between grouse hunters and moose hunters all traversing Maine’s wooded byways and logging roads, each in pursuit of their favorite game.

So far the study group has recommended: 1) In 2024 a mandatory moose hunter education course for all permitted moose hunters. 2) An in-depth hunter survey this fall to determine the extent and dimensions of the problem. 3) A modification of the start date for the fall grouse season with the aim to minimize any conflicts between moose hunters and grouse hunters.

In 2022, grouse season commenced on September 24. Last fall, in 2023, the grouse season began on September 30, which was a Saturday.

The idea, or course, is to minimize the overlap of conflicting hunt groups without shortchanging either interest group. A challenge to be sure. According to IF&W’s fall hunt schedule, the 2024 grouse season will open on September 28 and run until December 31. That Saturday of the grouse opener is also the last day of Maine’s first moose hunting week. Additionally, the last two weeks of October, which are prime grouse hunting weeks, are also moose hunt weeks.

As you might expect, the moose hunt study group seemed to lack consensus on how  best to solve this growing user conflict. Unless Maine is willing to impose a staggered grouse season carved around the existing moose hunts, no ready solution is apparent.

The most logical solution it seems to me rests with the hunters themselves. More hunters,  whether grouse or moose hunters, need to get out of their trucks and into the woods. User conflicts are the result of too many hunters taking the easy path: road hunting.

The moose hunter education course may help in this regard, but old habits die hard. Ironically, changes in moose behavior may in time solve some of this problem through a kind of Darwinian process. With every year, moose are learning that, during October, the logging roads are no place to be. Moose research biologist Lee Kantar will tell you that more and more moose are avoiding “heater hunters,” and staying near the bogs and clear cuts ,when the trucks and the campers invade the logging roads.

“Easy for you to say,” is the quip of the cynical moose hunter who wants no part of the gut-wrenching job of moose extraction from a bog or clear cut. As Kantar will tell you, quartering an animal and lugging it out a hunk at a time is the best method, oddly an alien concept to Easterners, but very conventional for Western elk hunters.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.sportingjournal.com.

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