First Season: Sept. 6 – Sept. 24
Second Season: Nov. 7 – Nov. 26
Shotgun Season: Nov. 28 – Dec. 10 (Special rules apply - see regulations below.)
All dates inclusive. Hunting is prohibited on Sundays.
Half hour before sunrise – ½ hour after sunset.; except on WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season, hunting hours are sunrise to sunset. Click here for a sunrise/sunset table.
Required License and Permits:
- Hunting or sporting license
- Bear permit
- Big game license
- Bear permit
1 bear per calendar year
Statewide (Wildlife Management Zones 1-14 -- New in 2015!)
*Rifles and handguns prohibited. Shotguns (not larger than 10 gauge, slugs only), muzzleloaders, and archery equipment allowed.
**Except on WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season.
Rifle: .23 caliber or larger.
Handgun: .357 Magnum revolver with .357 Magnum cartridges only, or a revolver .40 caliber or larger.
Muzzleloader: .44 to .775 caliber, fired from the shoulder, using a single projectile.
Archery Equipment: Bows must have a draw weight of at least 40lbs at 28 inches or at peak draw. Arrows must have a well sharpened steel broadhead blade not less than 7/8 inches in width. Expanding broadheads are legal. Poisoned arrows, explosive tips and bows drawn by mechanical means are prohibited. Crossbows may be used by certain permanently disabled persons by permit only.
Shotgun: Allowed only during the shotgun season, shotgun not larger than ten gauge, including shotguns with a rifled bore, slugs only.
Hunter Orange Requirements:
- First Season: None
- Second Season: A hunter orange hat is required on WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season.
- Shotgun Season: Hunters must wear 500 square inches of hunter orange on their head, chest, and back.
Bait and dogs are illegal.
Shotgun Deer Season Special Restrictions:
- Hunters must wear 500 square inches of hunter orange on their head, chest and back
- Rifles and handguns prohibited
- Shotguns (not larger than 10 gauge, slugs only), muzzleloaders, and archery equipment allowed
Special Rules on WMAs Stocked with Pheasant or Quail During the Pheasant or Quail Season:
- Hunting hours are sunrise to sunset.
- Hunter orange hat is required.
Tagging, Transporting, and Reporting Requirements:
Upon killing a bear, hunters must immediately fill out and attach to the carcass the "harvest tag" found on the bear permit. The bear must remain intact (other than field dressing), with the harvest tag attached, until it is reported and prepared for food or taxidermy. Hunters must report their bear either online or at a check station within 48 hours of harvest. If reporting online, a confirmation number will be issued and must be written on the harvest tag, if reporting at a check station a metal seal will be attached to the carcass. Either the seal or the harvest tag must be attached to the bear until it is processed. When transporting the bear, some portion of the carcass must remain visible until it has been reported.
Hunting Season Framework:
The bear hunting season is broken into three parts:
- First Season: Day after Labor Day – 3rd Saturday thereafter.
- Second Season: 1st Monday in Nov. – 3rd Saturday thereafter.
- Shotgun Season: 1st Monday after Thanksgiving – 2nd Saturday thereafter. (These dates coincide with shotgun deer season, special rules apply)
Upon killing a bear, hunters must immediately fill out and attach to the carcass the "harvest tag" found on the bear permit. The bear must remain intact (other than field dressing), with the harvest tag attached, until it is reported and prepared for food or taxidermy. Hunters must report their bear either online through MassFishHunt (see instructions below) or at a check station within 48 hours of harvest. If reporting online, a confirmation number will be issued and must be written on the harvest tag, if reporting at a check station a metal seal will be attached to the carcass. Either the seal or the harvest tag must be attached to the bear until it is processed. When transporting the bear, some portion of the carcass must remain visible until it has been reported.
Overview of Online Black Bear Harvest Reporting
The harvest tag must remain attached to the harvested bear throughout this process. At the end of the online harvest reporting process, a confirmation number will be generated; write this number on the harvest tag. You must report your bear BEFORE processing for food or taxidermy.
Please use care when entering information into the MassFishHunt system, particularly the date of harvest. Once submitted, you cannot correct the information. If you have a problem reporting your Black Bear online, please contact MassWildlife at 508-389-6300 from 8:00 A.M. - 4:30 P.M., Monday – Friday; if it is outside of those hours, please contact the Environmental Police at 1-800-632-8075.
Steps for online harvest reporting:
- Got to Mass.gov/MassFishHunt. Click Enter MassFishHunt.
- Log in using your last name and customer ID (located on your hunting/sporting license or Black Bear permit).
- Select Report a Harvest.
- Select Black Bear from the Harvest Menu, and then click the Add button.
- You will then be asked a series of questions. You will need to examine your bear to answer some of these questions. Responses provide MassWildlife biologists with important information used to evaluate and manage the bear population. Please answer each question accurately. Also, please consider submitting a tooth for aging (see step 6).
- MassWildlife collects bear teeth to determine the age structure of the harvest. If you submit a tooth for aging, we will mail you a letter in June with the age of your harvested bear. If you would like to contribute to the scientific management of the Massachusetts Black Bear population and would like to know the age of your bear, please follow the instructions below:
- Remove the first premolar (see photo and video below). This is a very small tooth, just behind the large canine tooth. It does not matter if you take the left or the right tooth. The root is the most important part, do not break the tooth.
- Using a small sharp knife, or a sharp ¼-inch wood chisel, slide the blade down the side of the tooth and cut or separate the gum tissue where it sticks to the tooth. Using small needle-nose pliers or the pliers on your multi-tool, wiggle the tooth slightly until you can pull it out of the jawbone and the gum. The tooth is only about ½-inch (or less) in length. Be careful not to break it.
- Put the tooth in a small envelope, and mark it with your name, and mailing address, customer ID number, and confirmation number (or seal number) of your bear. Put the small envelope in a regular mailing envelope and send it to:
Black Bear Aging
MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
1 Rabbit Hill Road
- After you have answered all the required questions, a Confirmation Number will be generated. You must write this confirmation number on the harvest tag (which should still be on the harvested bear), where it shall remain until the bear is processed for food or taxidermy purposes. Butchers or taxidermists should not accept bears without an official metal tag (Bear checked at a physical check station), or a harvest tag with a confirmation number (online game check).
If you made an error on your harvest report, you can no longer edit it and must contact MassWildlife during business hours at 508-389-6300 from 8:00 A.M. - 4:30 P.M., Monday – Friday; if it is outside of those hours, please contact the Environmental Police at 1-800-632-8075.
Pre-season scouting: When scouting, look for natural food sources, tracks, scat, or bedding areas. The bears may create well-worn trails into corn fields or large berry patches. Look for claw marks or "bear nests" in beech. Some older and more wary bears may hang tight in thick cover such as laurel thickets, swamps, or other dense cover. Check for bear sign around the edges of these areas.
Bears are looking for food in the fall: Natural foods for bears include acorns, beech, cherries, and the like, and bears will heavily use areas with good mast crops. If those natural foods are scarce, bears are more likely to utilize corn fields or orchards. The bears may travel many miles to get these preferred food sources. However, some bears will utilize corn under any circumstances. Once they have found a good food supply, the animals will typically stay nearby.
Contact farmers: Some farmers may experience damage from bears, particularly during the September season, and may be willing to let you hunt their property. Pay attention to the farmers' concerns, be mindful of livestock and do not allow your hunt to interfere with crop harvesting.
Hunting Hours: Although some bears may be active throughout the day, you will usually want to hunt in early morning or later afternoon when bears are more likely to be travelling to and from feeding areas to bedding areas. Be attentive to corridors of thick cover.
Take Wind into Consideration. Pay attention to the direction of the wind. Bears have a keen sense of smell and will quickly pick up on your presence. Place yourself downwind when hunting and, if possible, come into your stand from a direction different from that used by the bears.