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Black bear hunting regulations

Be ready for the season by reviewing the bear hunting regulations on this page.

2024 hunting season dates
First season: Sept. 3 – Sept. 21, 2024
Second season: Nov. 4 – Nov. 23, 2024
Shotgun season: Dec. 2 – Dec. 14, 2024

All dates inclusive. Hunting is prohibited on Sundays.

If you harvest a black bear this season, please submit a tooth to MassWildlife for an age study. Learn how to collect and submit.

Table of Contents

Hunting hours

Hunting hours begin ½ hour before sunrise and end ½ hour after sunset. Click here for a sunrise/sunset table.

Required licenses and permits

To hunt black bear in Massachusetts you must have the appropriate license and permit, which you can buy through MassFishHunt.

Massachusetts residents:

  • Hunting or sporting license
  • Bear permit


  • Big game license
  • Bear permit

Bag limit

1 bear per calendar year

Hunting zones

All Wildlife Management Zones statewide.

Hunting implements

Hunting implement First season Second season Shotgun season
Rifle X X  
Handgun X    
Muzzleloader X X X
Archery X X X
Shotgun     X

Rifle: .23 caliber or larger are allowed only during the first and second bear seasons.

Revolver: Legal for use only during the first bear season. Restricted to a .357 Magnum revolver with .357 Magnum cartridges only, or a revolver .40 caliber or larger.

Muzzleloader: Allowed during all 3 bear seasons. Must be .44 to .775 caliber, fired from the shoulder, using a single projectile.

Archery Equipment: Allowed during all the 3 bear seasons. 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 and hand-held releases 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 10 gauge, including shotguns with a rifled bore, slugs only. Buckshot is prohibited. 

Blaze orange requirements

  • First Season: None
  • Second Season: A blaze orange hat is required on WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season.
  • Shotgun Season: You must wear 500 square inches of hunter orange on your head, chest, and back.

Hunting methods


  • It is illegal to use dogs for bear hunting.  
  • It is illegal to bait bear. This includes the use of lure, scents or any other substance as a bear attractant.
  • Wanton waste prohibited: It is unlawful for hunters to intentionally or knowingly leave a wounded or dead game animal in the field or the forest without making a reasonable effort to retrieve and use it. Each retrieved animal shall be retained or transferred to another until processed or used for food, pelt, feathers, or taxidermy. This does not apply to animals unfit for consumption or use—animals and their parts that are damaged, destroyed, decayed, rotting, diseased, or infected.

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

There are three parts to the bear hunting season:

  • 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)

Bear hunting regulations

This page is to be used as a reference, it is not the entire law and is subject to change. Refer to the bear hunting regulations in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, 321 CMR 3.02(1) and to several provisions of the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 131 for more information about bear hunting laws and regulations.

More information

How old is that bear?
MassWildlife collects bear teeth to determine the age demographics of the harvest. Contribute to the scientific management of the MA Black Bear population! Follow the instructions below and you will receive a letter in June or July with the age of your harvested bear.

  1. Remove either the left or right premolar (see video), the small tooth just behind the canine. 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 root is the most important part; go slow and be careful not to break this very small tooth.
  2. Put the tooth in a small envelope or bag and mark it with your name, mailing address, customer ID number, and confirmation number (or seal number) of your bear. Enclose everything in a mailing envelope and send it to: Black Bear Aging, MassWildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Rd., Westborough, MA 01581.

Animals tagged for research
Some bear, deer, coyotes, and other animals may have ear tags or radio collars. It is legal to harvest them. If you find or take one of these animals, contact MassWildlife's Field Headquarters (508) 389-6300 immediately. You will be asked for information that will help biologists determine the source and status of these animals AND you will be asked to return the equipment to MassWildlife. Thank you for your cooperation.

Contact   for Black bear hunting regulations

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