Black bear hunting regulations

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

2019 hunting season dates

First season: Sept. 3 - Sept. 21
Second season: Nov. 4 - Nov. 23
Shotgun season: Dec. 2 - Dec. 14

All dates inclusive. Hunting is prohibited on Sundays.

black bear


Hunting hours

Hunting hours begin ½ hour before sunrise and end 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 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

Statewide (Wildlife management zones 1-14)

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

*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 10 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: You must wear 500 square inches of hunter orange on your head, chest, and back.

Illegal hunting methods

It is illegal to use bait and dogs.

      Special rules on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season

      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.