John Lewis

Navigating Massachusetts Black Bear Hunting Regulations for a Successful 2024 Season

With a growing bear population distributed across the state, hunters can find black bears in every Wildlife Management Zone. By thoroughly understanding the hunting regulations and season framework, they can partake legally and ethically while contributing to vital wildlife research.

Important Regulations

General Rules



MA Hunting Season Schedule

Overview of the 2024 Bear Hunting Seasons

Massachusetts divides the 2024 black bear hunting into three segments, each presenting unique regulations:

  • First Schedule: September 3 – September 21. This initial 17-day stretch offers the longest period for pursuing.
  • Second Schedule: November 4 – November 23. Spanning 14 days, the second period provides additional opportunities for harvest.
  • Shotgun Schedule: December 2 – December 14. At 12 days, this period coincides with the shotgun deer schedule and has special rules.

Sunday hunting is prohibited during in 2024. Hunters must plan accordingly to hunt within the legal weekday and Saturday parameters.

Contributing Bear Teeth to Benefit Scientific Management

Hunters play a valuable role in research by submitting bear teeth after successful harvests. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s MassWildlife agency uses these teeth to study bear ages and monitor the population’s demographics. This scientific data influences Navigating the Regulations and ensures sustainable management.

When collecting a tooth for submission, hunters should adhere to the following protocol:

  • Extract one of the bear’s premolar teeth, located just behind the canine tooth. Carefully wiggle and pull to remove the entire tooth without breaking it.
  • Place the tooth in a labeled envelope with the hunter’s contact information and harvest confirmation details.
  • Mail the envelope to the Black Bear Aging program address provided in the regulations.

Demystifying Massachusetts’ Bear Hunting Regulations

Legal Hunting Hours

  • Black bear hunting hours correspond with sunrise and sunset.
  • Specifically, legal hours commences one half hour before sunrise. It concludes one half hour after sunset.

Required Licenses and Permits

  • All pursuerers must obtain either a Hunting/Sporting License or Big Game License depending on residency.
  • In addition, a Black Bear Permit is required.
  • These licenses and permits are available through MassFishHunt.

Harvest Limits

  • The bag limit is one bear per licensed hunter per calendar year.

Legal Zones

  • May legally pursue in any of Massachusetts’ Wildlife Management Zones. Bears inhabit forests and woodlands statewide.

Permitted Hunting Implements

Several implements are allowed during the three bear calendar, each with specific provisions:

  • Rifles – Legal only during the first and second phases, restricted to .23 caliber or larger.
  • Handguns – Allowed only during the first phase. Handgun choices are limited to .357 magnum revolvers using .357 magnum rounds or revolvers .40 caliber or greater.
  • MuzzleloadersPermitted during all three seasons, with specifics on caliber and use. Muzzleloaders must be .44 to .775 caliber and fired from the shoulder.
  • Archery Equipment – Legal during all seasons, provided bows meet a minimum 40-pound draw weight. Arrows must have specified broadheads. Some disabled hunters may use crossbows with a permit.
  • Shotguns – Restricted to the shotgun time only. Permitted shotguns cannot exceed 10 gauge. Only slugs are allowed, no buckshot.

Blaze Orange Requirements

Blaze orange restrictions change between the seasons:

  • First: No blaze orange required
  • Second: A blaze orange hat mandated in certain Wildlife Management Zones.
  • Shotgun: 500 square inches of blaze orange required on head, chest, and back.

Prohibited Methods

You may not use:

Wanton Waste Regulations

Must make reasonable efforts to retrieve downed bears. Edible portions should be used if possible, and hides and other parts utilized as desired.

Critical Tagging, Transporting, and Reporting Rules

  • Immediately attach the harvest tag from the bear permit to the carcass.
  • Keep the tagged bear intact, minus field dressing, until reporting it.
  • Report the harvest within 48 hours, either online or at a check station. Receive a confirmation number or seal.
  • Note the confirmation number/seal on the harvest tag.
  • When transporting, some portion of the carcass must be visible.

Following these mandates allows MassWildlife to closely monitor harvests and maintain accurate statistics.

Adapting to Dynamic Hunting Regulations

Hunters should consult regulations listed under 321 CMR 3.02(1) and the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 131 for the most up-to-date laws before each season.

Research Starts with a Single Tooth

To fully comprehend the system governing Massachusetts’ black bears, consider the humble tooth. This small item contributes immensely to research when hunters collect and submit it.

MassWildlife uses bear teeth to study age demographics, tracking metrics like:

  • Average age of harvest
  • Percentages of the species in each age class
  • Differences in ages between males and females

Managing a Valuable Public Resource

Black bears represent a valuable natural resource in Massachusetts, and hunting regulations balance different interests. MassWildlife uses science-based management to maintain a sustainable population that provides opportunities while limiting bear-human conflicts.

Keys to a Legal and Ethical Hunt

With thorough preparation, you can have rewarding bear days in 2024 while complying with laws. Here are some key tips for maintaining legal and ethical practices:

  • Review regulations shortly before your hunt, watching for new amendments.
  • Verify you have proper licenses and permits. Carry them at all times.
  • Carefully note legal game hours and schedule.
  • Follow requirements for blaze orange and permitted methods.
  • Only take ethical shots to minimize wounding loss.
  • Adhere to tagging, transporting, and reporting rules.
  • Utilize as much of the harvested bear as possible.
  • Assist with research by submitting a premolar tooth.

John Lewis
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