What are Maine’s laws on deer baiting and hunting over deer bait?
Feeding or Baiting Deer (12 M.R.S. § 10659): This law provides that, “[a] person may not place salt or any other bait or food in a place to entice deer to that place from June 1st to the start of an open hunting season on deer and, if all open hunting seasons on deer are closed before December 15th for that year, from the close of the last open hunting season on deer to December 15th.”
One notable aspect of Maine’s Feeding or Baiting Deer law is that it does not require that the person be a hunter. In other words, a person can violate this law even if the person is placing deer bait for non-hunting reasons, such as taking photographs, during certain times of year.
Baiting Deer (12 M.R.S. § 11452(1)(A)): This law provides that, “[a] person may not, during an open hunting season on deer . . . [p]lace salt or any other bait or food in a place to entice deer to that place.” This law is, in effect, nearly identical to the Feeding or Baiting deer law described above, except that it applies during open hunting season on deer.
Hunting from an Observation Stand or Blind Overlooking Deer Bait (12 M.R.S. § 11452(1)(B)): This law provides that a person may not
“[h]unt from an observation stand or blind overlooking salt, grain, fruit, nuts, or other foods known to be attractive to deer.” There is an exception, however, that allows a person to hunt over standing crops, foods that are left as a result of normal agricultural operations or as a result of a natural occurrence, or bear bait that is placed at a bear hunting stand or blind in accordance with law.
A potential trap for the unwary is that this prohibition does not require that the hunter to actually place the bait. Say, for example, a hunter sets up a stand that overlooks a pile of apples that had been abandoned by another person. The hunter could be charged with a violation of this law, even though the hunter had no involvement in actually leaving the apples in the first place.
What are the penalties for violations of Maine’s Deer Baiting Laws?
Maine recently amended its deer baiting laws so that they qualify as civil offenses rather than criminal offenses. A trade-off, however, is that a person charged with deer baiting is no longer entitled to the same constitutional protections as before (e.g., a trial by jury, presumption of innocence, proof beyond a reasonable doubt). A person adjudicated to have committed deer baiting can be fined between $500 and $1,000 by the Court. And, perhaps more seriously for some, a person adjudicated of hunting over deer bait may have their hunting license revoked. The Court is under no obligation to warn a defendant to a deer baiting charge of potential licensure consequences by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, highlighting the importance of hiring an attorney if you are served with a summons for a deer baiting violation.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult legal counsel to assess the legal issues specific to your case. The attorneys at Libby O’Brien Kingsley & Champion regularly defend clients throughout Southern Maine, including York, Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunk, Arundel, Biddeford, Saco, Sanford, Scarborough, South Portland, Springvale, Portland, and all other communities in York and Cumberland counties.