Massechusetts Bear Hunting Laws and Regulations

Table of Contents

Hunting hours

  • Sunrise to sunset regulations
  • Specific species exceptions
  • Legal shooting hours vary

Required licenses and permits

  • Mandatory hunting license
  • Different permits for species
  • Age-based licensing criteria
  • Non-resident licenses availability
  • Disability accommodations

Bag limit

  • Species-specific limits
  • Daily and seasonal quotas
  • Special regulations for conservation

Hunting zones

  • Geographic divisions of hunting areas
  • Varied restrictions by zone
  • Maps and descriptions online

Hunting implements

  • Approved firearms and archery equipment
  • Caliber and arrow restrictions
  • Noise suppressor regulations

Blaze orange requirements

  • Minimum coverage areas
  • Mandatory for specific hunts
  • Exceptions for certain species

Hunting methods

  • Baiting rules
  • Use of dogs
  • Electronic call regulations

Tagging, transporting, and reporting requirements

  • Proper tagging immediately after harvest
  • Legal transport of game
  • Mandatory harvest reporting procedures

Hunting season framework

  • Established opening and closing dates
  • Application deadlines for permits
  • Split seasons and special youth days

Bear hunting regulations

  • Permit issuance limitations
  • Bait and hound hunting specifics
  • Harvest submission and tooth collection

More information

  • Online resources and guides
  • Mobile applications for regulations


  • Department hotlines for inquiries
  • Office locations and hours
  • Email addresses for report submissions

Bear Hunting Hours

  • Hunting Hours:
    • Begin ½ hour before sunrise.
    • End ½ hour after sunset

Black Bear Hunting Licenses and Permits

Massachusetts Residents

To engage in black bear hunting in Massachusetts, residents must obtain the following licenses and permits, available for purchase on MassFishHunt:

  • Hunting or Sporting License
  • Bear Permit


Non-residents participating in black bear hunting in Massachusetts are required to obtain the following licenses and permits:

  • Big Game License
  • Bear Permit

Bag limit

1 bear per calendar year

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



  • Caliber Allowed:
    • .23 caliber or larger.
  • Seasons Allowed:
    • Only during the first and second bear seasons.


  • Legal Use:
    • Allowed only during the first bear season.
  • Restrictions:
    • Limited to a .357 Magnum revolver with .357 Magnum cartridges only.
    • Alternatively, a revolver .40 caliber or larger.


  • Seasons Allowed:
    • Allowed during all 3 bear seasons.
  • Caliber Requirement:
    • Must be .44 to .775 caliber.
  • Firing Method:
    • Fired from the shoulder, using a single projectile.

Archery Equipment

  • Seasons Allowed:
    • Allowed during all 3 bear seasons.
  • Bow Requirements:
    • Bows must have a draw weight of at least 40 lbs at 28 inches or at peak draw.
  • Arrow Requirements:
    • Arrows must have a well-sharpened steel broadhead blade not less than 7/8 inches in width.
  • Legal Equipment:
    • Expanding broadheads and hand-held releases are legal.
    • Crossbows may be used by certain permanently disabled persons by permit only.


  • Seasons Allowed:
    • Only during the shotgun season.
  • Limitations:
    • Shotgun not larger than 10 gauge, including shotguns with a rifled bore, slugs only.
    • Buckshot is prohibited.

Black Bear Hunting Blaze Orange Requirements

First Season

  • Blaze Orange Requirement:
    • None.

Second Season

  • Blaze Orange Requirement:
    • A blaze orange hat is required on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season.

Shotgun Season

  • Blaze Orange Requirement:
    • You must wear 500 square inches of hunter orange on your head, chest, and back.

Black Bear Hunting Methods and Regulations

Prohibited Hunting Methods

It is illegal to engage in the following bear hunting methods:

  • Use of Dogs:

    • It is illegal to use dogs for bear hunting.
  • Baiting:

    • It is illegal to bait bears. This includes the use of lure, scents, or any other substance as a bear attractant.

Wanton Waste Prohibition

  • 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 provision does not apply to animals unfit for consumption or use—animals and their parts that are damaged, destroyed, decayed, rotting, diseased, or infected.

Adhering to these regulations is essential for ethical and responsible black bear hunting practices, contributing to wildlife conservation and the preservation of hunting traditions.

Black Bear Tagging, Transporting, and Reporting Requirements

To ensure compliance with regulations and responsible hunting practices, hunters must adhere to the following tagging, transporting, and reporting requirements for harvested black bears:

Tagging Requirements

  • Upon Killing:

    • Immediately fill out and attach to the bear carcass the "harvest tag" found on the bear permit.
  • Integrity of the Carcass:

    • The bear must remain intact (other than field dressing), with the harvest tag attached until reported and prepared for food or taxidermy.

Reporting Requirements

  • Reporting Timeframe:

    • Hunters must report their bear either online or at a check station within 48 hours of harvest.
  • Confirmation Number (Online Reporting):

    • If reporting online, a confirmation number will be issued and must be written on the harvest tag.
  • Metal Seal (Check Station Reporting):

    • If reporting at a check station, a metal seal will be attached to the carcass.
  • Attachment Requirement:

    • Either the seal or the harvest tag must be attached to the bear until it is processed.

Transportation Requirements

  • Visibility:
    • When transporting the bear, some portion of the carcass must remain visible until it has been reported.

Black Bear Hunting Season Framework

The black bear hunting season is divided into three parts, each with specific timeframes:

First Season

  • Duration:
    • Day after Labor Day to the 3rd Saturday thereafter.

Second Season

  • Duration:
    • 1st Monday in Nov. to the 3rd Saturday thereafter.

Shotgun Season

  • Duration:
    • 1st Monday after Thanksgiving to the 2nd Saturday thereafter.
    • These dates coincide with shotgun deer season, and special rules apply.

Black Bear Hunting Regulations Summary

Reference and Legal Framework

  • This page serves as a reference; it is not the entire law and is subject to change.
  • For comprehensive information on black bear hunting laws and regulations, refer to the bear hunting regulations in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, 321 CMR 3.02(1), and the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 131.

Bear Harvest Age Determination and Animal Tagging Information

Bear Age Determination

MassWildlife collects bear teeth to determine the age demographics of the harvest. Contribute to the scientific management of the MA Black Bear population by following these instructions:

  1. Tooth Removal:

    • Remove either the left or right premolar, the small tooth just behind the canine. Watch the provided video for guidance.
    • Use a small sharp knife or a sharp ¼-inch wood chisel to 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. Be careful not to break the small tooth; the root is crucial.
  2. Packaging:

    • Put the tooth in a small envelope or bag.
    • Mark it with your name, mailing address, customer ID number, and confirmation number (or seal number) of your bear.
  3. Mailing:

    • Enclose everything in a mailing envelope and send it to: Black Bear Aging, MassWildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Rd., Westborough, MA 01581.
  4. Age Confirmation:

    • You will receive a letter in June or July with the age of your harvested bear.

Animals Tagged for Research

  • Harvesting Tagged Animals:

    • Some bears, deer, coyotes, and other animals may have ear tags or radio collars.
    • It is legal to harvest them.
  • Reporting Harvest:

    • If you find or harvest one of these animals, contact MassWildlife's Field Headquarters at (508) 389-6300 immediately.
    • Provide information to help biologists determine the source and status of these animals.
  • Equipment Return:

    • You will be asked to return the equipment to MassWildlife.

Contact MassWildlife

Thank you for contributing to wildlife management and conservation efforts in Massachusetts.

Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.