Beginning in September, shining spotlights or headlights into open fields at night can get you into trouble.

It's a maneuver that can be as seemingly innocent as seeing the reflective eyes of a deer, and wanting to see them better. So, you swing your vehicle headlights into a field, and see a doe and her fawns. Well, between September and mid-December, that's unlawful in Maine.

Maine hunting laws say: "From September 1 to December 15, it is unlawful to use artificial lights from 1/2 hour after sunset until 1/2 hour before sunrise to illuminate, jack, locate, attempt to locate or show up wild animals or wild birds except raccoons which may be hunted at night with flashlights during the open season."

The only exemption to the rule states: "An exception to this may be made for agents appointed by the commissioner to hunt coyotes at night during this period under policies established by the Department."

Shining a deer temporarily freezes them in place, which is why unethical hunters utilize the tactic. If there isn't hunting equipment in your vehicle, a Game Warden may use it as a learning experience, and simply issue a warning. However, illuminating wildlife is strictly enforced, so don't count on ignorance of the law as an excuse. If you have a firearm, or other means of killing a game animal in your vehicle, it could be considered poaching. Having a loaded rifle, shotgun, or crossbow in a vehicle in Maine is crime alone.

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Maine deer hunters can take to the woods for deer beginning September 10, in designated expanded archery areas. Archery season opens statewide October 1, with firearm season starting October 31.

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