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Black Bear Hunting

Hunting Regulations Icon Maryland Hunting

General Black Bear Hunting Rules

  • A hunter must carry personal photo identification (such as a driver’s license) or a secondary form of positive identification while hunting.
  • Written permission is required to hunt on private land.
  • A hunting license is required to hunt black bear (with exceptions). See Hunting Licenses and Prices for Armed Forces information and hunting license costs, exceptions, purchasing, requirements and types.
  • A Black Bear Hunting Permit is required to hunt black bear. The bear hunting permit is only available through the Maryland Black Bear Lottery process as follows:
    • The 2018 Maryland Black Bear Lottery will be open to receive applications July 16 through August 31.
    • Hunters will be able to apply through their COMPASS account at
      compass.dnr.maryland.gov/, at a Licensing and Registration Service Center or a Sport License Agent (see Addresses & Phone Numbers).
    • Each applicant must pay a $15 nonrefundable application fee and may only enter once.
    • Applicants must comply with the Hunter Education and Safety Requirement (Hunting Regulations).
    • The random lottery drawing will be held on September 4, 2018.
  • The Department of Natural Resources will issue a limited number of Bear Hunting Permits that will be valid anywhere in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties.
  • Each successful applicant (permittee) may designate up to two sub-permittees who will be allowed to participate in every aspect of the hunt.

Preference Point System for the Bear Hunting Permit

  • Preference points provide additional entries in future drawings.
  • Applicants receive one additional entry in the drawing for each year they have been a concurrent applicant.
  • Applicants must apply each year to retain preference points. Skipping a year will forfeit all preference points.
  • All preference points will be forfeited upon receiving a Bear Hunting Permit.
  • An applicant that gives up a Bear Hunting Permit loses all preference points.
  • Applicants will not forfeit preference points by participating in the hunt as a subpermittee.

Black Bear Season, 2018

Bear Season Dates:

  • Oct. 22 – Oct. 26
  • Black Bear hunting season is open in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties only.

Bear Bag Limits and Hours:

  • Only one black bear may be harvested by a permittee/subpermittee hunting team for the season.
  • Only one black bear may be harvested per person for the season.
  • Black bear shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

Black Bear Hunting Regulations

  • Only a member of a bear hunting team may carry a firearm, air gun or bow while tracking a wounded bear.
  • A retrieved black bear shall count towards the bag limit of the hunter who first killed or wounded the bear.
  • Dogs cannot be used to hunt bear except trained tracking dogs may be used to find a dead or wounded bear. The dog handler must maintain physical control of the tracking dogs at all times and only the hunter may carry a firearm, air gun or bow while tracking the bear. Landowner permission must be obtained before tracking with dogs. Prior to tracking the bear, the hunter must notify the Natural Resources Police at 410-260-8888 with the following information:
    • The name, address, telephone number and hunting license number of the hunter and dog handler;
    • The general location of the wounded bear; and
    • The name of the landowner where the search will be conducted.
  • Hunters may not sell parts of any bear that has been killed in Maryland.
  • Bait, scent attractants and electronic calls are prohibited for bear hunting and any potential bait must be removed at least 10 days prior to bear hunting.
  • It is not considered to be hunting with the aid of bait if a hunter AND any bear that a hunter shoots at are at least 150 yards from any bait placed for other species (e.g. corn placed to attract deer) that the hunter knows or should have known is present. Salt and mineral supplements are not considered as a source of bait for this species.
  • Hunters may not chase or disturb any bear that has taken refuge in a den.
  • All bear hunters and people assisting bear hunters must wear daylight fluorescent color clothing (see Fluorescent Color Clothing Requirements and Exceptions, pg. 53).
  • A person that assists with the removal of a dead bear or escorts hunters into or out of a bear hunting area is not required to possess a bear hunting permit and must be unarmed.

Black Bear Tagging and Check-In Procedures

  • A hunter killing a black bear shall attach a field tag to the carcass of the black bear before moving the carcass from the place of the kill.
  • The field tag must include hunter’s name, hunter’s DNRid, date of kill, time of kill and the county of kill. Hunters may create their own field tag or use a Field Tag provided in the Maryland Guide to Hunting and Trapping.
  • Proof of sex shall remain attached to all field dressed bear carcasses.
  • The bear carcass may be quartered or separated into pieces to facilitate retrieval. However, the head and hide shall remain together and proof of sex shall remain attached to one hindquarter.
  • The bear must be taken to an official bear checking station within 24 hours. Questions and requests concerning check-in may be referred to the Wildlife and Heritage Service at Mt. Nebo Wildlife Management Area at 301-334-4255.
  • The field tag will be exchanged for a black bear possession tag which will be securely attached to the carcass.
  • Successful black bear hunters shall forfeit any biological data or specimens necessary to properly manage this species.

Black Bear Hunting Devices and Regulations

  • Telescopic and laser sights may be used on all devices legal for hunting bear.
  • It is unlawful to have a loaded firearm in, on or leaning against any vehicle. This includes ammunition in the magazine or a muzzleloader ready to fire.
  • Firearms used for bear hunting may only shoot one all-lead, lead alloy, or copper soft-nosed or expanding bullet or ball. Sabots are permitted.
  • It is illegal to shoot on, from or across any public road.
  • It is against the law to hunt, trap or shoot at wildlife within 150 yards of any building or camp occupied by human beings without permission of the owner or occupant. For archery hunters this distance is 50 yards in Frederick county.
  • It is unlawful to discharge a firearm within 300 yards of a public or nonpublic school while hunting. This prohibition only applies during school hours or when the building is occupied. This safety zone does not apply to colleges, universities or home schools.

Rifle Regulations

  • Breech loading rifles used for bear hunting must use ammunition developing a muzzle energy of at least 1,200 foot pounds. Consult ammunition guides for ballistics information.

Shotgun Regulations

  • The shotguns referred to here are loaded from the breech of the barrel and use shells.
  • Shotguns used for bear hunting must be 28 gauge or larger.
  • Shotgun ammunition used for bear hunting must shoot a single solid projectile.

Handgun Regulations

  • The handguns referred to here are loaded from the breech of the barrel or rear of the cylinder and use cartridges.
  • Handguns used for bear hunting must have a barrel length of six inches or more and use ammunition which produces a muzzle energy of 700 foot-pounds or more. Consult ammunition guides for ballistics information.

Muzzleloader Regulations

  • Bear may be hunted with a muzzleloading rifle, shotgun or handgun (both single shot and revolvers).
  • To be considered a muzzleloader, a rifle, shotgun or handgun must be loaded from the muzzle, and a revolver must be loaded from the front of the cylinder.
  • Flintlock, percussion cap and inline ignition muzzleloaders are legal hunting devices for bear.
  • Muzzleloading rifles or shotguns used for bear hunting must be at least .40 caliber in size and must use 60 grains of black powder or more (a black powder equivalent is acceptable) and propel one all-lead, lead alloy or copper soft-nosed or expanding bullet or ball at a single discharge.
  • Muzzleloading handguns used for bear hunting must be at least .40 caliber with a barrel length of at least 6 inches and must use 40 grains of black powder or more (a black powder equivalent is acceptable) and propel one all-lead, lead alloy or copper soft-nosed or expanding bullet or ball at a single discharge.
  • Sabot loads are legal for use in muzzleloaders used for bear hunting.
  • Muzzleloaders are considered unloaded if the ignition system is disabled by removal of the cap, primer, battery or primer powder.
  • It is unlawful to have a loaded firearm in, on or leaning against any vehicle. This includes a muzzleloader ready to fire.

Vertical Bow Regulations

  • The vertical bow shall have a full draw and pull of 30 pounds or more for bear hunting.
  • Draw locking devices are legal on all vertical bows for bear hunting.
  • Vertical bow release aids are permitted.

Crossbow Regulations

  • A crossbow used for bear hunting shall have a draw of 75 pounds or more.
  • All crossbows should have a working safety.
  • It is unlawful to have a loaded crossbow in, on or leaning against any vehicle.
  • A cocked crossbow without a bolt or arrow in the firing position is considered to be unloaded.

Regulations Pertaining to Both Vertical Bows and Crossbows

  • Arrows used for bear hunting must have a sharpened broadhead with metal points and a minimum width of 7⁄8 of an inch.
  • The use of poisoned or explosive tipped arrows is not permitted.

Air Gun Regulations

  • An air gun is defined as any gun that propels a projectile by means of non-ignited compressed air or other gas. Projectiles include bullets, arrows or bolts.
  • Certain air guns may be used to hunt bear.
  • To be legal for bear hunting an air gun must:
    • Shoot one .40 caliber or larger bullet or ball at a single discharge which generates at least 400 foot-pounds of muzzle energy; or
    • Shoot an arrow or bolt at least 18 inches in length with a minimum speed of 300 feet per second at release with a sharpened broadhead with metal points and a minimum width of 7/8 inch.
  • The use of poisoned or explosive tipped arrows or bolts is not permitted.
  • It is unlawful to have a loaded air gun in, on or leaning against a vehicle.
  • An air gun with the projectile removed is considered to be unloaded.

Black Bears in Maryland

Western Maryland (Allegany, Garrett, Frederick and Washington counties) is home to a healthy black bear population. Accordingly, people may find themselves encountering bears, especially in areas with natural or artificial food sources, such as berry patches, oak groves or in areas where bait, such as corn, has been left to attract wildlife. If you encounter a bear, the Department of Natural Resources recommends that you make your presence known by making noise. Clap your hands and speak with a firm voice to be sure the bear knows you are there. Remain upright and do not run. Back away slowly and leave the area. Although black bears are generally shy and run when confronted by people, they are wild animals that should be treated with respect.

For people wishing to carry a form of personal protection, the department recommends the use of bear pepper spray as an effective, legal and safe bear deterrent. It has a large volume, long shelf life and is discharged in an expanding cloud that will reach its target up to 35 feet away. There are a variety of bear pepper sprays on the market that can be purchased at local sporting goods stores or on the internet. When purchasing bear pepper spray, be sure that the label states that it is for use on bears and has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.