January 31, 2023

Special Hunting Allocations

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There is a bill proposed in the Maine Legislature sponsored by Rep. Cleary of Houlton and Rep. Fischer of Presque Isle. The bill also carries several other co-sponsors: Representative Jackson of Allagash, Representative Joy of Crystal, Senator Martin of Aroostook, Representative Pratt of Eddington, Senator Sherman of Aroostook, Representative Soctomah of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, Representative Sutherland of Chapman. This is the bill.

An Act To Permit Archery Hunters the Opportunity To Take an Additional Deer

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:

Sec. 1. 12 MRSA §11403, sub-§2, ¶C, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 and as affected by c. 614, §9, is amended to read:
C. If Notwithstanding section 11501, subsection 2, a person who takes a deer with bow and arrow during the special archery season on deer , that person is not precluded from further hunting for deer and may take an additional deer that year with a firearm during that year the regular firearm season on deer.
This bill allows a person who takes a deer with a bow and arrow during the special archery season to take one additional deer with a firearm during the regular firearm deer hunting season.

With the exception of Rep. Pratt of Eddington and perhaps Rep. Soctomah of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, all sponsors of this bill are from the northern counties, mostly Aroostook. Perhaps this bill is a way for their constituents in the northern climes of Maine to find a way to be able to harvest more deer being that it is no secret that the northern Wildlife Management Districts aren’t teeming with deer. But is this the right approach?

I’m not a biologist so I can’t tell you what impact such a bill would have on northern Maine but I can put together an educated guess. Maine created an extended archery season awhile back for certain southern areas where deer populations are too high. In those areas, archers can take several deer should they opt to buy additional tags. This type of hunt is instituted as a means of reducing populations and not looking out for a special interest group.

The proposed bill to allow bow hunters to be able to take two deer is not a good bill. There is nothing in the bill that would designate specific WMDs nor does it give authority to the Commissioner to designated where extra tags could be alloted, so I have to assume the bill would be in effect statewide.

This opens up the old proverbial can of worms. First it sets precedence. If lawmakers can grant an extra tag to bow hunters then why not give one to muzzleloader hunters? Why not crossbow hunters? For that matter why don’t we extend the same privilege to all deer hunters no matter what their discipline is?

Second it goes against what is mandated by law that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife manage game to provide opportunities for everyone to hunt, fish and trap. It is the responsibility of our wildlife officials, in particular the commissioner of MDIFW to provide hunting opportunities for everyone and not cater to special interest groups.

Third, it begins putting into place another means by which the state can charge more money. Any time an extra hunting opportunity is created and in particular one that is done through application and lottery selection, like the moose hunt, while it may provide another means for MDIFW to generate income, it also prices Maine residents out of opportunities to hunt. Once again this goes against the function of MDIFW in providing for everyone.

If you examine the many states that do this, you’ll find some are out of control. It has become nothing more that a lottery machine for making money. Once fish and game figures out how much money they can make from the wealthy, while leaving the poor behind, it becomes a very bad scenario.

The extended archery hunts, as I said, are for the purpose of herd reduction. The reason it is done by bow and arrow is because these areas are in high density human population areas. The arrow is safer than the bullet.

To allow an extra tag for bow hunters is saying that Maine has a strong enough deer population statewide. If this is true, then to provide more hunting opportunity for everyone, MDIFW should do things like extend the hunting season and/or issue more Any-Deer permits.

Maine has done well over the past few years to bring back deer populations from the lows of the 70s and 80s. They have provided more hunting opportunities by giving hunters options to hunt by bow and arrow, rifle, crossbow and black powder. If science warrants, then wildlife officials should be working to provide more hunting opportunities for all hunters not specific hunting groups.

Tom Remington