November 28, 2023

The Emperor’s New Clothes: Maine’s Non Resident Hunter Task Force

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In Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, a vain, and yes stupid, emperor hires two tailors to make him clothes. The tailors present the emperor with “new clothes” telling him that only stupid people or those unfit to be king could not see the clothes and think him naked. Of course the emperor can’t see the cloth and fearing someone will discover his stupidity, wears his “new clothes” in public. One has to wonder if the Task Force, appointed by the Maine Legislature to discover why non resident hunters don’t want to come to Maine anymore, is presenting the Joint Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife new and invisible clothes.

Through the course of this discussion on what the Task Force will research and make for recommendations, I have reported on the contents of the very belated minutes of those meetings – here, here and here. In addition, readers can go to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website and find information unearthed and presented by the Task Force.

Alas, the Task Force has made its recommendations to the Maine Legislature. The Final Report includes the following recommendations:

• MDIFW must work collaboratively with the Office of Tourism to develop a marketing plan promoting Maine as a destination for Nonresident hunters; and in all areas of outdoor recreation.

• Funding should be allocated to survey current and recently lapsed Nonresident hunters, using a qualified market research firm specializing in natural resource and outdoor recreation issues; to find out what these customers want, why they have lapsed, and what barriers there are for travel to Maine as a hunting destination.

• Based on the data generated from this market research, marketing tools, strategies and training must be provided to Maine’s hunting industry partners, including guides, outfitters, sporting camps, B & Bs, and other state agencies such as Office of Tourism and Department of Conservation; to multiply the effect of the marketing plan.

• New hunting licenses, ‘repackaged’ licenses, or licenses that feature new privileges or opportunities appear to be one of the greatest factors with the potential to positively affect any kind of license sales. The Legislature and MDIFW must take a closer look at ways to accomplish and implement this initiative in a timely manner.

• Maine must do more to promote its lands open to hunting statewide, and the ease of access to them. Paper collateral such as maps and brochures, and online information that can be shared by state agency and hunting partners’ websites, must be developed, distributed and kept current.

The Task Force is naked! The Task Force is naked! But don’t look now, but the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) and the Maine Legislature are also naked! Naked I tell you!

The Legislature and the MDIFW all made recommendations prior to this Task Force’s work and the Task Force has made their final recommendations and none of them once addressed the topic in a serious fashion that perhaps, just perhaps, the reason non resident hunters won’t come to Maine to hunt is because there are NO DEER to hunt.

While it was briefly discussed during Task Force meetings, it was quickly dispelled as something they were not interested in including in their discussions. Forget that it is the only element of things that were blamed that directly correlates to the decline in non resident hunters. In other words, as the state’s deer population began to shrink, and yes I must say it here, because of poor management, so also did the number of non resident hunting license sales.

However, the Task Force, the Legislature and MDIFW have all chosen to think people can really see their new clothes. Instead of facing reality, the recommendations are to market a product that does not exist and is of little or no interest to big game hunters who pay the big dollars. The idea is to “repackage” hunting license options. As the old saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig.

If there was any controversy to the Task Force’s discussions it was the idea that Sunday hunting should be recommended along with allowing non residents to hunt on the resident only day. In the end, even those were bypassed.

The best thing the Legislature can do with these recommendations is to file them away somewhere until such time, if ever, the day comes when there are deer to hunt. Maybe if the Legislature was truly committed to Maine’s deer problem, which is directly related to the no non resident hunters problem, they would get to work to actually fix it. It’s simple really. First, sit down and determine whether the number of jobs and businesses that would be saved and/or created by investing in dealing with real issues, is worth the investment. If the Legislature and the rest of the state determine they are committed to the investment and the MDIFW should recommend that $500,000 is needed to kill coyotes as a viable means to begin a herd rebuilding, then the Legislature should commit to that investment. Yes, it really is that simple.

They have not and more than likely will not because the Governor, MDIFW and the Legislature are NOT fully committed to saving the hunting industry. Interesting in that the industry provides a very handsome tax revenue to the state and the hunters necessary to keep the industry going, pay their own way, while the state reaps the benefits. Now, their commitment is non existent. If the Maine Government is not interested in helping out when help is needed, then perhaps the government should butt out of fish and game business.

I suppose therefore, the hunting industry is the goose that lays golden eggs.

Tom Remington