July 24, 2019

Maine Sen. Saviello Will Sponsor George Smith’s Turkey Hunting Bill

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George Smith, former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, now writer and activist, has evidently convinced Maine Senator Tom Saviello to sponsor a turkey hunting bill he has crafted.

First, we should commend Smith for his efforts to increase turkey hunting opportunities for Maine hunters, while finding ways to keep or cut costs to encourage more participation in the sport.

Briefly, Smith’s bill proposes to eliminate an extra fee to hunt turkeys. A big or small game license will allow for hunting turkeys.

Registering of turkeys will be done Online or by telephone.

Bag limits suggested are for two Toms (males) in the spring hunt and expand the fall hunt to two turkeys of either sex for the entire month of October; also an expansion.

Smith’s bill would allow spring shooting all day, as is done in the fall.

Most of this bill I can support except perhaps for two items. First I have some concerns that this bill sets bag limits while circumventing the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). I would hope that such a bill would not take away the fish and game department’s authority to adjust season lengths and bag limits according to need for sustainable yield.

Smith indicated that he is of the opinion that Maine has far more turkeys than the 50,000 estimated by MDIFW. If that is the case, then I understand the need perhaps to increase opportunities in order to decrease or slow down the growth rate of wild turkeys. This is all a management issue that shouldn’t have to come back to the Legislature to get changed, I wouldn’t think. My concern here is the proper management of turkeys and setting season dates, bag limits and shooting times are major concerns.

The second issue goes along with this and that is the shooting in the afternoons during the spring hunt. Generally, it is believed that protecting nesting hens during spring hunts helps to sustain the population. This is why, as Smith proposes in his bill, that harvest in spring will be two male turkeys only. Depending upon the exact timing of the spring hunt and the mating/nesting season of turkeys, hens do not leave their nests until after noon. With this, it is believed that hens would become more susceptible to being killed if shooting is allowed after noon. Not only would the hen run the risk of being killed but a dead hen means dead poults.

If Smith’s bill to allow shooting all day during the spring hunt is for the purpose of reducing growth and/or populations of turkeys, then I understand the intent (aside from providing more shooting time.) However, I still have concerns about taking away the authority of MDIFW to regulate this activity. Otherwise, it appears to me that each season there may be a need to go to the Legislature to change the items that would be enacted in this bill.

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