October 21, 2019

Is Maine’s Hunting Future About Leased Land?

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The State of Maine has a wonderful heritage of access to land, a heritage that operates well when there is mutual respect. Under state guidelines, private land is open to public access unless it is posted by the landowner. For those looking for hunting access and even recreational access in general, we discover signs reading that the land is closed to all trespassing, by permission only or perhaps even restricted use to specific activities such as hunting.

Maine is quite unique in this fashion of open access unless otherwise signed differently. But, is that changing? Is the purchase of leases from landowners going to become a thing of the future?

I have believed for many years that it was only a matter of time and now Maine may be seeing more and more signs of it coming to fruition. As a matter of fact, believe it or not, there are some in Maine pushing for hunting leases and they are not necessarily one of those landowners who can only see a profit. Other states require written permission and/or to pay the owner of that land a certain sum of money for a lease, complete with covenants, that may restrict activities and limit number of hunters in a lease, times of the day and days of the week.

Depending upon the size of the private property, more than one lease may be established and if this parcel of land is a very desirable hunting ground, the cost of a lease can be quite expensive; even unattainable if you don’t have any money. Which brings us to perhaps the absolute worst part of hunting leases: It disqualifies many hunters without the financial means to purchase a hunt. They are then restricted to public lands, if there are any open to hunting. Where in the public trust is opportunity limited to one’s financial status? And should then all hunters have to pay the same price for a license now that their opportunities are restricted?

There is more to the establishment of hunting leases than a landowner seeing dollar signs. The sportsmen themselves, including the guides and outfitters, encourage this action whether they fully realize it or not.

In the sign posted above, take note that the area has been leased for bear hunting and nobody else is allowed access to this land for hunting bear with bait or with hounds. I assume others may access the land to hunt bears via stalking method? And please define “bait.” Is it a food product or scented lures?

The photo was taken by a friend and was sent to me. I have no way of knowing who holds the lease for bear hunting on this land. There is an example of what might (emphasis on might) be going on here or is the result of what has gone on in the past.

At Robin’s Outdoors website, she writes of an incident involving her, her husband, and a very aggressive/angry guide.

He [the guide] asked Steve what he was doing (waiting for his wife who was sitting over a bait), demanded to see his AFM (American Forestry Management) permit, and gave Steve a hard time. I don’t have or need an AFM permit. I’m not hunting on AFM land. I was on Peter’s land. He told Steve that as a Registered Maine Guide he has the right to demand to see his permit and hunting license (He does not.) and is obligated to turn him into the Maine Warden Service for illegal hunting on his baits.

Guides, not all, want unfettered and sole access to land for bear hunting for their “sports” (a term used to describe a sportsman who hires and pays for guide services). I can understand, to a degree. I’ve been in business my entire life and certainly understand the need to run a business for profit. But at what expense?

If you read the entire article linked to above, you will also see that it is a fact that idiot hunters undertake illegal acts by sitting in tree stands and utilizing bait stations that don’t belong to them. This action further inflames the attitudes of others to seek a lease for exclusive access and rights for bear hunting. In other words, the pointing of the finger as to what causes signs like the one shown above to go up, can go in both and other directions.

So, now we hunters must ask, how long is it going to be before this sort of signage begins appearing over much of the Pine Tree State? In addition, how long before a word is changed in that signage from bear to deer or moose or for trapping, fishing, etc.?

It is a sad day indeed and perhaps a commentary on what’s become of a civil and respectful society.

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