July 24, 2017

Maine’s Seemingly Endless Debate on Sunday Hunting

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I’ll give George Smith, a writer and sportsman’s activist from Maine, credit for sticking with something he believes in. It appears he is just about the last survivor to advocate for Sunday Hunting in Maine. Smith says we will never hunt on Sundays in Maine, and he probably is correct. As a matter of fact, I’ll take that claim one step further and say the days that we actually will be able to hunt, are numbered. With the continued, unchecked, onslaught by animal rights groups and environmentalists, combined with the influx of newly indoctrinated wildlife biologists, and the myriad of other environmental movements nationwide, hunting will soon be a thing of the past – perhaps in my lifetime.

There are several issues about Sunday Hunting that appear to be stumbling blocks. Let’s address a few.

Religious reasons. I’m going to guess this is another example of the pitfalls of socialistic democracy, in which two wolves and a sheep are discussing what’s for lunch. If the majority of Mainers, who go to church, do so on Sunday and they view that day as somehow “holier” than the others, their socio-democratic power trumps everybody else.

There is a bit more to this as we have seen in the past. I can’t seem to find a link to the story but if my memory isn’t completely shot, I recall, if not in Maine, somewhere, where some who choose to recognize Saturdays as the sabbath, proposed legislation that would allow them to hunt on Sundays. Of course that was shot down. I have serious doubts that very many people would actually not hunt on Sundays because it’s their sabbath. Hypocrisy abounds in that area.

Another aspect would be the fallout that may or may not create less land access. Some land owners have threatened to post their land if Sunday hunting is permitted. Whether and how much that would actually happen, I don’t know. I do know that in some states where much land is posted and/or land is considered closed without owner’s permission, access to hunting lands is difficult at best and in some cases, with the exception of public lands, hunters have to pay, sometimes hefty amounts, to “lease” a portion of private land. Unless you’ve been relegated to that, I don’t think you really want to go there.

The other issue in Sunday hunting is seldom seriously discussed. In Maine, as in many states, hunting is used as a means of “managing” (control) the population of all game species. For deer hunting, the state also uses a permit system that regulates and controls deer populations within Wildlife Management Districts. The bottom line is this: wildlife regulators decide how many of which species should be harvested each year and do what is necessary to achieve those goals…usually.

If we look at deer hunting as one example, game managers have an idea of how many deer will need to be harvested, by different methods, utilizing permits, along with length of season and all other factors that effect the harvest. Some of those factors are not controllable. One that is, is the length of season. In my lifetime, I have seen the deer hunting season in Maine shortened to barely two weeks – the need being a lack of deer and protecting the herd to remain at safe sustainable levels.

So what if Maine added, not just 3 or 4 more days to the annual deer hunt (you can also use this to extrapolate out to all other game species, i.e. turkey, grouse, bear, moose, etc.) but that those added days were on the weekends? We know that the busiest hunting days during the deer season are Saturdays. If Sundays were added, how many more net hunters would there be? How many more hunters would skip a working day in order to hunt on Sundays? How great would hunter participation become?

We have had the claim beaten into our brains for years now that Maine and her economy are suffering because hunters won’t hunt in Maine because there is no Sunday hunting. If that is true, then the question has to be asked, how many more hunters will now hunt Maine, especially on Sundays?

This all adds up to one large question. If Sunday hunting for deer is allowed, how many more deer will be killed? If there is an increase, what is the extent of that increase and will it force the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) to shorten the season in order to mitigate the losses of deer due to harvest? If Maine was overrun with deer, this would not be a problem. With or without Sunday hunting, if the state was overrun with deer, the season would be extended and/or the limits may increase to more than one deer per season. Too few deer, and the results are reversed.

I personally, have no interest in angering the landowners. Whether or not a Sunday hunting move would seriously effect land access, is a guess. I will state that I believe in the short term, there will be a knee-jerk reaction to Sunday hunting and land will be posted that wasn’t before. How that trend evolves will really depend on the realities of what takes place on that land, that is different from the present, that would cause more or a continuation of reduced land access.

If an added Sunday hunt resulted in a shortened season, that would mean more hunters in the woods at any one time. I don’t like that idea at all. Safety must also be a concern. Maine has an outstanding track record when it comes to hunter and public safety during the hunting seasons.

I think the bottom line should be deer management. Yes, Maine should consider ways of maximizing the positive influences and effects of hunting seasons, but the bottom line should always remain, what is best for the deer herd and landowner relations.

A final issue that is seldom discussed or is presented in the wrong way, in my opinion, is the rights of landowners. I get a sense from reading Smith’s article about Sunday hunting that every effort to implement some form of Sunday hunting in Maine is a serious loss for hunters and Maine’s community, without consideration of protecting the rights of landowners first and foremost.

I am first a property rights advocate and then a hunter. Yes, I am saddened with each passing year that I see more and more land posted to access, but that is and should be their right. But I also believe that those landowners who post their land, should limit their involvement in hunting issues that involve land access. In other words, there is little credibility in anyone with posted land stating that they didn’t believe a Sunday hunt would have any real effect on land access. Hello?

As Maine citizens, we should be glad the majority of people are looking out for the rights of the landowners. We hear of how wildlife management, which includes hunting and trapping, is beneficial to the landowner. I couldn’t agree more, which makes me tend to emphasize that all the effort that has been expended attempting to promote Sunday hunting, could better be spent educating the landowner to the advantages of the North American Model for Wildlife Management, i.e. managing for surplus harvest, and that leaving their land open has it’s benefits. Landowners should also be taught how they can control the access to their land to meet their wishes and still reap the benefits of wildlife management – hunting and trapping.

Perhaps someday, Maine will have Sunday hunting, but without it, as things currently stand, giving the drums a rest would probably be in the best interest of hunting, while shifting the effort to increasing better landowner relationships.

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