May 26, 2017

Another Proposed Maine Sunday Hunting Bill Defeated

According to information written and available, this was the 34th time a bill was proposed that would permit some form of Sunday hunting. This is a Dead Horse. Let’s bury it…or make some glue.

Below I am going to post the written comments, that were posted on George Smith’s website, by Tom Doak, Executive Director for the Maine Woodland Owners, in opposition to Sunday hunting. I believe his testimony is quite accurate and something I nearly completely agree with and support. First, I would like to express a couple of things that Mr. Doak either didn’t mention or was not fully explained, probably due to time constraints, etc..

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) manages for game, i.e. deer, moose, turkeys, bear. Those management plans involve predicting, as best they can, what the annual harvest of each species should be in order to meet the management goals, especially population controls. This estimation includes how many days of hunting, and what days of the week (including holidays) will produce the number of hunters necessary to harvest a sought after number of game animals. The theory is simple but pulling it off has a lot of variables that present challenges, to say the least.

If we examine more closely the deer season – because it is the biggest of all of them – MDIFW has a close estimate of how many deer and what sex will need to be killed in a given season to meet goals. If Sunday hunting should become a day of deer hunting added to the week, not only would the season length have to be shortened to prevent overkill, it would have to be shortened to compensate for the extra hunters that would hunt on that Sunday as opposed to any other day of the week. If Maine added 4 Sundays to its hunting season, certainly the entire deer hunting season would have to be shortened no less than one week, but I suspect more than that. The short of it would not give a net result of 4 Sundays but more than likely 1 or 2.

Trying to guess whether Sunday hunting would increase or decrease the number of deer hunters, what then will happen to the same, or greater number of hunters that would be crammed into two weeks of hunting vs. four? What would happen to deer kill rates? What would happen to the number of hunting accidents that would occur? Would hunting in Maine be the same attraction for out-of state hunters? Or even in-state hunters? How many other questions can you come up with?

The convenience of the current deer hunting season, minus any Sunday hunting, is that it spreads the season out and eases the pressure put on the deer, and in particular the already stressed bucks that are entering or in the middle of the annual rutting season.

The current format works well for two major reasons. 1.) As has been explained, and is explained further in Doak’s testimony, access to land for hunting and recreation is open unless posted by the landowner. This is a tremendous privilege for hunters and should be protected at all costs. 2.) Maine is not overrun with deer, with the exception of a few places in south-central Maine. According to Smith, the Executive Director of the Maine Farm Bureau was quoted as saying, “when the policy of Sunday hunting comes up, no matter where in the state the farmers live, there is little debate on Sunday hunting. Farmers are in agreement. They are opposed to Sunday hunting.” I wouldn’t pretend to question that statement. However, I wonder if those same farmers would feel the same way if Maine had too many deer, or other wild animals, that were destroying their crops, etc.? They might welcome more hunting.

I would have to agree with Mr. Doak. If this issue were simply a matter of providing more hunting opportunities, then lengthen the seasons, void of adding Sundays. But, it’s not simply a matter of providing more opportunities in all hunting seasons. When populations of game animals become in excess, then increase bag limits and/or lengthen the season. Simple enough…mostly.

Offering Sunday, might or might not provide “more opportunities” for hunting. I’m not so sure about deer hunting. If it did, I’m convinced the quality of those increased opportunities would diminish and I wouldn’t care much for that.

Here is Tom Doak’s written testimony in opposition to Sunday hunting.

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Tom Doak’s Testimony

The issue of Sunday hunting is not new.  In fact, I believe this is the 33rd time in the last 41 years that the Legislature has considered the issue.  Each time, the Legislature has rejected Sunday hunting.

There is no single issue that would change the relationship more dramatically between Maine landowners and hunters; between hunters and the general public; and between hunters themselves, than Sunday hunting.  There is no single issue that would result in more loss of access to private land, for all purposes, than Sunday hunting. 

The issue of hunting on Sunday may have started as a “blue law,” but it has evolved over the last 130 years (that is how long hunting on Sunday has been prohibited) into an important landowner/hunter/general public accommodation. 

In most other states, you do not go on someone’s land to hunt without their permission.  In most other states, a hunter pays a fee to the landowner.  And in many other states, land is leased to individuals or hunting clubs.  Not in Maine.  Essentially here, unless told otherwise, it is assumed you can hunt on a person’s property – for free.  That is an incredible benefit afforded a hunter in Maine, which is too often not fully appreciated and is commonly taken for granted.

The primary reason there is not a law in Maine requiring landowner permission for all access to private land, including hunting, (so called reverse posting) is because landowners know they will have one day in seven to fully enjoy their property. Even active supporters of Sunday hunting have opposed bills requiring landowner permission, knowing that once permission is required for hunting in Maine, there would be a substantial loss of access.  They understand that any statute that requires permission for only Sunday will quickly transition into requiring permission for any day.

The importance of Sunday to landowners should not be underestimated.  I do not think hunters fully understand how many landowners count on that day to fully enjoy their property.  Many landowners even change their plans during the week to avoid disturbing someone else’s hunting experience.

The importance to the public of having Sunday should not be underestimated either.  That is the day many non-hunters enjoy private land free from hunters or infringing on hunting activities.  

One of the arguments for allowing hunting on Sunday is that many hunters work on Saturday or have children or grandchildren in school activities – so they need the opportunity to hunt on Sunday.  Just as many woodlot owners work on Saturday or care about school activities as well.  Sunday may be the one day a woodland owner gets to fully enjoy their own property.

As an organization, we support hunting and always have.  It is telling that the most forceful opposition to hunting on Sunday is not from those opposed to hunting, but from landowners and farmers. These are the very same people who provide more than 90% of the hunting opportunities in Maine – for free. And the same people that overwhelming support the tradition of hunting in general.

If the purpose of this bill is to enhance hunting opportunities or wildlife resource management, there is a simple way of doing that.  Lengthen the hunting seasons.  Earlier this session we supported expansion of turkey hunting opportunities.  In other legislative sessions, we have also supported creation of youth hunting days, expanded archery seasons, muzzle loader seasons, a spring turkey season and others.

Economic development is sometimes cited as a justification to allow Sunday hunting.  A Maine Office of Tourism & Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioned study showed that hunting contributes $338.7 million dollars to the Maine economy – an impressive figure.  Just as impressive is 90% or more of all that economic activity is predicated upon access to private land.  The $338.7 million dollars does not include the impact of snowmobiling, trapping, ATV riding, all provided through access to private land.  Approximately, 95% of 14,000 miles of snowmobile trails and 7,000 miles of ATV trails in Maine are located on private land.  Whether it is hunting or any of these other outdoor activities, landowners are providing those opportunities for free. 

Why put the outdoor economy of this state at risk over an activity that is based on free access to private land when, at best: only half the hunters in Maine support Sunday hunting;  the majority of landowners and farmers do not support Sunday hunting; and the public, overwhelmingly, opposes Sunday hunting?

Over the years, just about every possible scenario to get some type of Sunday hunting enacted has been tried. We believe that Sunday hunting in any form is bad for landowners; is bad for hunters; is bad for recreational users and perhaps, most importantly, is bad public policy. 

We are hard pressed to think of a policy change that could do more damage to landowner/user relations than Sunday hunting.

We urge you to oppose this bill.

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  • Ian

    2007 MDIFW whitetail deer population system and database….effort success pressure

    Seasons would NOT have to be shortened…just adjust doe quotas as success will surely be higher. When biologist ( who probablly havnt been asked the side effects) want 25 does taken from an area with 25% success they give out 100 doe tags. If success due to sundays is calculated to go up to 50% then you just give out 50 tags. No need to shorten the season unless you are protecting the kings bucks or are worried about breding success.
    Its not even a sure thing doe success will increase….most hunters prefer a buck and the added time in the woods will most likely result in increase in buck harvest and very little efect on doe side

    As for access. We dont need permission to hunt around farmland either….doesnt mean i dont show respect and still ask. 98 out of 100 will tell you NO even though the law says otherwise. They either have “enough” hunters alrea?y or have had bad experiences in the past.
    Lets just say sunday would make it illegal to trespass…..do you realize the work the landowner would have to do just to identify his land so the case holds up in court. The property boundries must be clearly marked so that people know exactly where not to go. Not sure that private landowners are willing to go through all the work

    Wheres the talk of hunters that own land? Dont they wanna be able to hunt their own property on Sunday? Others can …Predators poacher natives and natural causes

    What about the people that work and kids in school vs the old boys club that get 6 days a week to hunt?

    I get it a higher % of the harvest going to landowners workers and youth would mean a lower % of the harvest going to others….poachers natives and the old boys club

    Theres power in # and Sunday will surely help increase annual hunter #…..a huge benefit vs the antis….unless the old boys club would prefer to do it all themselves