May 26, 2019

Maine’s New Commissioner Intends to Recruit New Hunters, Anglers

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In a Sun Journal article about Maine’s new commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (sorry, at this time the link in Google search is no good. Perhaps at a later time if you search “Meet the New Wildlife Boss: Judy Camuso” you will have better luck.), it is stated about Camuso that, “Her top goals are to recruit new people into the agency with the “Citizen Science Program,” recruit more hunters and anglers, and improve communication with the public about how they can participate in outdoor programs.” (emboldening added)

According to the latest report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of hunters and fishermen has seriously declined. From a high of 14.1 million hunters nationwide, that number is now down to 11.1 million.

According to this latest survey and previous ones, some of the major factors that have caused a drop in participation are, land access reductions, available time to hunt and fish, and opposition from environmentalists who oppose hunting and fishing.

I should like to take a moment and point out that although the same survey shows an increase in “wildlife watching” the numbers are misleading if not downright dishonest. Let me simply state that any hunter or fisherman is automatically labeled as a wildlife watcher whether that was their intent or not. So the numbers presented are not an exact representation of the number of people who purposely set out to “wildlife watch.”

If it is a top priority of Commissioner Camuso to recruit more hunters and fishermen, she has a monumental task before her. It has often been stated that although there may be somewhere around 10% of the nationwide population who hunt and fish, an overwhelming majority of people support hunting and fishing as part of a viable wildlife management program. Sadly, that support is dwindling.

One has to wonder what, exactly, can Camuso do to recruit sportsmen, when so many things are now stacked against such an attempt.

If land access is a big wall of prevention, what can the commissioner do to convince land owners to “tear down that wall?” Are there incentives worth pursuing that would prompt a landowner to offer access to their land for hunting and fishing? Some have tried. Few have succeeded. Are there fresh, new approaches to this dilemma? Maybe she has ideas that will work. Let’s hope.

I’m not sure how a wildlife commissioner would approach the problem of sportsmen claiming they don’t have time to hunt and fish like they used to or would like to. Economics is the driver of many things and when a person has to work to make ends meet, how do you convince them that they need to take the time off work to hunt and/or fish?

Perhaps the lack of motivation to take some time off is prompted by lousy hunting and fishing as well as a tiring of the opposition Maine has faced often in recent years from environmentalists and animal rights activists willing to spend millions of dollars to put an end to hunting and fishing. This all tends to spell more doom than encourage more participation.

Which brings me to the third part in this discussion. It would seem to me that if Maine could do a better job at providing bountiful game populations, mainly deer, recruiting would be easier. Deer hunting is really the cash cow but you wouldn’t know if from past management practices and the politics behind them. However, try as they may, the deck is stacked against such an approach.

With the exception of deer, Maine has an abundant bear population that needs to be better controlled. The turkey population is near out of control, judging by the number of landowner complaints and the visual of seeing turkeys overrunning peoples’ property. Moose have always been a favorite of both hunters and wildlife watchers, but managers don’t seem to understand the balance between a healthy moose population, void of deadly winter ticks, and the cash cow that comes from a moose lottery and moose gawking.

So generally speaking, Maine has an abundance of bear, turkey, and moose and yet there is a need for hunters to take this game but few are willing. Why? I hope Camuso has some answers. History shows us that public support is lost when that public sees these valuable game species as nothing but nuisances.

It would seem plausible to me that with so much game (not considering the deer) that’s one deterrent not missing and that the Department should be doing more to get hunters in pursuit. So far nothing has worked. Does Camuso have something up her sleeves? Let’s hope so.

I believe the biggest obstacle is the opposition that exists in this modern culture that have their ideas about animals out of skew. This includes some of the employees at MDIFW. While this opposition may not be that large in numbers – but those numbers are growing – they are well-funded and very vocal. Ongoing threats of lawsuits dampens the courage of any new commissioner regardless of their intentions.

Note: Camuso mentions that several in her department will be retiring and she will have jobs to fill. If she is serious about recruiting, she should make sure those that are hired are not environmental activists anchored in animal rights; that they are believers in the North American Model of Wildlife Management and that hunting, fishing, and trapping are integral and necessary parts of the management policy. It’s time to weed out those more interested in the rights of animals and their protection against hunting and fishing.

How do you curb these threats of lawsuits and do what you know is the right and scientific thing in a wildlife management plan?

The Maine Legislature stopped a recent bill that would have provided hunters with a chance to hunt bear in the Spring. When will the MDIFW stop caving in to the demands (always, always, always) of the Maine Guides Association and do what is scientifically right instead of what is politically best? And while I’m on this discussion, when will MDIFW stop attempting to responsibly manage wildlife when all decisions are too heavily influenced by social demands void of sound science?

Judy Camuso probably has great intentions when she says she wants to recruit more hunters and fishermen. If she is sincere about this and determined enough, there has to first be management changes within the department. Is she prepared to do that? Can she? Maybe?

During the latest anti-bear referendum, we got to see Camuso in action, working for the MDIFW, convincing the Maine population that baiting bear was a necessary part of bear management. It was a great job done and perhaps the one act in many years that gave hunters hope that proper and necessary management took a front seat to the demands of environmentalism. That act probably did more to save, or perhaps recruit, more hunters than anything else the department has done in many years.

Is there more where that came from? Was Judy Camuso’s actions at that time driven by her own perspective of things or was she just following orders from then commissioner Chandler Woodcock? I think we are going to find out…or at least I hope so and the sooner the better.

The new commissioner should take immediate action to save the hunters and anglers Maine already has and then head down that road that will actually recruit more of them.

A monumental task and good luck.

Share