August 19, 2019

Does Maine’s Restriction on Youth Deer Hunting Day Help Deer or Hurt the Future of Hunting?

*Editor’s Note* Below is a letter written by Leo Kieffer in response to questions and concerns about Maine’s restriction to limit deer hunting for the state’s youth on Youth Day.

Many have asked that I put in writing my opposition to the continuation of the discriminatory Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s program that I refer to as the Northern Maine Anti Youth Program on youth deer hunting day. I am very happy to do so.

I strongly opposed this proposal when it was originally proposed when I was on the Advisory Council, and I strongly oppose it even more today. It has accomplished nothing except to totally alienate our Northern Maine youth, their parents, landowner’s who have a family, and to limit access. If these are the goals of anyone, then they can consider themselves a rousing success.

Over the years as a master Maine guide, a State Senator, a member of the SAM board of directors and having served on the IF&W advisory board I always supported managing our fishery and wildlife based on solid biological research and factual statistical information gathered from departmental records and a variety of other professional sources including a little common sense. The present Northern Maine anti youth program fails any and all of these tests.
Lets look at where this anti youth program originated. The Legislature passed LD 823 which resulted in the creation of yet another deer study or task force. The report from this group was filed with Commissioner Martin in December 2007 and has since been filed in the round file under the desk along with the others. While the report goes on and on for many pages in its redundancy the basic recommendations are itemized on pages 11 to 16.

Look on page 15, paragraph number 1 under HUNTING. This is very clear that this anti youth proposal is merely a recommendation, supported by absolutely no biological data or anything else. It was submitted for consideration by this group along with the many other recommendations, yet it is the only one that was accepted by the department. The other recommendations under paragraph 2, a. b., and c as well as all of paragraph 3 were and continue to be completely ignored. Paragraph number 1 was accepted as it cost the department nothing, required no effort and would cause the department no heartburn from 12 year olds. The other recommendations under HUNTING, paragraph 2, a, b, and c that were ignored would have required biological and statistical studies, effort and funding in some cases. This was all a very cut and dried issue as several members of this task force were departmental employees, appointed by the Commissioner, and were the very employees that were in position to make decisions on behalf of the department to either accept or reject any or all recommendations!

Even then if this recommendation had been incorporated as part of a comprehensive deer management plan, including but not limited to coyote and bear predator control, landowner relations, an attempt to limit the slaughter of our deer on our highways, shorter hunting seasons in certain areas, and other conservation issues it might have been acceptable. As a standalone item it is a sad pathetic joke to blame our northern Maine youth for the deer decline.
Because of the past two easy winters weather wise and efforts by the Aroostook County Conservation Association and others in reducing coyote numbers, there has been a remarkable increase in deer numbers east of route 11. The bear predator issue now needs to be addressed. West of route 11 the deer situation is an entirely different story. Yet management is still always based on the old North South issue. I really don’t know why we have game management districts for deer in Northern Maine. A few permits could be issued to our youth East of route 11 and do no harm to the resource and do a world of good in other ways.

The biological position of the department on this youth day issue was made very clear recently by the Commissioner at the Advisory Council meeting in Augusta on May 19, 2011. On page 3, step 2, number 1 any deer permit-youth day. Mr. Thurston stated that he would like to know the Departments biological opinion on this. Commissioner Woodcock stated there would be insignificant impact. He had talked it over with biologists and in total there weren’t many does killed on youth day. This quotation is taken directly from the meeting minutes.

While I and others believe that every deer is important, we also believe that every one of our youth, their parents, and landowners that are being lost to hunting, along with lost access, are more important than saving a very few deer on youth day for coyote feed next winter. Our youth deserve better.

R. Leo Kieffer

Caribou, Maine

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Maine Fish and Game Commissioner Devises Three Fish Groups

I’m sure there are some readers who remember the Dean Martin Roasts. For those that do, perhaps you will even recall Red Buttons’ comedic act during those roasts. Buttons always came across as one holding a grudge, his most famous line being: “I never got a dinner”, as he lamented through the process of who was getting roasted and why. While all the attention was supposed to be bestowed upon the roastee, Buttons would always bemoan: “I never got a dinner”.

Perhaps some will see this article as bemoaning. I don’t, as I find nothing wrong with pointing out the obvious, raising questions and creating discourse in outdoor matters. Having said that, George Smith, independent writer and former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, wrote on his blog site on Monday, April 2, 2012, that Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) Commissioner Chandler Woodcock “Chooses Three Fisheries Groups”.

Mr. Smith points out that it appears the members of the three groups “provide a wide diversity of thought.” I would concur but that is not my bone of contention, save one. Smith also makes this comment: “Chandler [Woodcock] is making fisheries a strong focus of his tenure.”

I have no issue with Mr. Woodcock making fisheries a strong focus. No sour grapes here. What I might question is the need for three advisory groups – one for trout, one for salmon (landlocked variety) and another for bass. While I have not seen anything to indicate otherwise, I’m assuming all of these seats on these boards are voluntary. Thanks go out to those volunteers.

First, let me explain that fisheries is not my specialty. I seldom stick my little toe into fisheries issues. I’m sure there are arguments for and against the need for three fisheries advisory groups. I suppose it’s nice, like one on one attention a student might get in a classroom, for trout, salmon and bass to get special attention. One could argue that a fisherman is a fisherman is a fisherman, however, if you pay attention, you’ll find this is not true. Some fishermen spend the greatest part of their time with a focus on one particular species of fish. Perhaps then, they bring a lot to the table. But then again, I hope their focus isn’t so narrow they can’t see a bigger plan for all fisheries. Is this dynamic only manifested in fisheries?

Once again, no sour grapes here. Provided that no one specie-specific group gets preferential treatment and as such or any treatment comes at the expense of another preferred specie or discipline used for catching, perhaps lots of good can happen.

It may be too early to exclaim, “I never got a dinner”, but what about hunting and trapping. There are two very important issues here to bring up first. One is the issue that Maine hunters got several deer task forces and coyote task forces, none of which accomplished anything in the end. In addition, the deer hunters got a “Plan”. Which brings me to the second issue. We’ve already learned that, while the “Plan” sounded good to some, there was no money to do anything with the plan.

Is there money to do something with the advice from the volunteers of these three fisheries groups? If there is, where did it come from?

So, was the deer and coyote task forces (okay, let’s toss in the recent task force to figure out why nobody wants to buy game licenses in Maine.), along with Maine’s Plan for Deer, the equivalent of three fisheries groups? Or should we look for announcements to come later in the year.

I raised the concern earlier in this piece as to whether MDIFW needed three fisheries groups, i.e. one for trout, one for salmon and another for bass. If this is the new trend or Commissioner Woodcock’s disclosure of him being “serious about fisheries”, then I suspect we should see later the formation of hunting and trapping groups that also are species specific. In other words, hunter volunteers can advise the commissioner on deer, moose, bear, turkey, grouse, etc. and trappers can advise on beaver, muskrat, mink, otter, marten, bobcat, fisher, coyote, fox, etc.

Or will I not get a dinner?

I applaud Mr. Woodcock on what appears to be his attempt to reach out to the sportsmen to get them involved in fish and game issues and help in setting policy that more closely reflects the wishes of the sportsmen (I am in hopes that’s his intention.). God knows I’ve beat that drum enough times. So this is not about sour grapes. If nothing else comes from these three fisheries groups other than finally getting a collective voice in direct communication with the commissioner, then it would appear only good can come from that. That’s one giant step.

And with only that one very important accomplishment showing itself proud (I hope), then I strongly encourage Mr. Woodcock to already be thinking about his volunteer advisory groups for earmarked species for the hunters and trappers. Let’s really expand that base of communication and get those with the investment the chance to be heard, once again.

While you are at it, please don’t put anyone from Maine Audubon, the Nature Conservancy, the Humane Society of the United States or any other anti-hunting, animal rights and environmental representatives on these boards. Thank you.

I’m anxious for my dinner.

Tom Remington

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