November 18, 2019

There’s More to Recruiting Hunters Than Sticking Them in a Blind and Parading Deer By Them to Shoot

When Judy Camuso was nominated to serve at the position of the head of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), in her testimony before the Joint Standing Committee for fish and wildlife, she pointed out that as part of her plan to grow more hunters and fisherman, she intended to become involved in a nationwide recruitment program, R3. She stated that her plan, “…will include measurable goals for recruiting, retaining and reactivating hunters and anglers but it will build relationships with non-consumptive users as well.” 

In a critique of Commissioner Camuso’s ambitious programs as commissioner, I questioned her intent to bring together consumptive and non consumptive users, while at the same time believing the two can work productively toward the same goals that satisfy both sides AND recruit new hunters and fishermen.

Today I was reading a Press Herald story about the MDIFW’s efforts at “recruiting” new hunters by allowing 9 hunters to be guided (spoon fed) on a deer “hunt” on the state-owned Swan’s Island.

I commend the commissioner and the MDIFW at making a swipe at recruitment. However, I am left with lots of questions about the event, the methods and within the article some comments and information that was given that was perhaps incomplete, leaving readers with a misguided understanding of the whys and wherefores of hunting, retention, and recruitment (R3).

The article in reference referred to Swan Island as “the perfect classroom” stating, “The place has become a haven for deer, which congregate in fields in groups as large as 50.” It may be, by one reporter’s perspective, as the “perfect classroom” but it is representative of what deer hunting in Maine is like? Who gets to do that? What happens when these 9 people (who expressed an interest in trying again) go off on their own and perhaps can’t afford a blind or a swivel seat to go in it? (It used to be a pot and a window…but I digress.) Will they ever see that many deer again?

“IFW set up pop-up camouflage tents to serve as blinds, equipping them with special swivel chairs that let the newbies quietly pivot as they watched the woods.” Even being “coached” by Game Wardens, staff, and biologists about “hunting techniques,” I wonder if it’s being all that honest with any possible recruit to place them in a ground blind where as many as 50 deer in a group might pass by because hunting has not been allowed on Swan Island for 50 years?

The article states that the 9 novice hunter program was a success because, “…seven of the nine bagged a deer,” and, “all the participants expressed an interest in hunting again.” Not knowing the reasons all 9 applicants were interested in this hunt to begin with, one has to wonder if sitting in a cold blind for hours on end and never seeing a deer, for years on end, a “novice” would express interest in trying it again? Maybe that has something to do with fewer licenses being sold?

In an attempt to place blame for loss of hunters and failure to recruit or retain more hunters, the author brings out the “numbers” and the talking point excuses of where the blame lies: “…technology;  overscheduled lives, especially for young families; and the aging of fish and game clubs that once formed the heart of the hunting community.”

HUH?

The last time I examined data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on why license sales for hunting were on the decline, the number one excuse given for not taking to the woods to hunt, was lack of time.

It’s easy to blame technology. Anyone with two eyes can see what so-called technology and social media is doing to American Society in general. Over-scheduled lives is a poor catchall excuse. Scheduling of our lives is driven by interest not by somebody’s “technology.” If hunting was part of the talk around the kitchen table, where that heritage is discussed before, during, and after the deer hunting season, people would find the time to hunt.

There are other reasons recruitment and interest to hunt are in decline…or in what might appear to be interest in hunting. One issue was discussed in the article in question. It began by discussing Apprentice Hunter Licenses. Bragging that the Apprentice Program has been around over a decade, listen to the hoops that need to be jumped through: “That license, which costs $26 for Mainers (and $115 for non-residents), allows someone 16 years or older who has never had a valid hunting license to hunt in the presence of a “supervisor.” The supervisor must be at least 18 and have had a hunting license for the previous three years.” Money, money, money and more “educational” programs that not just a perspective hunter has to go through in hopes they might become a longtime hunter.

You’ll always ruffle up the dander on the backs of some necks when you start discussing things like the potential obstacles any hunter or perspective hunter must go through to get their feet wet in hunting, or bringing a long-time hunter from Maine or away back when they have to take valuable time to attend classes for hunter “safety” and show “proficiency” in handling a gun and shooting it. While hunter safety has certainly made the woods during the deer hunt much safer, has anyone honestly assessed as to whether the decline in participation is directly proportional to the time constraints of hunter education, license costs, and…and…and…? Maybe, hunter education has stopped the total abandonment of hunting. Does anybody know? Does anybody care?

So, whenever we allow someone to feed us “data” that shows license sales and all the rigged demographics that go with them, nowhere is it ever discussed as to how hunter recruitment, retention, and re-interest is influenced by lousy hunting. Years spent afield with seldom, if ever, even spotting a deer probably plays as big a deterrent as anything, including technology and over-scheduled lives – time and money for what?

Just a quick glimpse into the past and it doesn’t take a statistics guru to figure out that as the deer harvest is trending down, down, and down (yes, with a couple false spikes upward) deer hunting license sales are also trending down, down, and down. Is it that we are not supposed to talk about such things? Is this why 9 novice hunters (out of 20 applicants) were placed in a blind on a small island that hasn’t been hunted for 50 years and deer sometimes will, literally, run you over? What’s wrong with bringing them to where my blind is? Where I haven’t seen a deer in years? I’m trying to remember when the last time I was able to sit in a blind – with a “special swivel seat” (wink-wink) where as many as 50 deer to a bunch passed by. Forget it. It NEVER happens in the real world. So, is MDIFW hoodwinking perspective hunters? How often will MDIFW continue to offer these free lunches to those who say they might be interested in deer hunting? Until the deer on Swan Island are all gone? Will potential recruits have to buy a license, and buy an “Any-Deer Permit,” like the rest of us do, when deer numbers on the island dwindle, like everywhere else in the state?

I’m not sure I know any real Maine hunters who don’t think it would be a great idea to recruit more hunters. I don’t know of any real Maine hunters who don’t think that if there were more deer perhaps the three “Rs” would take care of themselves. But what do I know?

I’m just a grumpy Ole Maine Hunter.

Share

Maine’s Bear Hunt Falls Short of Harvest “Hope and Change”

Understanding that the Maine black bear hunting season is not yet over and what is left generally produces very little increase in the the total harvest, it appears that the black bear harvest will fall far short of hoped-for numbers.

According to the live harvest data on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s (MDIFW) web page, the current black bear harvest stands at 2,241, nearly 1,100 short of last years total bear harvest. Compared with the last 5 years, it appears this year’s take will come up well short of that average.

Yes, the blame will be placed on the reality that there was abundant natural food for the bears and history seems to have taught us that because baiting of bears is the most successful way to take them, when there is abundant natural food, bears aren’t so much interested in a bait pile.

Okay, so we get that. Isn’t this another thing that, as game managers, we have no control over? And because we have no control over certain things, isn’t it responsible to take better and different actions that would better guarantee that a bear harvest would meet harvest goals as part of a responsible management program?

One might think.

But, the MDIFW and the Maine Legislature have failed, once again, to take any meaningful and responsible action to make sure that the bear harvest meets goals necessary to keep the population in check so as not to continue to increase public safety issues as well as the impact bears are having on the dwindling deer population (even though managers are telling us there are plenty of deer) in parts of the state where the bear population is very healthy numbers wise. There is a correlation…isn’t there?

The Maine Legislature either would not pass or postponed any action to address the burgeoning bear population. As I asked earlier, is the Maine Legislature liable for damages, injuries, and death caused by an irresponsibly grown population of black bears? Is the MDIFW liable because they refuse to buck the outfitters and guides in the state who refuse to work with the state in reasonable ways and responsibleness to bring the bear population in check?

I walk down the street. I see a hole. I fall in it………..

Share

Maine Moose History and Shucking Bears

A couple of issues jumped out at me that I found reading two articles published in Maine newspapers recently. The first had to do with an article in the Bangor Daily News about the history of Maine’s moose and their moose hunt.

The article presents a timeline of events that began with how unregulated moose killing led to the end of all moose hunting, ending with the present day limited moose hunt lottery. The article, as written, states: 1980: Changes in forest practices, including clear-cutting, have provided moose with more habitat and food sources, and the herd shows signs of consistent growth.”

This is actually a partially inaccurate statement. Yes, there were changes in forest practices that have been ongoing, but everyone knows that it was the event of the outbreak of the spruce budworm and the resulting clear-cutting in efforts to salvage as much timber as possible that provided millions of acres of prime moose habitat. There was so much habitat as a result that Maine grew an artificially high population of moose. (Note: This same event and resulting clear-cuts, also provided false growths in rabbits, the prime food source for Canada lynx. And yes, the clear-cuts caused a false growth in Canada lynx and as these clear-cuts change, we are still attempting to artificially grow the number of Canada lynx.)

Two things have been happening since. First, because of man’s greed and ignorance, we attempted, and still are, to sustain a moose population approaching 100,000 animals. Mother Nature responded by knocking that population down with winter ticks providing an unnecessary and tormenting way to die for moose – wasted meat that would have provided some Maine families with nutritious food. Second, it’s been nearly 50 years since the spruce budworm and much of that prime habitat has changed.

In short, Maine’s generous uptick in moose numbers was an accident and not simply due to man’s efforts at management.

The second issue I found was in George Smith’s article about not needing to be scared of bears. George tells stories of some of his and his families’ dealings with black bears, and in one case of how he gathered up the family to run down to the shore of the lake to be there when a mother bear and two of her cubs came swimming across the lake.

George’s stories are presented as cute, fun, exciting, and never a serious word of caution. All the stories and accounts the author tells are probably true, but, what of that one time when a person, or family, due to “cute, fun, and exciting,” find themselves in a position where the mother bear will do whatever it feels is necessary to protect her cubs? Then what? Oh, yeah, yell.

Even domestic animals can be unpredictable but this is seldom, if ever, taught to our children. The family dog or the neighbor’s cat are always seen by people, children in particular because of how they are taught, as always approachable, never looking for signs that might indicate to stay away or having been taught that because they are animals they are unpredictable.

This incorrect teaching and attitude that animals are nothing but cute, fun, and exciting, it what causes those “rare” occasions when animal attacks person.

Perhaps instead of saying that there is no need to be scared of bears, we should be a bit more honest with ourselves and those around us and say that we don’t need to be scared but because it is an animal, and a potentially vicious predator, we need to be respectfully cautious, assuming that we might be treading where the bear, or other animal, may not want us to be.

Maybe then, those “rare” instances will become even rarer.

Share

Hunter Safety Not Banning Land Access

The editorial staff of the Central Maine Newspapers offers a rare opinion piece about the quasi debate about whether Maine should consider blocking access to private land in hopes of making things safer during hunting season.

The staff believes, and rightly so, that education, focused on safety, has done more to make things safer than any idea of blocking access to land will do. In the last three cases of people being accidentally shot on their own land, the hunter miss-identified the target for a deer and wrongly pulled the trigger.

To err is human, however, in the effort to achieve better hunter/people safety, perhaps it is time to reassess the importance and penalties for pulling the trigger when not 100% positive of the target at hand.

Share

Maine Moose and Ticks: Continued Spread of Bad Information

I once thought perhaps there was some hope that Maine wildlife officials were starting to get it when it comes to what is causing the moose population to shrink. But evidently Climate Change remains the excuse for everything incompetent.

Yes, few will argue that winter ticks are killing Maine’s moose. However, none can rid their brainwashing that the cause of the vast number of blood sucking ticks is due to Climate Change – proof of professional ignorance. When you combine this kind of blind ignorance with the need for the media to perpetuate nonsense about Climate Change, there still remains absolutely no hope that one day man will get it and then make plans to combat the problem from a real scientific approach rather than an emotional wandering about hoping on all hope that Climate Change will somehow make things right again.

Once again we read in the mainstream media how we are all gonna die because of Climate Change. Maine’s moose biologist is quoted as saying, “Every day that is mild in October and November and we don’t get any snow, every day ticks are out getting on moose. Climate is a factor in the level of ticks we have out there.”

It wasn’t all that long ago that Kantar (Maine’s moose biologist) was caught telling some people that the reason for so many ticks was due to too many moose, and not so much because of Climate Change.

Maybe there’s more funding available if you are willing to perpetuate the Climate Change nonsense.

Ignorance and brainwashing about Climate Change causes one to never use their brain and implement any sort of common sense. It’s more fun, evidently, to plow along with the myth, living in fear that WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE! Thirty years ago it was predicted that whole nations would disappear from the earth if we didn’t do something about global warming. And yet, we still insist that global warming (now Climate Change) is what is causing winter ticks to grow out of control. Smart…real smart.

If Maine would increase their moose hunting permits and lower the moose population to responsible levels, the winter tick problem would go away. I thought Maine’s moose biologists had begun to figure this out. But now they are back to blaming Climate Change on the number of ticks.

In Alaska, were moose have lived for far longer than in Maine, biologists/scientists there have said that there is only one way to mitigate the winter tick problem: reduce the moose population.

It’s easier to spout nonsense and say Alaska doesn’t have a tick problem because it is so cold up there. Ignorance also causes people to think all of Alaska is much colder than Maine. It’s not, and these are areas where the moose thrive. Let’s take a closer look.

The winter tick is not just a common occurring thing in Maine. This tick, Dermacentor albipictus, if found in warm, dry climates like Texas, and cold climates like Alaska and the Yukon. We know that the ticks are found in the Yukon because researchers deliberately took these winter ticks there just to experiment with them to see if they could survive. The ticks survived and the irresponsible, perhaps criminal scientists were allowed to continue practicing their witchcraft.

Perhaps this is just too complicated for some to understand. Try this simple math problem. Alaska has an estimated 200,000 moose. Maine has 70,000. (Note: I use these numbers because the biologists use these numbers. There’s little reason to believe that these numbers are all that accurate.)

Alaska has 663,300 square miles of land. Maine has 35,385. Alaska has nearly 3 times the number of moose than Maine living on 20 times the amount of forests. Alaska doesn’t have a tick problem. Maine does. From this information, people conclude that the problem with ticks is Climate Change. Does this make any sense?

Share

MOUNT KATAHDIN: When Nobody Knows Or Cares About Grammatical Correctness

In this Post Normal existence of a misguided society, where not only is it a struggle for people to write (or speak for that matter) in complete sentences, at a time when life is in the palm of everyone’s hand, and the language consists of coded abbreviations, and nobody cares about whether anything written or spoken is grammatically correct (the same can’t be said about political correctness), we can read where one lost soul believes it’s important to rename a famous Maine mountain in order to make the name grammatically correct.

The director of Baxter State Park in Maine wants to change the name of Mount Katahdin to just Katahdin, claiming that “mount” is built into the name Katahdin. To a loser, who seems only capable of focusing on typos and grammar, life’s importance must be a struggle. Who cares? The English Language is full of such things and nobody cares. Why would anyone think it important to rewrite forever to make a point…or a statement? Have we reached the climax of idiotic sensitivity that any person would find offense in being told that the name Katahdin means it’s a big mountain? What is offensive or important that to some nerd with obviously too much time on his hands (maybe he isn’t doing the job he’s paid to do) would find a need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, taking up hours and hours of time people could be spending doing important things, to change the name, dropping Mount?

Nobody cares…nor should they. It’s not important! Nobody cares when somebody calls Islamic Terrorists THE Al Qaida, when “Al” means THE. Are we to be upset because when somebody speaks or writes that way it is grammatically incorrect? Where has any sense of a true compass reading gone?

When the real purpose of life is to correct our forgetfulness of where we came from, in order that we can know where it is we need to go, some poor lost soul is wasting his life obsessing on grammar in an old Indian name.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Share

Maine Fish and Game One Step Further Out of the Dark Ages

In several years in Maine, the fish and game department (MDIFW) has gone from taking several months (sometimes over a year) to tabulate deer, bear, moose, and turkey harvest information, to now where anyone can visit the MDIFW website and receive instant harvest data in total or broken down by Wildlife Management District.

THANK YOU!!! It’s about time.

Even when MDIFW announced it was tagging digitally and the department (and select others) could get the harvest information, it seemed MDIFW was in the dark that the public was interested in having access to that same information. I wondered if the department ever planned to do that or keep good control over some of us by making us beg for data.

And so, here we are! Click on this link – https://maine.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/199555de2ee14d94a6186d9e07453e05 – and to the left you will see up-to-date harvest data for the entire state, for deer, bear, moose, and turkey. Click on the WMD shown in the Maine map to get a breakdown of each WMD.

I am very grateful that MDIFW has chosen to do this…although I am a bit puzzled by a comment from the MDIFW Wildlife Director, printed in the Bangor Daily News. The director said: “We just realized that there was a lot of interest in having that information (harvest data from their digital tagging system). Seriously? “We just realized…?”

MDIFW was so terrible at providing hunters with any current harvest data, they were the laughing stock around many coffee tables in coffee shops statewide. And NOW, they just realized?

Okay, so I guess for some it just takes a long time to wake up. So, good morning!! And, thank you for allowing the tax payers to have access to information we have paid for.

So, now what am I going to bitch about?

Oh, OKAY! How about this? Being that this event is one of the biggest deals to come out of MDIFW in a very long time, why is there no Press Release posted on their website? Back in July, there was a PR announcing an appointment to the position of Information and Education Director. Has that position not been filled and is not active yet?

Share

Land Access: “There Ought to be a Law!”

A few years back, while speaking to a group of elk breeders in Iowa at their national convention, I began my talk by asking for a show of hands from any and all who ever made the exclamation, there ought to be a law. Most raised their hands. The rest were lying…LOL.

In our post-normal existence we have eagerly created, without supporting evidence we reactively rush toward the creation of more limits, bans, and regulations falsely believing such actions will actually alter human behavior and make for a better, safer life. Does it? Do the majority of Americans heed such laws intended to make our world a better place to live?

Not exactly! Have you been out on the highways lately? This is but one example of how laws, intended to make things safer, are failing at breakneck speed. Everyone is speeding. Everyone is running stop signs and traffic lights. Everyone is tailgating. Everyone is passing on the wrong side. Everyone is texting. These are examples of laws intended to make the highways safer to be on and yet the proof is in what you see…total disregard of the laws. So, why do we insist more laws will work?

Does this same thumbing of the nose happen with all other laws? Of course it does and yet, we, in our programmed reactionary behavior insist on making more laws, limits, and bans anytime something happens that we think could have been avoided…especially if we had more laws.

A tragedy occurred in Maine two years ago when a young woman was on her own land during deer hunting season and was shot an killed. The shooter admitted he failed to follow the “rule of law” that demands a hunter identify his/her target before pulling the trigger. While this law is more of an educational reminder of the ultimate responsibility of the one with the gun in their hand, it does not prevent mistakes nor will it stop anyone intent on killing for whatever the reasons.

The editorial board of the Bangor Daily News suggests that Maine needs to review its hunter land access laws and consider a requirement that all hunters seek written permission from a landowner before hunting on that person’s land.

A land owner should be able to control who and how anyone accesses their land. They presently have that control at their fingertips by utilizing an existing law of posting signs of no or limited access. Yes, the onus is placed on the landowner to spend the money for signs and put the signs out. Perhaps there are better ways to assist a landowner in accomplishing this task.

The bottom line is this, will posting the land keep people off the property and will it prevent a tragedy like the one that happened two years ago? It will not stop the person who is intent on entering someone’s land whether it’s posted or not. Unless land is posted all the way around, what is to stop anyone from accessing partially posted land?

The question here is whether or not making or changing the law that would require written permission to access land would have prevented a killing like the one in Maine two years ago? We might be creating ourselves a false sense of security, causing the landowner, who may falsely believe their land is 100% safe to be on during hunting season. In actuality, a new law may be making things worse.

One could argue that it is the hunters’ responsibility to know where boundary lines are regardless of what the access laws and restrictions may be. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to know where every boundary is and if you cross, even a well-marked property line, whose it is. If I unknowingly cross a poorly marked property line, would I be in violation of the law?

Hunting is a very safe activity. It is not fool proof. To err is human as the old expression goes. We will never correct that regardless of how many laws are made.

So, let’s consider the problems that will mount if Maine decided to enact a law that would require written permission before access…for any reason. Which brings us to another question about such a proposed law. Would such a law discriminate against hunters and be in effect only during hunting seasons? Assuming a new law requiring written permission would be permanent and year-round, what kind of mess is this going to create for the outdoorsman, the landowner, businesses geared toward outdoor recreation, and law enforcement? Will this new law be such that it places the landowner in a situation where they are constantly being asked for written permission? Will this form of harassment cause the landowner to avoid such and simply post their land, which they might not have done anyway – an added expense for the landowner.

Consider the large landowners of Maine – Irving, Pingree, Liberty Media Corp. (John Malone, who is based in Colorado). How are they going to handle a law where they have to hand out written permission for anyone to access their land? Or are they just going to shut it all down to avoid having to have another paid position to handle just dishing out land access permission slips?

How is law enforcement supposed to handle this new law? Is it even enforceable? Is what exists now really broken?

I own land. It’s not posted. If I go on my land during hunting season, I dress the same way as if I was hunting – with hunter orange. I never assume because I’m on my own land I am safe. Mistakes happen.

I don’t believe anyone is capable of grasping the extent of how Maine would change if the laws were changed that would require written permission to access private land. What economic impact will such a move have on Maine’s economy? One can argue that it might make it safer but such laws will not stop human error. Most all accidents happen due to human error. In that case, more and better education might limit and reduce those errors.

Before we make more laws to restrict land access, let’s first consider other ways to educate and remind hunters of their responsibility and to remind the people of Maine when hunting seasons are underway. Perhaps Maine could invest in public service announcements that would remind people about hunting seasons.

Let’s be practicably responsible and not create a bigger mess that may do little to make things safer.

Share

2019 Maine “Any-Deer” Lottery Results

The results of the Maine 2019 “Any-Deer Permit” Lottery results can be found at this link – https://deer.informe.org/2019/

Just select the letter that matches the last name of the applicant and scroll through the results.

Share

Maine’s Top 20 Deer Harvest Years

This chart comes from Troy Frye’s Facebook page found at this link. He provides other interesting graphics about Maine’s deer harvest histories.

Share