June 27, 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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Maine’s Seemingly Endless Debate on Sunday Hunting

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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Sunday Hunting in Maine

With each passing season, I doubt there has been one that hasn’t included someone’s debate and reasoning as to why Maine should end the “blue law” that prohibits Sunday hunting. For sake of argument, I will focus my ideas on deer hunting as this entails the largest number of participants.

In an article published at Maine Wire, author James Cote, writes that it is time that Maine worked toward ending the ban on Sunday hunting and says that the only way this is going to happen is to convince the private landowners of the benefits for them and everyone.

I do think, however, that there is a case to be made for winning over the hearts and minds of private landowners, and garnering their support for modest, well thought out Sunday hunting ban repeal in Maine.

Certainly one cannot argue against this case. Whether or not Maine allows Sunday hunting, sportsmen should be doing all they can at “winning over the hearts and minds” of those landowners who generously provide open access to their lands for hunting, fishing, trapping and general recreation.

But the hunting issue goes beyond land access and winning over the landowners…at least in Maine anyway. Maine, unlike many other states, does not have any widespread issues with too many game animals. With the exception of a handful of sites, mostly where hunting is banned or restricted, most of Maine struggles to sustain a deer herd to levels where officials would be begging as many people, including non residents, to come and hunt.

Often the argument is used that Maine is losing revenue from out-of-state hunters because there is no Sunday hunting. That may contribute to the problem, if it really is a problem, but the fall-off of non resident hunters can more easily be attributed to a lousy deer herd – although, I guess it’s politically incorrect to mention that.

Before anyone is going to spend a lot of money to travel and hunt, they want some confidence that effort and money put into the adventure is not going to disappoint them because there is little game to hunt.

If officials and sportsmen are willing to admit that Maine’s deer herd is limited, then it should be just as easy to admit that with a limited deer herd, the state cannot provide unlimited deer hunting (or any other species).

At present Maine controls it’s deer population mostly by implementation of their “Any-Deer Permit” system. Officials issue these permits, often simply called “doe permits,” to lower, sustain or grow and deer herd within a Wildlife Management District (WMD). Most northern WMDs are not issued any permits and western and eastern WMDs have limited numbers. The short of this is that Maine has a limited number of deer that can be harvested while still accomplishing management goals.

The 2016 deer hunting firearms season has been set. Opening day, for residents only, begins on October 29th, a Saturday. The last day for firearms is November 29, also a Saturday. Counting Resident’s Only Day, that’s 25 days of deer hunting with 5 of those days being Saturdays – certainly the busiest hunting day of the week.

We should probably expect that Maine wildlife officials, in determining length of season, factor in hunter participation, which will be highest on Saturdays – more so when the weather is good.

I have no data to determine at what rate deer hunters take to the woods on a Saturday, vs. any other day of the week. Is it fair to say that Saturdays are twice as busy as mid-week days? I’ll let you decide.

Suppose that Maine did begin to allow Sunday hunting. Remember, I’m talking only of deer hunting, firearms season. With the same 2016 schedule, adding in the Sunday’s, 5 more weekend days would be added. What would that do to the participation rate for both Saturday and Sunday?

If we think of one Saturday participation equaling two mid-week days and apply a kind of weighted time element to the equation, the 2016 season, 5 Saturdays might be the equivalent of 10 mid-week hunting days. With Sunday hunting, the added 5 Sundays would be the same as adding 10 more hunting days – or worse, depending upon the participation rate.

If any of this is at all sensible, it sure seems to me that officials at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) would have to shorten the season in order to mitigate the over-harvesting of deer. This is the result of a limited deer population in many WMDs.

In nationwide surveys that I have examined before, one of the biggest reasons for hunter drop-off is having to work. The upside to Sunday hunting would be giving those who do have to work, often on Saturdays, a chance to get in some hunting. I’m sure they would like their freezers full as much as the next guy. None of this does anything to grow a struggling deer herd.

How does this apply to other hunting seasons, i.e. bear, grouse, turkey, moose? We still must factor in health of species, numbers and hunter participation.

There’s a movie where the line, “If you build it, they will come” is used. I think that’s the most important thing at the moment to focus on. Let’s build a healthy deer population that is sustainable to numbers that would support Sunday hunting. In the meantime, hunters need to understand that implementing Sunday hunting at this juncture would simply result in a shortening of the season.

It seems to make sense to me that a Maine deer hunter is going to be reluctant to give up some of his/her opportunities to bag a deer, just so a non-resident hunter can have his time.

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Who Exactly is the Sociopath Here?

If this action wasn’t so damned pathetic it would be funny. Wayne Hooper, who writes outdoor articles for the Seacoast Online, shared with readers an email that he was sent. It goes like this:

“Your Sunday hunting logic is absurd, and if it wasn’t so sad and typical of sociopath Mainer behavior it would be laughably ridiculous! How about considering the rights of non-hunters who utilize the woodlands? Blue sky laws are an ignorant, self-absorbed straw man argument.

“I guess even one day a week for the at least six-week period during which housewife killing, scumbag Mainer hunters run amok in childish camo is too much for you to allow the over one million Mainers who aren’t hunters to walk in the woods without fear of being shot by a local chucklehead dirtbag with a gun, and to enjoy the same resources that you seem to demand and have a self-entitled expectation for.

“But that’s Maine, the capital of proud-without-cause sociopaths.”

Honest to god, you can’t make this stuff up!

SundayHuntingDeer

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