October 20, 2019

Proposed Deer Hunting Bills for Maine

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Deer hunting bill proposals are making there way before the Legislative Joint Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Here’s a look at some, with links for you to view the text of the bills, and some comments that I may have.

LD175 – An Act to Extend the Deer Hunting Season by 2 Saturdays.

In my opinion this is not a good idea. Let me explain my position.

As I understand the bill, the intent here is to give rifle deer hunters 2 extra Saturdays to hunt. These two Saturdays would run the following two Saturdays after the last Saturday of hunting in November. This usually occurs right after Thanksgiving.

It should be noted that the two weeks following the regular firearms season is muzzleloader season. These 2 extra Saturdays being sought coincide with the muzzleloader season.

I am not a very big proponent of the muzzleloader season falling when it does. It is my opinion that running any deer hunting season that late into the season puts an added stress on the deer which are either on their way to winter yard up or are already there.

Adult male deer have undergone a great physical strain through their rutting season. They have eaten little, have lost a lot of weight and stored fat. Further stressing the animal puts it at greater risk of survival during the winter months.

Adding 2 Saturdays of rifle hunters in the woods stressing further the deer population could cause serious damage to the deer herd, of course, depending on what Wildlife Management District (WMD) we are talking about. Certain WMDs would be not under the strains of winter during that time while others, like this past season, deer would already be yarded up. Perhaps changes to this bill might specify WMDs that would not be greatly affected.

It is not that I am opposed to offering hunters extra opportunities. My concern is for the deer herd. When examining hunter opportunities, it must be considered whether the deer herd can withstand the extra strain and the resulting reduction in the herd.

LD188 – An Act To Provide for an Expanded Muzzle-loading-only Deer
Hunting Season

This proposed bill will make it mandatory that the Muzzleloader Season on deer be extended for “12 hunting days” following the close of regular firearms season.

There’s a couple of things that need to be explained here. First, the current laws regulating the muzzleloader season give the commissioner authority to close a season if conditions warrant the need.

Second, the commissioner also has authority to set the season dates. The new proposal would mandate 12 hunting days (two calendar weeks) and remove authority from the commissioner to set the dates. It would not take away the authority of the commissioner to close the season if conditions warrant.

There is little that changes here from the current conditions except taking the authority away from the commissioner to set the muzzleloader season dates and makes the season mandatory. As long as the commissioner can still close the season due to detrimental conditions, I see little difference.

Neither for nor against this bill until such time as more evidence is presented.

LD190 – An Act To Provide Antlerless Deer Permits to Senior Resident
Lifetime Hunting License Holders

The intent of this bill is within its title. It is my understanding that there are currently some 36,000 senior hunters. Many are not aware of the fact that the overwhelming majority of “Any-Deer Permits” (ADP) are already predestined to special interest groups. Adding another 36,000 ADPs to the list will effectively use up all the permits. The ADP system is a tool that is used to manipulate the deer populations per WMD. If the total number of ADPs required to be issued exceeds the biological need, then what? In addition, this bill allows for the holder of a senior ADP to use his/her tag anywhere in the state. This runs contrary to the theory behind utilizing ADPs.

Not only would I oppose this bill but I might suggest another bill that would effectively repeal the issuance of most all other special interest groups’ awards of ADPs.

LD265 – An Act To Increase Opportunities for Hunters, Anglers and
Sporting Camps by Extending the Seasons on Upland Game

The intent of this bill is to open the season on Upland Game on the last Saturday of September in order to better utilize a Saturday to coincide with fishing season. It is stated that this bill would be perhaps an economic advantage for sporting camps.

I think this bill makes sense and not only assist sporting camps but might provide better opportunities to hunt snowshoe hare, gray squirrels, ring-necked pheasants, ruffed grouse, and bobwhite quail. Provided that such a move doesn’t jeopardize the management goals of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, this bill appears reasonable.

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