January 30, 2023

From Discriminating Against Non Residents to Elitist Preferential Treatment

Thirty years or so ago, Maine decided that it would set aside the first Saturday of deer hunting season for Maine residents only. This probably came at a time when some residents figured there were too many out-of-state hunters. I do recall those days when those “from away” carried a nasty reputation – I suppose they still do to some extent. Residents began to rise up demanding that they should have at least one day without the non residents to hunt their favorite hunting grounds.

Now, when non resident hunting license sales have spiraled downward, the excuses for such actions continues to grow. Some think it’s because Maine doesn’t allow Sunday hunting. Others say it’s because non residents are treated unfairly (banning opening day) and most, like me, say it’s because the deer hunting just isn’t any good…at least not like it used to be.

So the talk grows that perhaps Maine should recall that opening day ban in order to encourage more out-of-state hunters to return. The loss in non resident hunters amounts to over 1 million dollars in lost revenue, and that continues to grow.

But it appears that those proposing new rules are also considering modifying that ban to allow any non resident who owns a certain amount of land, be allowed to hunt opening day. It also seems two distinct issues are being discussed as having one remedy – recruiting more non resident hunters and land access.

If the idea that allowing non residents who own a predetermined amount of land to hunt on opening day is going to somehow cause fewer out-of-state landowners to post their property, I don’t think giving them the “resident’s day” to hunt is an answer to that perceived problem.

Restricted land access is an ongoing problem. Bribing non resident landowners with an extra day of hunting, I don’t think will matter at all as it may pertain to land access. It will matter so long as Maine continues to anger the non resident hunters whether they own land or not.

But consider the message that is being sent here. I know there are some non resident hunters, and non resident landowner hunters who get angry when they realize they are not allowed to hunt on opening day. This form of exclusion is now being seen as a bit problematic now that non resident hunters have left Maine to hunt elsewhere. In short, we have added reasons to drive the out-of-state hunters away, and now we want their money back.

I can understand why some would want an exclusive day for Maine residents. After all, it is hunting in Maine. Some might not like it but it did serve its purpose..once. But is it time to change that dressing and put on a new bandage?

What I think is wrong is taking what might be an understandable restriction for non residents and turning it in an elitist, landownership reward is a terrible thing to do. The restriction for non residents still exists and being added to that would be the requirement that you are wealthy enough to own 25-acres or more of land in order to qualify. Seems to me that all those non land-owners and those who don’t own enough land, are now doubly ticked off. Seems we might be headed in the wrong direction. In addition, perhaps a handful of non resident landowners would be happy and perhaps of those a small handful might decide they no longer want to post their land, but the overall loss and public relations would suffer a great deal, perhaps leading to an overall loss of hunters and hunting revenue.

If land access is a problem, then deal with ways to correct that without tying it to exclusive hunting privileges. If Maine wants to repeal the opening day ban on hunting for non residents, then repeal it or leave it alone.