Deer Driving Law Clarified

Colonel Joel Wilkinson stepped up to straighten out confusion over Maine’s deer driving law. In April, Captain Chris Cloudier of the Maine Warden Service told the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee that deer driving is illegal even for two hunters.

For more than a decade, an exception in the deer driving law has provided that, “a group of 3 or more persons may hunt together as long as they do not use noisemaking devices.” Maine game wardens have never liked the law change but have not cited a group of 3 or fewer hunters for driving deer since the exception was added to the law.

Captain Cloudier presented a very interesting report, requested by Senator Anne Haskell, on deer driving laws in other states and the hunting accident incident rates in those states. Clothiers report listed 19 of the nation’s more popular hunting states where deer driving is legal, including New Hampshire and Vermont. New Hampshire limits driving to 6 hunters. Vermont has no limits. Oklahoma’s driving law is particularly interesting. Driving deer is legal there, “unless using smoke or fire.” Some states even allow dogs to be used in deer drives.

The information on hunting accidents was also interesting. “Although it inherently seems to be a dangerous practice, Vermont’s statistics involving hunting related shooting don’t support that notion,” was the report received from that state.

Not satisfied with the IFW Committee’s decision to accept the warden’s interpretation of the law, several committee members began working on an amendment to the deer driving statute. Representative Tim Marks actually drew a diagram of what he considered an illegal drive to be, and he took that diagram and his idea for clarifying language to Colonel Wilkinson.

The Colonel came up with the language that the committee unanimously agreed to add to the law: “A person may not participate in a hunt for deer during which an organized or planned effort is made to drive deer. For the purposes of this section to be considered ‘driving deer’ it would require four or more hunters, working together in an effort to move deer.” The second sentence is the Colonel’s amendment to the law.

The amendment was included in DIF&W’s omnibus bill that makes about a dozen changes to existing laws and is certain to be enacted.

So, for the upcoming season, three hunters trying to drive deer toward one another will not be acting illegally.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.