Maine must restore its hunting and fishing reputation and industry

Bob DuchesneIt’s time to market Maine’s hunting and fishing and restore out state’s reputation as THE place to hunt and fish. An Act to Market Maine’s Hunting and Fishing Opportunities, sponsored by Representative Robert Duchesne, is designed to do just that.

This is one of 8 bills I have proposed, and I am grateful to Rep. Duchesne for sponsoring it. Bob was term-limited out of the legislature, sat out a session, and was elected to a new term in November. He’s a very good legislator who takes a nonpartisan approach and is there for all the right reasons. He is also the author of the Maine Birding Trail book and a leader of Maine’s birding industry. So he really knows a lot about marketing.

Our bill will create, at Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, a comprehensive marketing plan and program, and implement some of the recommendations from a 2004 study group and a 2011 Non-resident Hunter Task Force.

The 2004 study of DIF&W’s divisions, proposed by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, authorized by the legislature, and conducted by the Management Assistance Team of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, included this:

Many state fish and wildlife agencies are beginning to view marketing as an important tool, vital to their long-term success… Simply put, a “marketing approach” tailors products, pricing, promotion, and placement to customer needs. While the MDIFW marketing efforts are self-funded and successfully increasing MDIFW public recognition, the entire agency could be improved by adopting a marketing approach in the way it does business. Approximately one-third of the state fish and wildlife agencies across the country are actively engaged in either learning how or already using a marketing approach, and the number is increasing.

In these states, the agency leadership recognized that marketing was not an isolated function served by a single individual. Rather, all employees play an appropriate role in making sure their programs deliver the best marketing mix and highest value to the customers, perhaps coordinated through a marketing specialist or marketing team. Interestingly, marketing in many agencies is a tool to achieve revenue goals and conservation success.

Marketing is often perceived in fish and wildlife agencies as commercialization, promotion, or sales. Any of these may play a part in whether to adopt a marketing approach or not, but ensuring that the agency is tied to customer needs, price sensitivity, access, and awareness are all vital to a state fish and wildlife agency’s long-term survival. For success, the marketing efforts cannot exist in a vacuum, but need to be infused into all Department programs as an overall approach to doing business.

The Management Assistance Team – which was a very impressive group of experienced professionals – recommended that Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife “integrate a Department-wide marketing approach.”

Unfortunately, in the ten years since the recommendations were received, the agency has not only failed to do this, it actually abolished the marketing position in its Information and Education Division.

The Details

Here’s what Rep. Duchesne’s bill proposes.

Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will be required to adopt a comprehensive marketing plan and approach that ensures the agency is tied to customer needs, price sensitivity, access, and awareness, and that all members of the agency’s staff play an appropriate role in making sure their programs deliver the best marketing mix and highest value to customers.

This program should be led and coordinated by a marketing specialist in the agency’s Information and Education Division.

The comprehensive program will include these elements:

Collaboration with the Office of Tourism to develop a marketing plan promoting Maine as a destination for nonresident hunters, anglers, birdwatchers, and other outdoor recreationists.

Annual surveys of current and recently-lapsed nonresident outdoor recreationists, to find out what these customers want, why they have lapsed, and what barriers there are for travel to Maine to participate in these outdoor activities.

Training and education for those in the outdoor recreation industry, including guides, sporting camps, and others, to multiply the effect of the marketing plan.

Creation of new hunting and fishing licenses, repackaged as necessary, that feature new privileges or opportunities, and boost license sales and attract more nonresidents here to hunt and fish.

An aggressive promotion of the opportunities to hunt and fish here, including information about access to lakes, ponds, river, streams, and public and private lands for those purposes. This should include maps and brochures and online information, available on DIF&W’s website and on the websites of those in the outdoor recreation industry, and the use of social media and video.

Creation of a data base of outdoor writers and reporters, and an ongoing effort to provide them with experiences and information for their columns and stories.

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,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.