We’ll never hunt on Sundays in Maine. On April 25, 2011, the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee unanimously killed LD 910, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Fitts, a bill that would have authorized landowners to hunt on their own land on Sundays. It was the best Sunday hunting bill of that session, and the last serious attempt at the legislature to authorize Sunday hunting.
Here’s why I’m pessimistic about Sunday hunting. Almost every member of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee hunts. And every member is an advocate for sportsmen. Yet not a single one was willing to support Stacey’s bill giving us this very limited Sunday hunting opportunity.
And we were in the midst of a legislative session where the rights of landowners was driving much of the agenda, including rollbacks in many environmental laws. Sunday hunting on your own land seems very compelling to me.
I purchased my Mount Vernon woodlot for the specific purpose of keeping it undeveloped so I could hunt there. Yet I am denied the opportunity to enjoy this principle purpose on my own land one day each week. This doesn’t seem fair to me, to put it mildly.
Maine’s Sunday hunting prohibition was first enacted on February 28, 1883. We’ve been trying to correct that mistake ever since, without success. I don’t think we’ll ever hunt on Sundays in Maine because – well, because we haven’t since 1883.
This prohibition hurts us economically. Our neighboring states of New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York all offer Sunday hunting and steal our hunters (both resident and nonresident) who like to hunt on both days of a weekend. The national hunting magazines have punished and pummeled our state for its lack of Sunday hunting.
And I’m not the only one who recognizes this problem. In 2005, when Governor Baldacci made a serious effort to authorize Sunday hunting, the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel published an editorial, “Time for Maine to End Ban on Sunday Hunting.”
Governor Baldacci actually including Sunday hunting in his 2-year budget, but when the hearing on that proposal was scheduled, in front of the Appropriations Committee, I was the only proponent, speaking for SAM. Opponents included the Maine Bowhunters Association, Maine Snowmobile Association, and Maine Professional Guides Association as well as all the landowner groups.
During my 18 years at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I advocated for two initiatives that I thought held particularly great promise. One would have allowed Sunday hunting for small game in the unorganized territories. The other was the one to authorize Sunday hunting on your own land. Both bills suffered the inevitable defeats.
And here’s the rest of the problem. Sportsmen are far from united on this issue. I generally found the members of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to be divided 60-40 with 60 percent fiercely wanting Sunday hunting and 40 percent opposed for a wide range of reasons from religious to fear that landowners would post more land.
One of the fiercest opponents of Sunday hunting was then-Senator David Trahan, now SAM’s executive director. Don’t expect SAM to submit a Sunday hunting bill this session!
Groups that represent landowners, including the powerful Maine Farm Bureau and Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, strongly oppose Sunday hunting. We spend most of our hunting time on land that is privately owned. So the opposition of these groups is very significant and must be respected.
Unless and until landowners agree to give hunters this special privilege, we won’t be hunting on Sundays in Maine. Ever.