Moose and private land access have been major issues this year for readers of this outdoor news column, and it’s time to share with you the views of readers on these and a few other important issues including brook trout.
The Sportsmen Say Survey on my website, www.georgesmithmaine.com, is sponsored by Moody’s Collision Centers and named for Gene Letourneau, whose Sportsmen Say column appeared in southern Maine’s daily newspapers every day for 50 years.
A series of Sportsmen Say Survey questions on moose found strong agreement on two issues. 68 percent think Maine’s moose population is in decline, while 32% do not. I want to know where those 32% are seeing moose these days!
When asked, “Do you believe Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is accurately estimating moose populations, only 19% answered yes, while 67% said no and 14% were not sure.
The final moose question was, “Should Maine issue enough hunting permits to allow a harvest of 10% of Maine’s moose each year?” 44% didn’t think so, while 38% did. 18% were not sure. I have raised this issue more than once at the legislature and department. If Lee Kantar, our moose biologist, who seems confident that we have at least 60,000 moose, is correct, we are harvesting them at a much smaller than sustainable rate. And Lee continues to slash moose permits. I think either the population estimate is too high, or we are giving out fewer permits than we could.
Newfoundland, for example, has a moose population of 100,000, an annual harvest rate of 20 percent, and a hunter success rate of 70 percent. In 2012, Maine hunters harvested 10.7 percent of our deer, 10.4 percent of our bears, but just 3.9 percent of our moose.
Private Land Access
91% believe land posting is increasing, based on their experience, while 9% disagree. But opinions were divided on the question, “Do you believe Maine has enough open land available for public recreation. 56% said yes and 44% said no.
I honed in on their personal experience to ask three questions. 84% said some land they used in the past has been posted, while only 19% have not experienced that. Then I asked, “If some land you used in the past has been posted, did you lose access to that land?” 58% said they had while 42% said they’d gotten permission to use the posted land. 65% said they access posted land with permission for recreation, while 35% said no. I hunt a lot on posted land these days and have written in the past about the importance of building good relationships with private landowners to keep our hunting opportunities available on their lands.
The bill I successfully proposed to expand DIF&W’s landowner relations program included a major reorganization of the Landowners and Sportsmen Advisory Board, and during that debate, I asked, “Have you ever heard of the Landowners and Sportsmen Advisory Board?” 62% had not. Let’s hope the new smaller board will be able to address that problem.
Hunting Fee Increase
You may have read my recent column on the new $1 hike in hunting license fees, proposed by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and enacted by the legislature. The Governor allowed the bill to become law without his signature. 57% said they supported the license fee hike which is dedicated to public education programs about wildlife management, while 43% did not.
It is clear that a strong majority of sportsmen favor more protection for our native and wild brook trout. I asked, “Should DIF&W do more to protect native and wild brook trout, including banning the use of live fish as bait on wild brook trout waters in order to reduce the chance of an introduction of new competing fish species in those waters.” 61% said yes while 39% said no.
You can still express your opinions on these and other issues in the Sportsmen Say Survey section of my website.