Maine ought to have a comprehensive hunting/fishing license

logoLast legislative session, Representative Mike Shaw sponsored my proposal to create a comprehensive hunting license for those of us who are frustrated and tired of having to purchase multiple permits to hunt our favorite species. I was also looking for a way to encourage more hunters to hunt species other than deer – turkeys, for example.

Both the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife opposed the bill, although Bill Swan, DIF&W’s Director of Licensing, offered a lot of good information in response to questions from the legislature’s IFW Committee. Bill actually raised the possibility of a comprehensive license at a meeting of SAM’s Pickering Commission in 2011. I thought it was a great idea.

This year, Representative Gary Hilliard will sponsor my proposal which I’ve expanded to include fishing licenses for those of us who purchase both a hunting and fishing license. And I incorporated some of Bill Swan’s suggestions from the last session into the new bill.

I use the single fishing license as an example in supportive of our proposal. Let’s consider what fishing would be like if the licensing system had developed like the hunting license and permit system. We’d have a license for open water fishing and another for ice fishing. Hunting permits are required for different species, so we’d have a fishing permit for brook trout, another for landlocked salmon, a third for nonnative species including bass, probably one for stocked fish too. Hunting permits are required for different types of weapons, so we’d have a fishing permit for fly fishing and another for spin casting. When we created fall fishing opportunities, we’d have also created a fall fishing permit, for sure.

Do you think a complexity of fishing licenses and permits would have encouraged more people to fish in Maine? Perhaps the simplicity of the single fishing license is one reason twice as many people fish in Maine as hunt in our state!

Hunting licenses and permits

Well, let’s talk about hunting licenses and permits. At least, if you buy the big game hunting license, you are all set to hunt all of our big game animals: bear, moose, deer, coyotes, and turkeys. Right? Well, ahh, no. With the big game license, you can hunt bears, in all seasons. Right? No. A special bear hunting permit is required if you want to hunt bears before the firearms season on deer.

Ok, but the big game license authorizes you to hunt moose. Right? No. You have to win the lottery, and then, if you do, you have to purchase a moose hunting permit. You can hunt coyotes with the big game license, unless you want to hunt them at night. That’s another permit.

Ok, but most hunters buy the big game license to hunt deer, so the license allows you to do that, right? No. You can hunt deer in the regular firearms season, but if you want to hunt them in the bowhunting season, you have to buy another license. And if you want to hunt deer with a muzzleloader, that’s another permit.

Maine’s Fish and Wildlife Department consider turkeys to be a big game animals. So, surely, the big game license allows you to hunt turkeys. Right? Wrong! But I still couldn’t convince them to eliminate the $20 turkey permit, even though only about 18,000 of us hunt turkeys and the cost of the permit is a significant barrier to recruiting more turkey hunters. So ok, if turkeys are a big game animal, why aren’t they covered by the big game hunting license?

I can tell you why. Because we’re nickel and diming Maine hunters, to the point that most don’t and won’t participate in many of our hunting opportunities.

Our bill

This bill would create two new comprehensive licenses: One for those who hunt, and another for those who hunt and fish. This is similar to LD 1226, a bill from the last legislative session.

The comprehensive hunting license would be available to both resident and nonresident hunters and would include all hunting licenses and permits except the junior hunting license, apprentice hunting license, moose permit, pheasant permit, waterfowl permit, falconry permit, and migratory bird permit, archery license, expanded archery permit, and expanded archery either-sex permit.

The fee for the comprehensive license would be $38 for residents and $143 for nonresidents.

The fee for those who want to add a fishing license to the comprehensive hunting license would be $55 for residents and $178 for nonresidents.

All lifetime licenses would remain valid and unchanged.

All current licenses and permits would remain available for those who wish to purchase them instead of the comprehensive license.

DIF&W would be authorized to ask, as part of the licensing process, what animals the hunter wishes to hunt, and the license could only be used to hunt the animals selected.

Alien licenses would be eliminated, and all aliens would be able to purchase the nonresident licenses. The term alien would be eliminated throughout DIF&W’s statutes.

The effective date for these new licenses would be January 1, 2018.

This bill would also allow all licensing agents to sell lifetime licenses.

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.