My father’s wisdom on Sunday hunting, moose, beaver and more

Dad's big buckMy Dad, Ezra Smith, was a life-long sportsmen with strong opinions on fish and wildlife issues which he often shared in letters to the editor of our state’s newspapers. From time to time I like to share Dad’s thoughts with you. They are often remarkably timely. Here are a few.

Sunday Hunting

The recent news of a bill being introduced for Sunday hunting was extremely disappointing. Our Fish and Game Department is working very hard with sportsmen and other conservation groups to maintain a good balance of wildlife and the last thing we need is political intervention of this type representing a special interest group that is not looking very far ahead.

I have had the privilege of living in Maine all my life and being able to hunt and fish and enjoy the outdoors. As we all know, this opportunity is fast disappearing and we must think very carefully before extending open seasons that would jeopardize any species of wildlife.

Most of us have one or two days off a week or more and I for one believe our wildlife deserves at least one day off. Sunday also happens to be a day when many nonhunters just like to go into the woods and enjoy the outdoors. Let’s get together and think about the future of Maine wildlife and the values it will have to future generations.

Permits

Our Legislature is on what one may call a permit roll. Today we hear about bear permits and, yes, turkey permits. I will have to concede that a turkey permit would be a good thing if it included those in Augusta who are so anxious to gobble up every last nickel we have. If each lawmaker had to buy a $10 permit for every bill submitted, I expect the number of bills would drop dramatically. That in turn would mean great savings, perhaps cut the time the legislature is in session and in the end save everyone concerned a lot of time and money.

Leave it to beavers

For those folks who have the good fortune to travel from Readfield Corner to Mount Vernon Village, I have some good and some not-so-good news. I have in the past criticized the DOT for the condition of this section of Route 41 and am more than pleased that they are finally fixing it up. If the weather holds out and the coffee breaks aren’t too frequent, come fall they will have a good stretch of road.

But I am concerned about all the money the fish and wildlife department is spending on a dam by the old chimney at West Mount Vernon. A couple of beavers let loose at that site would have done the job for free. I just don’t understand the thinking of these folks, who are supposed to be so concerned about wildlife.

Just think what a great tourist attraction it would have been to have beaver maintaining a dam and keeping the level of water on Taylor Pond where it should be. Upstream to the north they have two dams and are doing a splendid job of keeping Hopkins Stream suitable for many species of wildlife. Now we are going to have a mess of rocks and cement.

When the highway is finished, and when you pass my wildlife conservation area, please slow down. The coyotes killed most of the deer so we can’t afford to have any run down by speeding vehicles.

I’ve thought about putting up deer crossing signs but still remember some advice I once heard from a seasoned old veteran from Washington County. He said, and I quote, “If those fools in Augusta would take down the deer crossing signs and let the deer cross where they wanted to there wouldn’t be so many killed!”

Gene Letourneau

Gene wrote about hunting and fishing every day for 50 years in our central and southern Maine newspapers. We sure don’t get that kind of coverage today.

One of Gene’s secrets was that he often published the thoughts of his readers. One of his regular correspondents was my Dad. And after Dad died I found a box full of letters he received from Gene, who apparently wrote back to everyone who wrote to him.

Here’s one exchange: Gene’s column which mentioned Dad’s opinion, and Gene’s follow-up letter to Dad.

Gene’s Column: Ezra Smith of Winthrop can be added to the readers who are concerned about the increasing number of wild animals and birds being killed by motor vehicles.

Smith writes: “Your column about vehicles and partridges prompts me to write. My wife and I recently came upon a baby gray squirrel trying to revive its mother which had been run over. It was a very sad sight as the little fellow tried in vain to get life out of mom.

“I believe 50 percent of our wildlife killed on the highways could be saved if drivers were more considerate and not in such a h- of a hurry.

“As to an earlier column regarding cats that supposedly eat only sick and old birds, etc., I only wish the writer of that letter could be around and watch the stray cats gobble my robins just when they are learning to fly.

“I hope the Fisheries and Wildlife Department will be very cautious about extending the moose hunting zones. I would like to see the present season continue as it is for some time and let the managers prove beyond any doubt that they are capable of managing wildlife. Premature extension of the territory could lead to more anti-hunting sentiment and another referendum.

“Greed and politics have done our herds in. Let’s not have this happen to moose.”

Gene’s Letter: Dear Ezra: You hit the nail right. Most drivers seem to be in such a hurry it would appear the end is near.

Flies are driving deer and moose out to the roads upstate and collisions are rampant. Six deer were killed in the Rockwood area last week. Moose are being killed regularly on Route 201 from Jackman to the border. Thanks for taking the time to write.

 

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. 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.