More Sunday hunting bills shot down at the legislature

                A bag limit of Sunday hunting bills got shot down this week by the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

The various bills would have:

Allowed each Maine town to determine if it wanted to allow Sunday hunting;

Allowed bird hunting on Sundays with shotguns only;

Allowed Sunday hunting for migratory birds;

Allowed Sunday hunting with permission of the landowner;

Allowed Sunday hunting of wild birds in Aroostook County and in unorganized townships in the counties of Piscataquis, Somerset, Franklin, Oxford, Kennebec, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Androscoggin, Cumberland and York.

The only new idea in this bunch of bills was the one to allow each town to decide if it wanted to allow Sunday hunting.

The votes against these bills were supported by all IFW Committee members except Representatives Steve Wood and Tim Theriault, both of whom supported all of the bills.

Other than the bills’ sponsors, the only significant support for these bills came from David Trahan of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. In an earlier hearing on a Sunday hunting bill, Dave testified, “Our organization has consistently supported Sunday hunting as a way to expand hunting opportunities and aid economically depressed areas in rural Maine.”

Recognizing that landowners want one day a week without hunting, Dave said, “We would gladly give them Wednesday in exchange for Sunday.” That drew some laughs from committee members and the audience. And at the work session on these bills, Rep. Wood offered an amendment to do just that, allow Sunday hunting and ban hunting on Wednesdays.

In addition to groups representing landowners, Don Kleiner of the Maine Professional Guides Association spoke against the bills, noting that “we all own the wildlife, but the problem is the wildlife lives on someone’s land.” Bob Meyers of the Maine Snowmobile Association also spoke against the bills, citing the generosity of landowners who allow snowmobile trails on their property.

At this week’s work session, Dave Trahan criticized me for testifying against Sunday hunting and also said, “I am growing concerned about threats from landowners.” He was referring to testimony from a number of groups representing farmers and landowners in which they predicted more posting of land if Sunday hunting was authorized. Dave also said it was a “false assumption that every landowner opposes Sunday hunting.”

I guess the rest of that statement should have been, “just as it’s not true that every sportsman supports Sunday hunting.” In my surveys of SAM’s members when I worked for the organization, 60 percent of our members supported Sunday hunting and 40 percent opposed it.

Tom Doak of the Maine Woodland Owners Association jumped up to defend landowners, noting that his group had supported many expansions of hunting opportunities and seasons including youth days, expanded turkey seasons and bag limits, establishment of a muzzleloading season on deer, expanded archery seasons, and more.

Representative Paul Stearns said he didn’t see the landowners’ testimony as a threat, “but they’re giving us insight into the probable reaction” if Sunday hunting was authorized.

I think Representative Stearns probably expressed the opinion of most of IFW Committee’s members when he said, “I have to air on the side of caution. The ability to hunt on Sunday might cost us a lot of opportunities.”

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.