Despite a unanimous endorsement from the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, a bill to give Maine sporting camps and outfitters 20% of the moose hunting permits currently going to nonresidents in the annual drawing did not win the support of the full legislature.
House members voted for the measure, but the Senate voted to carry the bill over to next year’s legislative session, where it will once again be up for consideration by the IFW Committee.
The bill unanimously endorsed by the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife would give 20 percent of the nonresident moose permits to outfitters and sporting camps licensed by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Resources in a chance drawing. Currently nonresidents get 10% of the permits. DIF&W would be paid $1500 for each sporting camp permit and the camp/outfitter would be able to resell the permit. New Brunswick, Canada has a similar system.
Four years ago the legislature voted to allocate a small percentage of moose permits over the 3100 level to sporting camps, but permits were reduced the next year below the 3100 level and have never returned, so the camps got nothing.
IFW Committee member Rep. Steve Wood abstained on the vote because as a Maine guide he might have benefitted from the bill. All of the committee members seemed to recognize that Maine’s sporting camps are very challenged these days and could use their help. DIF&W, as it did on almost all the bills this session, testified in opposition to the change.
But the agency did influence the final amended version of the bill. Originally the sporting camp permits were to come from both resident and nonresident permits, but the committee changed that to take them all out of the nonresident allocation. That will limit the value because one goal of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Stanley of Millinocket, was to increase the number of nonresidents coming here to hunt moose.
DIF&W makes almost $750,000 from non-residents betting on the lottery, but the decline in permits and the diminished chance that they will win a permit may significantly reduce the number of applicants. In just the last three years, the odds of winning a permit have decreased by 50%.
At the hearing on this bill, I was interested in learning that two national hunting trip brokers, Worldwide Trophy Adventures (A Cabela’s Partner) and Huntin’ Fool, direct clients to send a couple hundred thousand dollars to the Department, in part based on the odds of getting a tag in Maine versus out west or Canada. When these two brokers recognize that Maine has made it much more difficult to win a permit, they could pull their promotion and the impact on DIF&W’s revenue would be significant.
There was some excellent testimony on the amount of money spent by each of these nonresident moose permit winners. One Maine sporting camp owner reported that he charges between $8,000 and $12,000 for a Maine moose hunt and that the change “will allow us to make needed infrastructure improvements and reduce stress on our staff and facilities.” He also noted that the guides they employ for the hunts would benefit. And that’s not all these nonresidents spend here. They’ll buy everything from gas to food to overnight lodging, enroute to and from the camps.