Veterans must still complete hunter safety course

A bill to allow veterans to hunt without taking the hunter safety course was rejected in a 7 to 3 vote by the legislature’s IFW Committee.

Some committee members were surprised that the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife supported the bill, but apparently that was driven by the Governor’s support for the bill. Michael Beardsley, a member of the governor’s staff, testified for the bill.

“The administration believes honorably discharged veterans have had sufficient training to be able to forgo the Hunter Safety Courses,” said Beardsley.

That showed a lack of understanding of all that is included in the course, which is about a lot more than gun safety.

Dave Trahan of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine made that point in his testimony against the bill, saying “the course has value way beyond guns. This will gut the hunter safety course.” Dave expressed disappointment that DIFW supported the bill.

Dave also said he’d like to expand the course, including adding information about safety in tree stands, and warned the committee, “Don’t take us back to the days when dozens were killed during hunting seasons.”

Don Kleiner of the Maine Guides Association also testified against the bill, noting that hunting is now safer than downhill skiing. And he noted that it is possible, as an “apprentice hunter”, to hunt in Maine with an experienced hunter by your side, without taking the course.

Jim Thorne, a veteran, spoke against the bill, noting that there is a big difference between shooting safety and hunting safety.

I spoke against the bill, noting that it is important to know our hunting laws and rules, the importance of good landowner relations, and the fact we’ve made taking the course easier by offering most of it online.

The bill proceeds to the House and Senate, where debates are likely.

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.