Deer bills were heard on February 4 by the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.
Up first was LD 175, a bill sponsored by Rep. McCrea of Fort Fairfield. It would add 2 Saturdays in December to the firearms season on deer. Rep. McCrea was the only one to speak in favor of his bill. Nate Webb, speaking for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, opposed the bill, as did David Trahan of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.
Webb noted the bill might require DIFW to close some other hunting days, and Trahan emphasized SAM’s support for the muzzleloading season which includes those 2 Saturdays.
LD 188, sponsored by Rep Tuell of East Machias, would expand the muzzleloading deer hunting season. Tuell sponsored the bill at the request of several constituents whose muzzleloading season is shorter than in other areas of the state.
Only Rep Tuell spoke for his bill. Opponents included Dave Trahan of SAM, concerned that DIFW’s Commissioner retain authority to make these decisions. Dave did praise Rep Tuell, calling him a very good legislator. Also opposed was Jim Connolly of DIFW. He was especially concerned about extending the season in northern Maine where the deer herd is not large.
LD 190, sponsored by Rep. Hutchins of Penobscot County, would provide antlerless deer permits to senior resident lifetime hunting license holders. Rep. Hutchins was not available so Senator Paul Davis presented the bill.
No one spoke in favor of the bill, and Jim Connolly of DIFW opposed the bill. He said this would disrupt DIFW’s management plans. It does not allow the department to manage or limit these permits. There are currently 36,000 senior hunters, so DIFW would have to severely reduce permits for other hunters, and the seniors’ permits might exceed the total number of permits the department wanted to issue.
Dave Trahan of SAM also opposed the bill, noting that SAM is concerned about “carve outs” of permits for specific groups.
LD 265, sponsored by Senator Black of Franklin County, would extend the season on upland game for hunters, anglers, and sporting camps. Senator Black sponsored the bill at the request of his constituent, James Cote.
Black noted that the upland game season sometimes started in the middle of the week. He believes his bill will be a big help for sporting camps, which could sponsor weekends featuring both hunting and fishing.
James Cote focused on the problem that the first day of upland bird hunting happens mid-week in many places. James suggested opening the upland bird season on the last Saturday of September.
Dave Trahan of SAM spoke in favor of the bill, as did the NRA.
Nate Webb spoke for DIFW neither for nor against the bill. He did express concern that the special Saturday hunt would confuse hunters if the regular season did not start that day. Several legislators along with Dave Trahan and James Cote suggested opening the season on that Saturday.
The IFW Committee will now schedule a work session on these bills, at which time committee members will vote on the bills.