Question: What is allowed in 46 other states, but never in Maine?
Answer: Hunting on Sunday.
Thirty nine states allow it in all hunting seasons, another 7 allow it in some seasons and circumstances, and only four, including Maine, prohibit Sunday hunting in all seasons.
Never on Sunday
We’ll never hunt on Sundays in Maine. That was clear at yesterday’s legislative hearing on three Sunday hunting bill. One would allow hunting on Sundays in Wildlife Management Districts 1 to 14, 17, 19, and 28. One would authorize the hunting of coyotes on Sunday. And the third would allow Sunday hunting with the landowner’s written consent. None of these are new ideas.
Only the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine testified in favor of these bills. Executive Director Dave Trahan asked the Inland Fisheries and Committee, “to authorize some Sunday hunting.” He offered several possibilities, including allowing coyote hunting from 11:59 pm on Saturday to sunrise on Sunday, Sunday hunting for waterfowl, and Sunday hunting during the muzzleloading deer season.
The lengthy list of usual Sunday hunting opponents were there to speak against all three bills, including the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, Maine Snowmobile Association, Maine Professional Guides Association, Maine Farm Bureau, and Maine Forest Products Council.
Here’s what they said
Jon Olson, executive director of The Maine Farm Bureau, reported, “I have been lobbying for the Maine Farm Bureau since the 110th Legislature back in 1981. Since then 30 Sunday hunting bills were introduced and defeated.” Jon provided the entire list. “There has been a long standing 140-year-old tradition that is unique to this great state. This tradition has maintained a successful balance between landowners and hunters.”
SWOAM’s executive director, Tom Doak, testified, “There is no single issue that would change the relationship between Maine landowners and hunters; between hunters and the general public; and between hunters themselves, than Sunday hunting. There is no single issue that would result in more loss of access to private land, for all purposes, than Sunday hunting.”
Don Kleiner, executive director of the Maine Professional Guides Association, said it’s interesting that we continue to have this debate. He spoke of the fact that the wildlife belongs to the people while they live on land of private landowners. He said sportsmen can’t afford to aggravate or alienate landowners. And for that reason, these bills need to be defeated.
Bob Meyers, of the Maine Snowmobile Association, spoke against the bills, as did Patrick Strauch of the Maine Forest Products Council. Both focused on the possible alienation of private landowners.
History Is Against Us
Maine’s Sunday hunting prohibition was first enacted on February 28, 1883. We’ve been trying to correct that mistake ever since, without success. I don’t think we’ll ever hunt on Sundays in Maine because – well, because we haven’t since 1883.
This prohibition hurts us economically. Our neighboring states of New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York all offer Sunday hunting and steal our hunters (both resident and nonresident) who like to hunt on both days of a weekend. The national hunting magazines have punished and pummeled our state for its lack of Sunday hunting.
And I’m not the only one who recognizes this problem. In 2005, when Governor John Baldacci made a serious effort to authorize Sunday hunting, the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel published an editorial, “Time for Maine to End Ban on Sunday Hunting.”
Governor Baldacci actually including Sunday hunting in his 2-year budget, but when the hearing on that proposal was scheduled, in front of the Appropriations Committee, DIF&W Commissioner Danny Martin and I, speaking for SAM, were the only proponents. Opponents included the Maine Bowhunters Association, Maine Snowmobile Association, and Maine Professional Guides Association as well as all the landowner groups.
During my 18 years at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I advocated for two initiatives that I thought held particularly great promise. One would have allowed Sunday hunting for small game in the unorganized territories. The other was the one to authorize Sunday hunting on your own land. Both bills suffered the inevitable defeats.
And here’s the rest of the problem. Sportsmen are far from united on this issue. I generally found the members of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to be divided 60-40 with 60 percent fiercely wanting Sunday hunting and 40 percent opposed for a wide range of reasons from religious to fear that landowners would post more land.
Given the consistent opposition of the powerful groups representing landowners, you could argue that we ought not to continue to push this issue. We spend most of our hunting time on land that is privately owned. So the opposition of these groups is very significant and must be respected.
Unless and until landowners agree to give hunters this special privilege, we won’t be hunting on Sundays in Maine. Ever.
The IFW Committee suspended the rules to go into work session to vote immediately after the hearing on LD 799, An Act to Stimulate the Economy and Invigorate the Hunting Industry by Establishing a Pilot Project to Allow Hunting on Sundays in Limited Areas. It went down to defeat, 9 to 1, with only Rep. Dale Crafts supporting the bill.
The three other Sunday hunting bills are scheduled for work session on April 16. I can guarantee a negative committee vote on all three:
LD 296, An Act to Increase Economic Development in Rural Communities by Expanding Hunting Opportunities;
LD 479, An Act to Allow Hunting on Sunday with the Landowner’s Written Consent;
LD 691, An Act to Allow Sunday Hunting for Coyotes in Northern Maine.