Turkeys and Fiddleheads are up for legislative hearings on January 31

Pineland Farms veterans hunt twoThe legislature has scheduled public hearings on two of my bills on Tuesday, January 31.

LD 98, my turkey bill, will be heard by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee at 1 pm in Room 206 of the Cross Building (next to the Capitol).

LD 128, my bill to require permission to pick wild crops on private land, will be heard by the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee, also at 1 pm on January 31, in Room 214 of the Cross Building. That bill is listed third on the afternoon’s public hearing schedule, so we’ll be able to get to both hearings.

LD 128 is sponsored by Senator Tom Saviello. I have spent much of my life advocating for more respect for private landowners, and better relationships between those of us who recreate on private land and the owners of that land. We’ve made a lot of progress, but still have constant complaints and problems.

It is very irritating to find that someone has grabbed the fiddleheads or mushrooms off my woodlot before I got to them. And clearly, anyone who is on my land to commercially harvest something ought to be required to have my permission.

LD 98, sponsored by Senator Paul Davis, would eliminate the turkey hunting permit requirement and fee, allow on-line and phone tagging, and expand the bag limits to three toms in the spring season and three birds of either sex in the fall season.

I tried to eliminate the permit and fee in 2014, and believe that is going to be essential if we’re going to get more hunters to hunt turkeys. Last year DIF&W sold only 16,000 turkey hunting permits and estimated that no more than 5,000 of us hunted turkeys in the fall.

DIF&W is currently completing work on a new turkey management plan. And I am pleased to report that the goals, objectives, and strategies in the new plan support the provisions in this bill. For example, the department hopes to increase the number of turkey hunters to at least 20,000 by 2022. In my mind, that is far too modest a goal, but at least they recognize the need to get more hunters out there after turkeys.

And the easiest way to do that is to eliminate the permit and fee. That would, for example, allow our 50,000 grouse hunters to shoot a turkey if they saw one in October while hunting grouse. And really, why not?

I’m certain there will be opposition to this bill, so if you support it, please come to the hearing and let the committee know, or at the very least, let you own State Representative and Senator know.

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, georgesmithmaine.com, 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.