Wardens declare wild game dinners legal

In response to Senator Tom Saviello’s determined effort to straighten out confusion over the legality of wild game dinners, the Maine Warden Service has issued a written memo stating that “it is legal to host a wild game dinner” if four conditions are followed.

Senator Saviello sponsored a bill this session, at my request, to make wild game dinners legal. DIF&W opposed the bill, but some IFW Committee members kept the issue alive, and Senator Saviello even got it as far as a committee of conference, essentially a meeting between House and Senate members to work on language that both bodies could support.

The conference committee created an amendment to the bill that led to the memo issued this week by the Warden Service. Clearly, DIF&W preferred to clarify this issue without putting it in statute. And that is fine by me.

Here is the Warden Service Memo, issued on June 5 by Major Chris Cloutier, and provided to all game wardens.

DIF&W Memorandum

To: All Wardens

From: Major Chris Cloutier

CC: Colonel Joel Wilkinson

Date: 06/05/2017

Re: Game Dinners

Each year the Department is approached by various groups seeking to host “Wild Game Dinners” where, bear, deer, moose, and wild turkey are served as part of the event. Per Title 12 Section 11217 – “Buying and Selling Wild Animals and Wild Birds”, the sale of bear, deer, moose, and wild turkey meat is specifically prohibited. To provide a consistent message and clarity, the Department has determined that it is legal to host a “Wild Game Dinner” if the following conditions are adhered to:

  • All bear, deer, moose, and wild turkey served at the event must have been lawfully killed and registered, and must have been labeled and packaged per current state law.
  • If there is a fee to attend the event, this fee is only for admission to the event, it is not for purchasing deer, bear, moose or wild turkey meat.
  • All deer, bear, moose or wild turkey meat offered at the event must be immediately cooked and consumed on the premises.
  • The person or entity who donated the deer, bear, moose or wild turkey meat does not have a financial interest in the event. If the group hosting the wild game dinner deviates from the above listed conditions, then they would potentially be in violation of State law and enforcement action should be taken as appropriate. As always, if you have questions please contact your supervisor.


Unity College got into a bit of trouble this spring at its annual wild game dinner by auctioning off packages of wild game meat. This will not be allowed in the future.

But the sponsors of all those wild game dinners around the state may now continue those wonderful events, with assurance that they are legal. Thank you Senator Saviello!

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.