Deer baiting debated again at Maine legislature

Deer baiting is being debated again at the legislature. And that is a good thing.
Last year the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee supported legislation that called for loss of hunting privileges for one year when convicted of deer baiting, and loss of hunting privileges for two years for a second offense.

But Governor LePage refused to sign the bill into law until the legislature amended it to take away hunting privileges for life for the second offense. And they did that. That was ridiculous, in my opinion.

So we should be grateful to Senator Paul Davis for sponsoring a bill this session to restore the original bill, calling for loss of hunting privileges for two years for the second deer baiting offense.

Maine’s deer baiting law is confusing. It is legal to bait deer, if you plant a crop that will bring deer to that spot, and hunt there. But you can’t harvest that crop and put it someplace else to entice deer to that location.

So while it is legal bait deer, it is illegal to move the bait. It is also legal to put out scents that will bring a deer to you.

I am not defending deer baiting, because I prefer hunting deer without using bait or scents, and I’ve certainly shot my share of deer, including a number of big bucks, without using bait or scents.

But it would make more sense to simply allow bait to be used any place any way rather than the confusing law we now have. Let’s be honest here, many hunters use bait to bring in a deer, legally.

When he introduced the bill at the public hearing yesterday, Senator Davis noted that the penalties for hunting deer at night are tougher than the penalties for baiting. “It is vital that the punishment fit the crime,” he said. “In this case it does not.”

Rep. Tom Skofield, a cosponsor of the bill, said he’d heard that wardens are hesitating to charge hunters for baiting deer because they were concerned that the hunters would lose their opportunity to hunt for their entire lifetime.

Rep. Russell Black, another cosponsor of the bill, advocated for allowing baiting, noting that you can fill up a field with deer bait, legally, but carry a pail of apples into the woods and you’re in violation of the law. He also said, “we need more hunters, not less hunters.” That is certainly the truth as the number of hunters in Maine has significantly declined over the years.

SAM’s David Trahan also testified for the bill, as did I.

DIFW Deputy Commissioner Tim Peabody spoke in favor of the bill, although he advocated for taking away your hunting privileges for three years for the second offense. Apparently the governor would support that.

As soon as the hearing was finished, the committee went into a work session and Rep. Steve Wood offered a motion in favor of the bill, which includes only a two-year suspension of your hunting privileges for a second offense of the deer baiting law – the same thing the committee supported last year.

We all expect the governor to veto the bill, but one committee member noted that when you start worrying about the governor’s vetoes, you’re in trouble. Rep Bob Duchesne, the House Chair of the IFW Committee, predicted that if the governor did veto the bill it would easily be overridden this time.

The vote in favor of the bill was unanimous and it will now go to the House and Senate for action. I predict they won’t need any bait get this enacted.

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.