The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine has proposed seven legislative bills governing turkeys, bears, shooting ranges, hunting near hiking trails, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, and sales taxes.
I read about these bills in the January/February SAM News. Here is a summary of their bills.
SAM’s bill would expand the fall turkey hunt to match the ruffed grouse season and expand the fall bag limit from two birds of either sex to six of either sex. Last year Maine hunters tagged only 3,506 turkeys in the fall. Very few actually hunt turkeys in the fall.
I’ve proposed to eliminate the turkey hunting permit fee, substantially increase the bag limit both the spring and fall, and eliminate the requirement that you tag every turkey. I suggested that hunters could simply let the department know at the end of the season how many turkeys they killed. That’s what we do for ducks.
SAM has two bear bills. One would give the commissioner authority to annually set the bag limit and harvest methods for bears. They would also restrict the department from eliminating a method of harvesting bears. I suspect they want to expand the limit from one bear to two bears for hunters.
A second bill will allow online or phone tagging for bears in Maine’s unorganized territories, saving bear hunters from the need to travel several hours from the deep woods to a tagging station.
This bill would close a loophole in current law that was enacted a few years ago in an attempt to protect shooting ranges. SAM noted that a recently passed amendment to the laws governing the discharge of firearms which previously prohibited the discharge within 300 feet of an occupied dwelling, now prohibits a discharge within 300 feet of any building. That means someone with land within 300 feet of a shooting range could simply put up a small shed and shut down the range.
This bill would exempt firearm safety devices, like safes, from the sales tax, and also allow a $250 optional tax credit for those devices. The goal is to encourage the safe storage of firearms.
It is illegal to have a loaded firearm within 300 feet on either side of a marked hiking trail on public reserves lands. That means for every marked hiking trail it is illegal to hunt in the 600 foot corridor for the entire length of the trail. SAM says. “This law may be appropriate on some busy hiking trails, but there are places where hunting should be allowed.” Their bill would create an exemption to this provision that allows trails on public reserve lands to include hunting where appropriate and establish a new sign saying “hunting trails designation.”
Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund
The Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund was created to provide funding for outdoor recreation and habitat projects. Lots of nonprofit groups apply for grants every year. SAM is unhappy that in recent years state agencies have gotten many of the grants for themselves, something SAM calls poaching by the state agencies who have commissioners serving on the MOHF board. SAM’s bill would prohibit state agencies from receiving money from this fund.