ATVs, Handguns, Deer, Turkeys and more debated at legislature

The legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee always has a bunch of interesting bills and issues to debate. Yesterday was typical, with issues ranging from ATVs to handguns to deer and turkey hunts. Here’s what happened.

Two bills that would limit the size of ATVs allowed on trails were heard. One bill would also increase the ATV registration fee, and that got a lot of support in testimony, including from guides and ATV groups.

Following the hearing on those two bills, work sessions were held on 5 bills. A bill to double the turkey bag limit was tabled, awaiting more information from DIF&W on their plans which may include increased bag limits in some WMDs.

A bill to increase penalties for feeding or otherwise interfering with endangered species was tabled, and will be discussed again later. It includes substantial increases in fines for feeding endangered species, and the committee asked for more specific information on that, fearing it might impact people who feed other wild animals legally.

A bill to remove the background check requirement for Maine guides who are at least 70 years old and hold a lifetime hunting or fishing license was unanimously approved by the committee.

A lengthy discussion was held on a bill to allow moose permits to be transferred to family members if the permit holder dies. Bill Swan of DIF&W told committee members that his department has done this in the past. But Senator Paul Davis argued strongly that this should be in law, and those permits should be considered part of a person’s estate. The committee was favorable to the proposal, but tabled the bill so they could see the wording in the final amendment, which essentially would direct the permit to a “qualified family member.”

A bill to create a handgun deer hunting season at the same time as the muzzleloading season got a unanimous ought-not-to-pass vote.

The committee also reviewed language in 3 other bills that they previously approved. One will authorize crossbows to be used for 3 years in the regular archery hunting deer season, although only crossbow hunters who had an any-deer permit could shoot antler-less deer. Crossbows would also be allowed in the expanded archery season. The use of crossbows in archery season has been a contentious issue for years, always strongly opposed by the Maine Bowhunters Association, which also opposed it this year.

Another bill that was approved will give DIFW’s Commissioner authority to create a special youth turkey hunt sometime in the fall.

The IFW Committee will meet tomorrow (Wednesday) to work on 5 more bills, and will also get a briefing on DIFW’s new budget by Commissioner Judy Camuso. On Thursday, the Appropriations Committee will host a hearing on DIFW’s new budget.

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.