DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — About 100 years ago, Maine was the country’s premier hunting destination for individuals who hopped onto the trains in New York and Boston for the Northeast trek. Those journeys are well documented by the stories and photographs in history books.
Fast-forward to today and the state doesn’t even get a mention in the top hunting spots in America.
“If you were to Google the top 100 white-tail[ed] deer-hunting spots to hunt in America, Maine doesn’t even show up. We are so far behind the rest of the states that it’s just pathetic,” Jayson Allain of Dover-Foxcroft said Monday.
Allain, a Maine Guide and operator of the Outdoor Adventure Co., hopes to return the state to a hunting destination by opening and operating a European wild boar game ranch in Guilford. Toward that end, Rep. John Tuttle Jr., D-Sanford, has introduced LD 316, “An Act to Create a Large Game Shooting Area in Piscataquis County.”
Co-sponsored by Reps. Jarrod Crockett, R-Bethel, Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, Pete Johnson, R-Greenville, and Stephen Hanley, D-Gardiner, as well as Sen. Douglas Smith, R-Dover-Foxcroft, the bill will be aired at a hearing at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday before the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee at the Burton M. Cross Building in the State House complex in Augusta.
There are several game ranches in operation in Maine that offer American elk, European red deer, American bison and European wild boar, but nothing in Piscataquis County, according to Allain.
“We need to get [out-of-state hunters] thinking about Maine. Right now they don’t think about Maine to come hunt,” Allain said. “The only way you can build an industry is not to have this kind of regulation that says we’re going to create a monopoly.”
He said he hopes the bill to add a game ranch in the region will help the local economy, which has been hard hit by mill closings and reductions in force.
Allain, a semiretired IT professional, wants to fence in “several hundred” acres in Guilford for wild boar. The idea, he said, is to put the animals into an area that is controlled but let them go wild and basically procreate to create a hunting opportunity that’s different. A similar game ranch exists in Aurora, he said.
Such ranches have few problems since they are highly regulated, Allain said, adding that the industry has a good track record of controlling and regulating itself to prevent the spread of disease and in managing the herds.
“In general, hunters are conservationists; they don’t [want] the animals to disappear from the planet,” he said.
“We sit here in Dover and we try to understand how do we bring jobs to this community,” Allain added. “How do we create jobs? Well, you create jobs by doing an inventory of what your resources are, and our resources here in this county, specifically, are based around recreation.”
Rather than Maine, Allain said, hunters plan their trips to states such as Illinois, which 100 years ago had no deer but today has a well-managed white-tailed deer population. It is states such as Illinois, Texas and California that “are blowing us away” in the hunting category, he said.
The whole idea is to create an industry similar to ones they have in those other states, Allain said. The offshoot could mean more guiding jobs, filled restaurants and lodges, and more state revenue, he said.
“Let the business people try to make a living. We have to create opportunities for guides, in particular, to work [year-round],” Allain said. “We don’t want to stifle an industry, and if you can’t have a hunting industry in Piscataquis County, then you know what — we are in serious, serious trouble.”