Hunters need to respect landowners

Posted Nov. 09, 2009, at 9:17 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:27 p.m.

Some Maine hunters are fortunate enough to own a sizeable parcel of land, and can hunt the entire month of November on their own “back 40,” searching for that elusive buck.

Others don’t have that luxury, and must depend on the generosity of landowners who allow them access to prime hunting land.

Key word: Generosity.

It is not a right to utilize someone else’s land, after all. It’s a privilege. Sadly, some Maine hunters don’t see it that way. Others recognize the fact that they’re being offered a great opportunity to enjoy someone else’s land, but take advantage of that privilege by behaving in ways that may cost us dearly in the long run.

Late last week I spoke with Maine Game Warden Jim Fahey, who asked me to put in a short plug he hopes will aid in landowner relations.

Boiled down to its essence, Fahey’s message is pretty simple: If you don’t own the land, don’t act like you do.

Fahey said some hunters step over the line, particularly when they start grooming a hunting area to their own particular tastes.

“If there is going to be any significant cutting of trees to make shooting lanes, they should be on the same page with the landowner,” Fahey said. “Pruning of limbs that may be in the hunter’s way is pretty common practice, pretty well accepted. But the removal of an actual tree, cutting off at the stump, would be something that [the hunter] would want to be mindful of, because it may not be in line with how the land is being managed.”

Even small landowners often harvest trees from their land, and larger land management companies — many of which have an open-access policy that benefits recreational users — may have more detailed harvest plans.

Therefore, where a hunter may see a tree as an obstacle to be eliminated, the landowner may see the same tree as a future money-maker.

“With the commercial operations, some of the land companies statewide may be managing a particular ridge for a certain hardwood species, whether it’s yellow birch or sugar maple, and to lose any number of those trees that they’re managing is a loss to the company,” Fahey said.

Fahey pointed out that in organized towns, hunters need either written or verbal landowner permission to erect and use tree stands.

But permission to put up a stand isn’t permission to cut down trees, he cautioned.

Another popular practice that Fahey cautions against seems less intrusive, until hunters look at the situation through the eyes of a landowner.

“[Hunters shouldn’t insert] objects into the trunks of trees, whether it’s to climb and access the stand itself or to secure the tree platform of the stand, or to place hooks to hang a bow and arrow, to hang a knapsack or whatever,” Fahey said. “You have to have permission to do those things.”

Fahey said hunters may assume they’re doing no damage to the trees. He says he has heard that’s not the case.

“The foresters have pointed out, you go and insert objects into a tree, it may not kill that tree but it goes from being a saw log to a piece of pulp,” Fahey said. “That injection injury affects the wood quality down the road.”

The crux of the issue, Fahey said, is that keeping good relationships with landowners, including some of the state’s largest timber companies, is in the best interests of everyone who enjoys access to those parcels of land.

“With all the privately owned land in Maine, we can’t afford to lose any hunting ground, and consequently hunting opportunity,” Fahey said. “The landowner relations aspect, more than ever, needs to be stressed and emphasized, to ensure access for us, for our kids and our grandkids.”

Good food for thought on a Tuesday morning.

Time to eat!

So, you haven’t filled your deer tag after the first full week of the firearms season.

No need to fret. There is, after all, a bright side: You get to attend another hunter’s meal this weekend!

OK. Maybe that’s pushing the “bright side” envelope (especially since the folks who organize hunter’s breakfasts and suppers will gladly serve you even if you’re not heading into the woods on a given Saturday).

Either way, here are a couple eating options that have been recently reported to us here at the BDN:

— In Ripley, the Ripley Methodist Church will host a baked bean supper from 5-6:30 p.m. on Saturday. Also on the menu: hot dogs, chop suey, brown bread and gingerbread. Admission is by donation.

— In Brewer, the Penobscot County Conservation Association will host a breakfast at the North Main Street clubhouse from 4-9 a.m. on Nov. 21. Adults pay $6 while kids pay just $3. Proceeds are used to fund college scholarships and youth conservation camp scholarships.

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