As a hunter in Maine for the past 40 years, I feel we have lost our way with game management.
Over the years, I have watched as the management tactics and hunting laws have changed. In 2004, I watched a few too many well-meaning Mainers be badgered into believing bears would eat their babies. Now, in 2014, we have the opportunity to right this wrong and prohibit those three cruel and unsporting practices of bear baiting, hounding and trapping.
Disturbingly, this time around, Ted Nugent has spoken out in opposition to a fair and sporting bear hunt. Nugent is from Michigan and is known for sticking his nose — and his loud and offensive mouth — in other states’ business. He has supported all sorts of unethical practices, including hunting within fenced enclosures and remote Internet hunting.
Mainers know better than to trap our animals inside fences and shoot them, so why are we the only state that still finds it acceptable to use leghold snares to trap bears and then shoot them? Mainers would never allow our majestic bears to be shot by a Michigander sitting at his computer with the click of a mouse. So why do we let affluent out-of-staters fly in and shoot our unsuspecting bears that were trained for 30 days to safely visit bait sites for calorie-dense foods?
Most of us Mainers are familiar with the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but it is broken. Our bear management sadly has gone astray. And Ted Nugent is the poster-child for how not to fix it. Nugent illegally baited deer in California and illegally killed a bear in Alaska.
Humans have always looked out for humans and their interests. That’s what puts us at the top of the food chain. In my estimation, being at the top comes with responsibility. Humans have a proven track record of egotism when it comes to wildlife and the environment.
Our bears are severely mistreated: chased by packs of dogs, caught in painful and indiscriminate traps and lured to their death with pastries and fryolator grease. Our environment is abused by the bear baiting industry, which dumps 7 million pounds of human waste foods into our woods every year. Starting July 26, our woods will be flooded with junk food so out-of-staters without the skills needed for real hunting can pay to take pot shots at our Maine bears.
Instead of looking to the environment for survival, humans have put a monetary value on the environment and have created a market. My point is that game animals — bears, deer and moose, for example — are not commodities. They are wild creatures living on the same planet as we live, trying to survive just as we do. Our bears deserve a fair chase with a chance at survival, just as our deer and moose.
Our bears certainly deserve to be treated with more respect than the famously anti-fair chase poacher Ted Nugent has ever shown.
I’ve hunted bear in Maine for the last 25 years, taking as many bears in that time. I know the woods well and am a skilled enough tracker to find a bear when I want rather than relying on lazy and cruel tactics.
Join me in helping restore fair chase to our bear hunt by voting yes on Question 1 in November.
Joel Gibbs is an expert at scouting and tracking. He is a master electrician with four children and several grandchildren. He went to high school in Brewer and graduated from the University of Maine in 1983.
An earlier version of this OpEd erroneously stated that Ted Nugent had been selected as a spokesman for the campaign opposing the ban on bear baiting, hounding and trapping.