EDITORIAL

Sunday Hunting Homework

Posted April 10, 2011, at 8:56 p.m.
Last modified April 11, 2011, at 5:27 a.m.

Proposals to allow Sunday hunting in Maine have been brought before the Legislature for more than half a century. The outcome always has been the same — a resounding  no.

Rather than simply repeating the failed method over and over again, proponents of changing state law to allow hunting on Sunday need to do their homework.

In 2005, then Rep. David Trahan — now a state senator — and Tom Watson, who no longer is in the Legislature, proposed a comprehensive study of the funding of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Sunday hunting was to be one aspect of the review proposed by the Waldoboro Republican and Bath Democrat. So would fees on so-called nonconsumptive users such as kayakers and game watchers.

That year, Sunday hunting was put in Gov. John Baldacci’s budget to boost revenue for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. In exchange for allowing a $3 increase in license fees to become permanent, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine convinced the governor to include Sunday hunting in his budget.

Small landowners, who had not been contacted about the proposed change, were outraged and threatened to post their land off-limits to hunting for the entire week. Many sportsmen’s groups, including associations of guides, trappers, bowhunters and snowmobilers, also objected, saying they did not want to jeopardize their relations with landowners by upsetting them.

Sunday hunting was dropped from the budget.

This scenario is likely to play out again as lawmakers begin to consider four bills to allow Sunday hunting beginning with public hearings before the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee on Monday.

LD 749 would allow Sunday hunting in northern Maine, which is not defined, for a $25 permit fee. LD 810 would allow Sunday hunting in much of the northern half of the state. LD 906 would allow statewide Sunday hunting of small game and birds. LD 910 would allow landowners to hunt on their own land, as long as the parcel is larger than 20 acres and open to the public, on Sundays.

All of these bills face the same problem as countless previous attempts to add another day of hunting. They do not adequately quantify the potential pros — more out-of-state hunters (and their dollars) coming to Maine, for example — versus the potential cons — more property posted as off-limits for the entire hunting season.

The study proposed by Mr. Trahan and Mr. Watson would have provided a way to get beyond this hurdle. Their idea is worth reviving.

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