Earlier this week we published an opinion piece by Jared Bornstein, who is working with sponsors of a bill that would, if passed, allow people to hunt on private property in Maine on Sundays, so long as the hunter had written permission from the landowner.
On the surface, it would seem that LD 1033 would be a huge hit among Mainers, many of whom think that they ought to be able to recreate in any fashion they choose on land that they own. And as Bornstein points out, allowing a few more days of hunting during deer season would allow many families to make ends meet by putting some wild game meat in the freezer.
What’s not to love?
Or, if you choose, here’s your writing prompt for the day: What do you think about allowing some form of Sunday hunting here in Maine? (Respond to the email address at the end of this column and your thoughts might be included in a future column about the issue).
Before we start planning hunting adventures for Sundays during November’s deer season, it’s important to put things in perspective. Simply put, allowing Sunday hunting in Maine is an old idea. In fact, when George Smith was the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, he forwarded an annual Sunday hunting bill (or bills) to the legislature, year after year after year.
Those bills never gained traction, and were never passed.
The state’s large landowners, and the groups that lobby on their behalf, made it clear that Sunday hunting was a non-starter. Period.
I remember sitting in on a meeting with members of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine a decade ago, when one powerbroker made the situation crystal clear.
“If you try to cram Sunday hunting down the throats of landowners you’re looking at a whole new world,” Tom Doak, executive director of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, said in 2011. He explained that his membership would likely limit access to their property if such a bill was passed.
And before that — back in 2005 — I attended a public hearing on a number of prospective Sunday hunting bills. Among the groups that stepped up to testify against those bills: The Maine Bowhunters Association, The Maine Snowmobile Association, The Maine Trappers Association and The Maine Professional Guides Association.
All of those groups, you would think, would love to have the chance to hunt on Sundays.
The reality: All of those groups realized that if they pushed for Sunday hunting, they ran the real risk of losing access to the land owned by many large landowners. Not just on Sundays — every single day of the year.
Over two decades of covering the outdoors, I’ve covered all kinds of Sunday hunting initiatives. I’ve listened to the arguments of those who stress how safe hunting is, and who say that Maine is missing an opportunity that most other states already provide — the chance to spend a full weekend hunting.
Down deep, I’ve wished that I had the chance to spend a few more days — Sundays — in the woods chasing birds or deer.
But faced with the stark political reality that exists here in Maine, I’ve chosen to not push too hard for Sunday hunting.
The reason is pretty simple: I don’t own the land I hunt on. And much of the time, I depend on the generosity of large landowners — the ones who’ve always said they don’t want Sunday hunting — who provide open access to all of us.
Is this the year that attitudes change, and that the Maine legislature finally allows Sunday hunting?
Personally, I doubt it.
But what do you think? Is it time for Sunday hunting in Maine? I’m eager to hear your thoughts.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, is published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.