Legislators have filed nearly 2000 bills this session, and there’s a lengthy list of proposals that will be of interest – and concern – to sportsmen and women and all others who enjoy the outdoors. We only have titles and sponsors so far (no details) but the titles often give us a good idea of what’s being proposed.
As soon as we begin to get completed bills, hearings will be scheduled on them, and I will write about those. Here’s a quick look at some of the more interesting and provocative bills.
Hope springs eternal. There are 8 Sunday hunting bills. One would allow owners of more than 25 acres that is open to the public to hunt on Sundays. My final effort to win some Sunday hunting opportunities was the same bill. And of course, it failed.
A similar bill would allow Sunday hunting by landowners and with landowner permission, and another would allow Sunday hunting on private land only.
Another bill would allow federal migratory birds to be hunted on Sunday, while one would allow deer hunting on Sunday with the landowner’s written permission and a positive vote by the town. Another would allow bird hunting with shotguns only on Sundays, while a similar bill would allow bird hunting on Sundays only in Aroostook County and the Unorganized Townships of western Maine.
The first serious Sunday hunting bill I submitted, on behalf of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, called for Sunday hunting in the lands managed by North Maine Woods. NMW supported our bill, but it still failed. By the next session, NMW had changed its position and no longer supported Sunday hunting.
There are quite a few deer bills, including one to establish antler restrictions. Downeast hunting activist Mike Look published a column in the January/February issue of the SAM News about antler restrictions, something he has been championing for several years. For sure, Mike will be there to advocate for this.
One bill prohibits feeding deer until December 15, while another moves in the opposite direction, removing the prohibition on deer baiting by hunters.
There’s a bill to change the process for distributing any-deer permits, and another that would allow owners of 25 acres of more of land that is open to the public to shoot any deer without a special permit.
One bill would allow senior hunters to shoot antlerless deer, and another would allocate 10% of the any-deer permits available in each WMD to hunters 70 years of age or older. Twenty five percent of the any-deer permits currently go to junior hunters, 25 percent to landowners, 15 percent to nonresidents, and 2.5 percent to Superpack licensees. Less than 1/3 are therefore available for adult hunters. So allocating another 10 percent to seniors probably won’t be a very popular idea.
There are seven moose bills. One is my proposal, sponsored by Representative Denise Harlow, to dedicate the money raised from the moose lottery and sale of permits to moose research and management. Representative Peter Lyford has submitted a similar bill. I expect the two bills will be combined.
Another bill would increase the number of moose auction tags to 20. Representative Peter Lyford is sponsoring a moose bill that would eliminate subpermittees on moose hunting permits (to keep 2 and 3 year olds out), and eliminate cow moose hunts (as they may be pregnant).
Other Interesting Bills
There are surprisingly few fisheries bills, and five of them are my own proposals to create a Hatchery Commission, simplify the fishing rules, extend fall fishing opportunities, protect spawning areas for our native and wild brook trout, and add waters to the State’s Heritage Fish list.
Rep. Bryan Hubbell has submitted a very interesting and provocative fisheries bill. An Act Related to Management and Stocking of Inland Fisheries is a “concept draft” to reorganize the fisheries division so that it matches the organizational structure of the wildlife division including combining all fisheries managers under one roof, presumably in Augusta.
Rep. Hubbell’s bill would also create a 5-year sunset provision on all fisheries management rules and all stocking plans, meaning they would have to be reconsidered and reenacted every five years.
There’s a bill to allow hunters whose religious beliefs prohibit them from wearing hunter orange to instead wear red clothing. Reminds me of the bill last session to allow female hunters to wear pink instead of orange. That didn’t pass nor do I expect the red proposal to be enacted. It’s simply a matter of safety.
The only turkey bill is mine. It would eliminate turkey hunting permits and fees, expand bag limits, and create an online opportunity to register harvested turkeys.
One of the more controversial bills will be the one that would eliminate the authority of game wardens to violate the hunting and fishing laws when carrying out their duties. This became a huge issue after a Portland Press Herald series on an undercover warden operation in Aroostook County, and the Warden Service actually announced, afterwards, that it would no longer use those tactics. It will be interesting to see if DIF&W supports this bill.
There is a bunch of bills on ATVs and snowmobiles. Lots of gun bills too, including one that would require background checks on all private sales of firearms. Yes, that issue is not going away, despite the vote last November.
Plenty to keep us busy until the legislature adjourns in June!