George's Outdoor News

George’s new outdoor issues blog. He goes all over the state. He listens. And he reports on issues of concern to sportsmen, conservationists, and environmentalists.

Are food plots the same as baiting deer?

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 Three deer bills last week focused on deer feeding and deer baiting, opening up a lengthy discussion on both hot topics.

LD 1083 would increase the penalties for hunting deer over bait. It was sponsored by Rep. Tuell of Washington County at the request of Mike Look, a sportsman activist in that neck of the woods. The bill would establish a mandatory fine of $500 and loss of hunting license for one year for hunters convicted of baiting deer.

DIF&W’s Warden Colonel Joel Wilkinson testified in favor of the bill, reporting that the agency averages over 100 deer baiting cases per year. ”We believe that an increased mandatory fine combined with a mandatory one year license suspension will provide an adequate level of deterrent,” testified Joel.

Mike Look, as part of his testimony for the bill, handed out a very interesting report on baiting and deer feeding regulations in other states.

Deer Feeding

Deer feeding, baiting, antler restrictions, and more debated at legislature

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 It was Mike Look Day at the IFW Committee last Thursday. Mike’s a Washington County sportsman activist, known principally for his advocacy of antler restrictions on deer. Mike is President of the Downeast Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association.


And even though the committee had already heard one bill on antler restrictions, they hosted a hearing on Mike’s antler restriction bill on Thursday.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Joyce Maker of Washington County at Mike’s request. It would prohibit taking deer that do not have at least 3 tines of one inch or more along the main beam of one antler. The restrictions would only be applied in northern, eastern and western Maine.

DIFW Rejects More Money for Moose Research and Management

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Moose permits have been cut in half and nothing is being done to save moose that are being killed in big numbers by ticks, but the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife says it needs no more money for moose research and management.

That was their testimony against LD 1065, a bill sponsored at my request by Representative Peter Lyford, to dedicate all the money raised from the moose lottery and permits to research and management of moose.

While the lottery brings in as much a $3 million a year, and the sale of permits $1.5 million, the department has spent only $1.2 million on moose research in the past six years. And of course, nothing is being spent or done to save our moose from being killed by ticks.

The draft of the new 15-year moose management plan includes this goal: “Generate a stable stream of funds dedicated for moose research as it relates to the management and health of Maine’s moose.” In the agency’s “expected outcomes” draft for the plan, one goal is to “implement management actions to stabilize or decrease winter tick effects on moose mortality.”

Moose bills get some traction at legislature

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 Members of the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department have sent us mixed messages on the many moose hunting bills considered this session.

In divided votes, the following moose bills were rejected by the committee:

A bill to double the number of moose permits auctioned by DIF&W for conservation camp scholarships for kids from 10 to 20;

A bill to allow those who trade permits to include, in the transaction, some cash payment.

On the other hand, the committee endorsed some changes, including these:

A bill that allows kids under 8 years of age to apply for moose permits and accrue points, but not win a permit.

Foraging on private land without permission is illegal

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 The debate has been brutal. And we’ve learned a lot.

Turns out it’s already illegal to forage on private land without permission. So Senator Tom Saviello pulled the bill he sponsored at my request. LD 128 would have required landowner permission before we pick their mushrooms, fiddleheads, or other crops.

The bill drew a strong and angry response from people who feel entitled to do this without permission, along with news stories from London to the Wall Street Journal.

Along the way, we learned that current law prohibits foraging on public lands and in state parks, but a policy allows it on public lands, while it remains illegal in state parks.

Most recently, we were all surprised to discover that foraging is already illegal on private land without permission. You’ll find that law in Title 14, Part 7, Chapter 739, Subchapter 2: Trespass. Here’s what it says:

Brook trout bill continues to stir debate

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The effort at the legislature to extend protection of Heritage brook trout continues to stir debate, focused on disappointment with the opposition and testimony of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Today I’m sharing testimony that Gary Corson provided to the IFW Committee after the hearing. Gary was listening to the hearing online and was deeply disappointed in the department’s testimony offered by Fisheries Division Director Francis Brautigam.

Gary was the driving force behind the successful effort by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, when I was SAM’s executive director, and its Fisheries Initiative Committee to win legislative approval for SAM’s bill to name our native brook trout the state’s Heritage fish and protect them in nearly 300 waters that had never been stocked. DIF&W also opposed that bill.

Foraging Bill Angers Pickers Who Feel Entitled to Crops on Private Lands

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 My bill to require permission from landowners before we pick their mushrooms, fiddleheads, or other crops has drawn a strong and angry response from people who feel entitled to do this without permission.

Senator Tom Saviello sponsored LD 128 at my request and has taken a lot of flack for it. I have spent much of my life advocating for more respect for private landowners and better relationships between those of us who recreate on private land and the owners of that land. We’ve made a lot of progress, but still have constant complaints and problems.

It is very irritating to find that someone has grabbed the fiddleheads or mushrooms off my woodlot before I got to them. And clearly, anyone who is on my land to commercially harvest something ought to be required to have my permission.

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