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.

Sportsmen proposing three Constitutional amendments this legislative session

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 The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine will focus a lot of attention this legislative session on bills to protect hunting, keep wildlife issues off the ballot, and change the way signatures are gathered for ballot initiatives.

SAM’s Executive Director, David Trahan, told me he hopes to pull all sportsmen together in support of the three bills, something that didn’t happen when the same bills were debated at the last legislative session.

Representative Steve Wood is sponsoring two of the Constitutional amendments. One would prohibit citizen ballot initiatives on wildlife issues. The other would establish and protect the right to hunt.

Warden Buuck shoots injured buck.

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 Two young local fellas stopped their truck beside Linda and me on Tuesday as we were out for a walk, and asked if they could park in our driveway to access nearby Hopkins Pond where they enjoy ice fishing. We said sure and told them to park beside the garage at the very end of the driveway, and continued walking.

A few minutes later they drove back and asked if we knew there was an injured deer in our wood shed. Well, no we didn’t!

They said the young buck had an injured hind leg and was in bad shape, unable to walk. So I hurried back to the house, where they joined me, and took a look. It was a good thing they’d pulled up at the end of the driveway, because we never would have seen that deer, down behind a mound of snow at the end of our driveway.

Turkey populations are out of control

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 As I write this column, a dozen turkeys are poking around in the snow on our front lawn. And some people think we are harvesting too many turkeys! I think I should have been able to go out and shoot one of them for lunch.

Ok, I’m just kidding. But the last Big Game Steering Committee meeting was an eye-opener, with more than an hour devoted to turkeys. First of all, we don’t even know how many turkeys we have in Maine. The discussion led to an objective to “develop and implement a reliable system to estimate population.”

I am very skeptical they have the staff to do this, but as Nate Webb of DIF&W’s Wildlife Division said, there is good research available from other states to help them estimate Maine’s populations. Webb’s notes from the last meeting reported the Steering Committee’s questioning of whether it makes sense to have an objective of stabilizing the turkey population when we cannot accurately estimate that population.

“Just One More Thing, Doc” by Bradford B. Brown, DVM

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After reading Brad Brown’s first book, While You’re Here, Doc, I couldn’t wait to dive into his second, Just One More Thing, Doc.

And sure enough, just like his first book, once I began reading, I couldn’t stop, racing through the non-stop astonishing stories of Brown’s career as a veterinarian, focused on farm animals.

In his first book, Brown was trampled, dragged, mauled, and more by farm animals, especially horses. And the beatings continue in book two.

What were Maine sportsmen and women doing in 2007? A lot!

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 I’ve been going through my collection of issues of the SAM News, and was delighted to find the very first issue published in January, 1976, the year before I joined SAM. I left a collection in the SAM office when I ended my service as executive director, but also kept a collection for myself.

Believing it is always helpful to look back, especially given the challenges we face today, here’s what I learned from the SAM News published in the fall of 2007.

Time to make wild game dinners legal – and taking crops without permission on private land illegal

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While the Warden Service looks the other way and often participates in them, it is illegal in Maine to charge people for a wild game dinner. Sportsmen’s clubs, Unity College, and even some churches serve wild game dinners and charge for them, but generally report that they charge for the “social hour” before dinner and then provide the dinner for free.

I hate it when we have to do things like this to enjoy something that should be ok. So I’ve proposed legislation this session to make these dinners legal. Senator Tom Saviello will sponsor the bill.

Senator Saviello is also sponsoring my bill to require landowner permission to pick crops on private land, such as mushrooms and fiddleheads. This bill will go to the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee. That committee worked on similar legislation last year, focused on those who pick crops commercially on private land without permission, but failed to support that proposal.

New deer plan sure to be controversial

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 Working for 18 years for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I learned how difficult it is to bring us all together and keep  us there. We often have very diverse and different opinions. And when  you mix us in with the public, it gets even more difficult. So it’s going to be interesting to see what kind of support – and participation – DIF&W gets as it creates new big game management plans.

The current draft of the deer plan includes some very interesting – and sure to be controversial – goals, objectives, and strategies. Today we’ll take a look at some of these.

Goal: Maintain the deer population below biological carrying capacity while providing hunting and viewing opportunity.

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