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.

My favorite fishing adventures

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I’ve been blessed with many great fishing adventures, primarily in Montana, Alaska, Quebec and Labrador. Of course, most of my fishing time is spent in Maine, where I began as a young boy hauling home buckets of white perch, eventually moving on to catch great brook trout and landlocked salmon in the rivers in the Rangeley region, and, after we purchased our camp on Sourdnahunk Lake, focusing on our native and wild trout in and around Baxter Park, while catching lots of smallmouth bass in waters around our home in Mount Vernon.

Montana

In this column, I’m going to tell you about my favorite fishing adventures, starting in Montana, where Maine native Joe Sowerby owns Montana Fly Fishing Connection. Joe is my favorite fishing guide, and anytime I could sign up for a conference in Montana, I did it, staying after the conference concluded to fish with Joe.

Turkeys are bigger problems than geese

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 The Big Game Steering Committee joins me in thinking we need to harvest a lot more turkeys. At the January 5 Steering Committee meeting, Don Kleiner of the Maine Professional Guides Associatoin said, “I worry that this (plan) is not enough – that the turkey population will continue to increase and be like the goose problem.”

Tom Doak of the Maine Woodland Owners quickly responded, “We’re already at the goose problem level with turkeys!”

And while DIF&W debates how to increase the number of turkey hunters, Doak asked, “If we want to reduce the population why don’t we increase the bag limit. That’s easier and more likely than increasing the number of hunters.”

Spring bear hunt may be restored in Maine

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 PHOTO: Jen Vashon, DIF&W wildlife biologist. John Holyoke photo, Bangor Daily News.

There are lots of issues – and some controversial decisions – in the new management plans for deer, bear, moose, and turkeys. A Big Game Steering Committee is working actively with DIF&W’s Wildlife Division staff to complete draft plans which will then go to the public for comment. DIF&W’s Commissioner has final authority to approve the plans.

Here’s a look at some of the issues with the new bear management plan discussed at the January 4 Steering Committee meeting. I will also post report soon on the discussion and issues in the deer, moose, and turkey plans.

Bears

Fisheries Steering Committee frustrated with process to date

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Members of DIF&W’s Fisheries Steering Committee are frustrated with the lack of progress in preparation of new fisheries management plans. While the new big game management plans are nearing completion, the Fisheries Division staff has not even completed the initial assessments of each species, never mind the new 15-year management plans.

From my point of view, the fisheries planning process is deeply flawed. For each big game animal, a special steering committee of individuals representing a variety of groups was organized to work with the Wildlife Division staff in preparation of draft management plans. Both the initial assessments and the draft management plans then went to a larger Steering Committee, which has been actively engaged in the preparation of the final plans.

Moose hunters compared to gangs with guns in Somalia

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 It’s often helpful to take a look back, before moving forward. In April of 1998, Roberta Scruggs, at that time the outdoor writer for the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, wrote this story, titled Law Clarified, and Hunters Ride in Peace.

It wasn’t his 30 years as a Maine master guide that earned Greig “Butch” Barker of Medway his spot in Maine hunting history. And he certainly didn’t seek or enjoy his moment of fame.

“I am very bitter,” Barker said last week. “And you can quote me on that.”

But Barker and nine others – I think of them as the Aroostook 10 – did Maine hunters a real service. Because of them, an important law was recently clarified. It’s now safe for hunters to ride the roads again – as long as their weapons are unloaded.

“It’s illegal to have a loaded firearm in a vehicle. Period,” said Senator Marge Kilkelly, D-Wiscasset.

From Sunday hunting to fisheries management, the legislature will tackle it all.

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                 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.

Sunday Hunting

New Big Game Plans Draw Plenty of Questions

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 The Big Game Steering Committee is really engaged in the creation of new management plans for moose, deer, bears, and turkeys. At the committee meeting on January 5, members asked many questions of the professional staff of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and provided them with lots of advice.

The committee and agency are nearing completion of the plans which will then go out to you – the public – for comment. I expect that opportunity to be offered sometime in February or early March.

By comparison, new fisheries plans are way behind schedule. The Fisheries Steering Committee hasn’t even received the initial assessments of each fish species, the first step in this process, with draft plans following. I doubt those plans will be ready for public review before the end of 2017.

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