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.

Nine bills proposed for 2015 legislative session

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 I'll be proposing nine bills for consideration in the 2015 legislative session and am currently seeking sponsors for the bills. Over the next month, in this news blog, I'll tell you more about each bill and give you a chance to express your opinions through my Sportsmen Say survey on my website.

But for now, here's the list, with a brief explanation of each bill.

Enjoy an African safari – without leaving home!

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 I’ve always wanted to visit South Africa to see all the amazing animals there, and I will probably never get there, but Vonne Martin’s new book, Southern Africa Safari, published by AuthorHouse, gives me an astonishing, spectacular, close-up look at the animals I’d hoped to see in person.

Martin has been an underwater photographer for 35 years, and this book represents her first photography adventure on land. It’ll be tough to top this, an over-sized limited edition account of her month in the grasslands of South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia.

“It is my hope that the images of the magnificent creatures inspire readers to fall in love with the different species and become involved in conservation efforts,” Martin said. “This was a labor of love and it added so much meaning to my life.”

My Maine - Changing Maine

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Maine has changed a lot in my 66 years here, but in many of the ways that count with me, it’s changed very little.

I was born a Maine sportsman, raised a Maine sportsman, and will die a Maine sportsman. My heritage is wild and native brook trout and white-tailed deer.

I didn’t need today’s Hooked-on-Fishing-Not-On-Drugs program offered by Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I became addicted to our colorful brook trout at an early age.

Hiking deep into the woods up and over the hill behind our Winthrop home, I’d drop a worm on a small hook into the cold free-flowing alder-choked heavily-shaded brook and pull out really nice trout, all of which came home for dinner.

Rebuilding Maine’s hunting economy is a tough challenge

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 While we were able to – again – defend Maine’s bear hunting industry, other types of hunting continue to decline, and we have no strategy to regain the state’s reputation for quality hunts that once attracted lots of nonresidents. Most Mainers don’t hire guides to hunt, so guides and sporting camps have always depended on nonresidents to sustain their businesses.

The decline in deer and moose populations has been devastating for businesses that depend on those game animals to bring hunters into their regions to hunt.

The challenge of reversing a 60 percent decline in Maine’s nonresident hunters was tossed to a Task Force in 2011 by the legislature. That Task Force issued its report with a list of thoughtful recommendations on January 23, 2013, after which the report was promptly shelved.

Best bucks: The Day-After-Thanksgiving Buck

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                 Dad introduced me to deer hunting on his old farm in North Wayne when I was just 12 years old and in 2013, we hunted there for the 53rd year. That’s where I shot the Day-After-Thanksgiving buck, my favorite deer hunting story. It happened about 20 years ago. I was sitting on a bucket in the woods, behind an old cemetery, and Dad was hunting his way up over a ridge from the farm, towards me.

                It was a very cold and icy day, the ground was frozen, and I heard the tromp, tromp, tromp of a deer coming from a long way off. I got the gun up, aimed for a small opening in the thicket of small fir trees, and when the deer – a huge buck – stepped into the opening, I shot.

Ezra Smith was a real make-do Mainer - and he left us a few messages

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            Every day was a great day for Ezra Smith. In the Hospice Unit at the VA’s Togus facility since April, Dad thrived, thanks to the extraordinary care of the professionals there, and even in his final weeks, when he was on ever-heavier dosages of morphine and slept a lot, when he awoke, he’d exclaim, “Well, this is a great day!”

            I have no doubt, if he could speak here today, he’d tell you, this is a great day.

            Dad asked us to thank everyone who visited, called, and wrote him during his time at Togus. Every contact meant a lot to him. And the things you brought him, in addition to yourselves, delighted him. Roland Preble’s painting – Dad out in the boat fishing. Steve Cowperthwaite’s book of poetry.

Narrow victory on bear referendum indicates trouble ahead

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                 Bear hunting and trapping advocates won another narrow victory this week, 54 percent to 46 percent. Despite polls that predicted a much bigger victory, the No on 1 campaign failed to significantly increase the margin of victory we won in 2004 on the same referendum question.

                And the no vote fell about 75,000 short of the no vote in 2004, a presidential election year with a higher turnout. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, the turnout this year was 593,000, with 313,198 voting no on 1. 734,000 voters cast ballots in 2004, with 389,455 voting no on the bear referendum and 344,322 voting yes.

                Today’s two-mornings-after analysis will focus on the lessons learned from the bear referendum.

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