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.

Maine needs a bare knuckled bear debate

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The only way we’ll get a real debate about bear hunting and trapping is to clear the room of reporters and moderators and let the two sides go at each other – a bare knuckled bear debate.

Otherwise, we’re going to get the standard questions and the rote memorized answers – and Maine voters won’t know any more about bear hunting and trapping when the campaign ends than they do today – which is next to nothing, judging from the questions people are asking me.

Here’s how it might go. To make this simple, we’ll call those opposed to the referendum the Opponents, and those who support the referendum the Supporters. Each side would get five minute opening statements and then we’d get right into it.

While the opening statements are being delivered, you can get your beer and snacks. You’ve already heard those statements, boiled down to 30 second TV ads.

Hounding and Trapping Threaten to End Maine’s Bear Hunt

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Few Mainers hunt bears with hounds and even fewer trap bears. But the decision by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and other sportsmen’s groups to reject an offer that would have avoided this year’s difficult referendum on bear hunting and trapping gambled our one and only effective means of keeping bear populations in check: hunting over bait.

The Humane Society of the United States made the offer last spring during the legislative session, telling the leaders of Maine’s sportsmen’s groups that they would not take bear hunting to referendum if their proposal to ban bear hounding and trapping was enacted. SAM and the other groups quickly rejected the offer, calling it extortion.

That rejection was a real gamble. Without question, if this referendum was just about baiting, our campaign would be a lot easier. In fact, there probably wouldn’t have been a referendum at all.

Paid outdoor recreation – including hunting - on farms brings promising profits to farmers

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Outdoor recreational opportunities on the Nation’s privately-owned farm, ranch and woodlands, which comprise nearly three-fourths of our land area, are virtually unlimited.

Many farmers and landowners have already found recreation to be a new and profitable crop. Land formerly in grain is now meeting the needs of fisherman, hunters, campers, hikers, and others who seek the out-of-doors.

The new farm enterprises range from a few acres for picnicking and camping to watershed lakes of several hundred acres. The crops harvested include fish, duck, mink, muskrat, pheasants and quail. The recreational areas established are ideal for swimming, camping, boating, hiking, and nature study.

75 Years of Fly Fishing, Family, and Friends

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The only thing better than reading Burt Anderson’s new book, My Life on the Fly, full of wonderful stories, is to hear those stories first hand, sitting in his living room overlooking Parker Pond in Mount Vernon. That’s what I was doing for three hours yesterday, and it was a real privilege.

I was astonished to hear that Burt wrote the book two years ago while in the hospital, using a pencil and yellow legal pad. That’s how I started my writing career, 30 years ago!

Dr. Burton C. “Burt” Anderson had a long and illustrious career at Dupont, publishing many scientific papers and registering lots of patents. He’s a very smart guy! And his wife Joan is charming, a church organist – who made my day by inviting me back for a hymn sing.

Lyme Disease Changes Maine’s Deer Discussion

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For more than a century, Maine deer have been managed for maximum populations that benefit deer hunters. But Lyme disease is changing the discussion, and is likely to force Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to reduce deer populations in coastal, southern, and central Maine – even while they struggle to rebuild deer populations in western and northern Maine.

As Mainers, concerned about Lyme disease, demand a reduction – or even the elimination of deer in their neighborhoods – DIF&W will be challenged, partly because hunting with guns is unwelcome in many of the places with the highest populations of deer. And of course, lots of land throughout the state is now posted and unavailable to hunters.

In 1997, a sharpshooter was paid to kill 52 of the estimated 70 deer on Monhegan Island, and two years later, Peaks Island voted to hire a sharpshooter. He killed 172 deer in February, 2000, in just five days.

Eliot Cutler’s Promises to Maine Sportsmen

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Today we take a look at Eliot Cutler’s promises to sportsmen, made in his 2014 candidate questionnaire of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. Cutler added an extensive amount of comments for nearly every SAM question, and I will give you some of those comments in this report.

DIF&W Funding

Probably the most important question involves public funding for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, so let’s start there. SAM provided a bit of background on the issue – focusing on the fact that sportsmen pay all the bills while the public receives millions of dollars of services from the agency. Game wardens, for example, spend about half their time on police – not wildlife – work. The survey asked candidates if they would support a Constitutional amendment that allocated General Fund tax dollars to DIF&W, a straight General Fund appropriation, or something else.

Mike Michaud's Promises to Maine Sportsmen

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It’s not all about bears. Yes, Maine voters will decide the fate of bear baiting, hounding, and trapping on November 4, and we all have a stake in that decision. But we’re also electing a new legislature, governor, two members of Congress and one U.S. Senator, and deciding a few important bond issues, including one that is critical to all of us who spend time outside. I will be writing about all of these campaigns and issues between now and November 4, focusing on what is at stake for those of us who hunt, fish, and care about conservation and the environment.

Gubernatorial candidates Mike Michaud and Eliot Cutler have given me their 2014 candidate questionnaires of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the only major statewide organization of sportsmen that quizzes the candidates, gives them grades, and usually makes endorsements. So the SAM survey is very important, and the candidates put a lot of thought into their answers.

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