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.

You probably haven’t heard, but major outdoor issues are before the legislature

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 And they’re off! Despite the anger, dysfunction, and confusion in Augusta, some significant issues will be discussed at the 2016 session of the Maine legislature. And I’m not talking about welfare, taxes, or Medicaid expansion, although they are all up for debate.

I’m talking about hunting, fishing, and other outdoor issues and I’ll be there to report on the issues before the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee along with a few others of interest to those who enjoy the outdoors (and really, that is most of us).

Representative Bob Duchesne joins the IFW Committee this session as its House chair. Bob is a great legislator who served 4 terms, was term-limited out, and has now returned. I’m excited that he’s stepped up to take on this important assignment. We will miss Rep. Mike Shaw, who was the House chair of the IFW Committee and a very good legislator. Mike resigned his seat at the end of the 2015 session to focus on his family. He has two young children and you can’t argue with Mike’s priorities.

Maine’s deer hunters disappeared along with the deer

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 Thirty eight years ago, when Linda and I moved to Mount Vernon, opening day of the firearms season on deer would find the woods of Mount Vernon full of hunters. Some mornings it sounded, from the shots, like a war zone. These days, the woods are quiet on opening day and throughout the season, with just an occasional shot. And I don’t see the vehicles parked along every rural road like I used to.

Gerry Lavigne, the veteran deer biologist at DIF&W who is now retired, used to do his own calculation of hunter numbers each year, sorting through the various licenses to count each hunter only once. Part of the problem with only looking at total sales is that some hunters purchase more than one license (archers and gun hunters, for example).

Gerry estimated that 1981 was the peak year for sales of hunting licenses, with 197,697. Sales dropped by 22 percent to 154,808 in 1997 and stuck there. The average the following decade was 156,620, according to Lavigne. The loss of nonresident hunters was particularly worrisome.

"Ghost Buck" is a fascinating look at one family's hunting legacy

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 I’ve been eagerly anticipating Dean Bennett’s book of hunting stories, ever since he told me last year he was writing it. But Ghost Buck, published by Islandport Press, turned out to be even better than I expected, the series of great hunting stories interwoven with a history of the western Maine towns of Greenbush and Locke Mills and Dean’s family who lived there for generations. The hunting stories all came from the family’s camp in Greenbush, just a few miles from the house where Dean was born.

Fishing in Maine’s rule book is a frustrating experience

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                 I accepted the challenge to choose favorite waters in the new 2016 Maine fishing rule book, and try to find the applicable rules. I selected Nesowadnehunk Lake and Stream, and the Kennebec River, and pretended I had never fished there. I have owned a camp on Nesowadnehunk Lake for many years, but for the purposes of this exercise, I pretended this would be my first year of fishing there.

                I am writing this in narrative form mostly for my own amusement, with apologies. I am sure you will get my drift, and recognize the difficulty encountered by any angler who is trying to discover the rules governing a lake, pond, river, stream, or brook with which he or she is unfamiliar. Even experienced anglers would have difficulty finding their favorite waters and the applicable rules in this rule book.

Maine’s new fishing rule book is complicated and confusing

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 “Our code of Fish and Game Laws is complicated, unfair and in some places contradictory. It really makes lawbreakers unknowingly owing to its uncertain phrasing and its complex rulings. What Maine needs is a simple code, easily understood and practically universal in scope. The law should treat all parts of the state with equality and must do away with sectional selfishness and spite legislation.”

This statement by Robert Maxcy, a well known sportsman and prominent Maine businessman, was published in 1928. My, how things have not changed!

Last year Representative Matt Pouliot of Augusta sponsored, at my request, legislation to create a Commission, organized by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and led by Maine’s nonprofit organizations, to constantly review hunting and fishing laws and rules and make recommendations to simplify, clarify, or eliminate them. Our proposal included annual surveys of anglers and hunters on key issues.

The Unstinking Pigs Were Running Loose

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 In 1985, my daily newspaper trumpeted a story about loose pigs in Mount Vernon. This was my response, in a letter-to-the-editor.

                Yes indeed, we’ve gone hog wild out here in Mount Vernon. It is always gratifying to know our daily newspaper is taking a real interest in local affairs out this way, and we’re glad you appreciated the serious nature of our problem, placing it on the front page of your January 18 edition.

                The headline, “Wild Hogs Cause Stink,” was somewhat incorrect, however, because pigs do not stink. They’re very neat and clean actually. But you city slickers wouldn’t be expected to know that.

What can you shoot and when can you shoot it?

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 This is the first in a series that will answer the questions: What can you shoot and when can you shoot it?

Are those greedy gray squirrels crowding the birds out of your bird feeders? Well, you’ve got just one day left in the squirrel hunting season to shoot them, unless you hunt them with a falcon – and I’m not talking about the Ford Falcon. For those hunting with a falcon, the squirrel season extends until February 28.

What? You say you don’t hunt but you’ve been shooting those darned squirrels off the bird feeders, and you certainly didn’t know there was a hunting season on them? Yes, indeed, and you can’t shoot them without a hunting license. But don’t worry, I won’t tell.

According to a survey by Responsive Management, the wildlife species causing the most problems in Maine are skunks and squirrels. Deer, raccoons, and woodchucks are not far behind.

Woodchucks

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