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.

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.

Here’s what they hope to accomplish with new big game plans

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 The “expected outcomes” for Maine’s new big game management plans are ambitious, to say the least. A draft of these outcomes was distributed to DIF&W’s Big Game Management Steering Committee at its January 5 meeting, and Nate Webb, DIF&W’s staffer who is directing this process, provided me with a copy.

I think you will find these to be very interesting. But please remember, these are drafts, for discussion purposes only, at this point in the planning process. And you will note that in some of the expectations, they have yet to come up with a number.

Expected Outcomes – Big Game Management Plan

Wild Turkeys

A new method to track wild turkey population trends is implemented by 20XX.

Legislation changing the moose hunt, fisheries management, and more being proposed

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 We don’t yet have the titles or details of the expected 2000 bills that legislators will propose (except of course my 12 bills that I’ve already told you about), but I am getting information daily on some of the fish, wildlife, conservation, and environmental bills that will be considered.

Rep. Peter Lyford tells me he has submitted a moose bill that will:

1)     

Eliminate subpermittees on moose hunting permits (to keep 2 and 3 year olds out)

The Worst Hunting Legislation Ever

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 It may have been the worst hunting bill ever, during my 18 years as executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

LD 1186, introduced in the Maine legislature in 1997, was titled “An Act to Ensure Hunting Safety.” When I reported on the bill in the SAM News, I left out the name of the sponsor to save her from embarrassment.

The bill would have required hunters to quit hunting at 2 pm on Halloween, ostensibly to protect trick-or-treaters.

The bill was sponsored at the request of a woman from southern Maine who apparently believed her kids were in danger of getting shot by a hunter on Halloween.  “Some of the kids actually wear animal costumes,” she exclaimed.

Taking an opportunity to have some fun with the bill at the public hearing, I thanked the sponsor for putting in the bill, “because I do like to get out of the woods by 2 pm to get my mask and costume on for trick or treating.”

Native Brook Trout Protection may be Extended by the Legislature

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 Representative Russell Black has sponsored two of my fisheries bills. One would extend protective regulations for native and wild brook trout from lakes and ponds to tributaries where they spawn. The second would assure that all waters that qualify for the state’s Heritage Fish list get put on that list.

I’ll have a lot more to say about these two important bills later, but wanted to give you this basic information now. Here are the summaries of the two bills.

An Act to Improve Maine’s Heritage Fish List and Program

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