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.

Big news and big changes for Maine’s big game animals

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 It’s the most comprehensive and engaging process ever used to create big game animal management plans in Maine. And you are going to have good opportunities to participate, including an online “Town Hall” forum and a series of public meetings in all parts of the state. I’ll let you know when and how to participate, as soon as I receive that information.

Yesterday I attended an all-afternoon presentation of fascinating information about recent surveys of Maine sportsmen, landowners, and the general public, plus current big game management plans and challenges. The survey results were presented by Mark Duda of Responsive Management, which has done surveys and plans in all 50 states. The big game plans and challenges were presented by wildlife biologists in Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Duda randomly sampled 933 residents, 956 hunters, and 304 landowners by telephone, mail, and email, and by region (north/east, central, south), in January and February.  

Nonresident landowners may get to hunt on opening day of the deer season

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                 In a nearly unanimous vote, the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee gave its stamp of approval today to legislation that would give nonresidents a chance to hunt on the opening day of the firearms season on deer. Those nonresidents would have to own 25 acres or more of land and allow others to hunt on their land – similar to the requirement for them to enter the any-deer permit lottery.

Mainers shut the door on nonresident hunters.

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                 My column on a legislative discussion to allow nonresidents to hunt on the first day of the firearms season on deer stirred a lot of people up, on both sides of the issue. But the majority fell on the side of no, no, a thousand times no.

                Let’s start with my Sportsmen Say Survey question: Should nonresidents be allowed to join residents on the opening day of the firearms season on deer? A total of 337 people answered the survey so far, with 60 percent (202) saying no, 38% (129) saying yes, and 2 percent (6) undecided. Actually, it surprised me that more than 1/3 are willing to share opening day with nonresidents.

That fish you caught may have cost $50!

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 Stocked fish can be very expensive. But the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee is considering increasing funding for Maine’s hatcheries so more fish can be stocked, so it may be time for you to speak up on this important issue. At the end of this column, I will give you a chance to do that. But let’s start with some background information.

2015 Stocking Report

The 8 hatcheries of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife grew and stocked 1,211,141 fish (386,164 pounds of fish) in 2015. According to Commissioner Chandler Woodcock, hatchery-produced fish have cost an average of $8/pound over the last 10 years. That means the fish produced and stocked in 2016 cost a total of $3,089,312. On average, each stocked fish cost $2.50.

Anti-bear hunters’ lawsuit fizzles at the Maine Supreme Court

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 While I am sure Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting (MFBH) was hoping the presentation of their lawsuit against Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife would sizzle yesterday at Maine’s Supreme Court, it actually fizzled. The group has been grumbling about DIF&W’s defense of bear hunting and trapping since before the voters defeated their proposal to ban bear baiting, hounding, and trapping.

MFBH tee’d up their case yesterday in front of the seven Justices of the Maine Supreme Court, and promptly hit the ball out of bounds. Way out of bounds.

Sitting in the back row, I thought our side probably could have walked out right after Rachel Wertheimer, MFBH’s attorney, sat down. Wertheimer, who works for the Portland law firm of Verrill Dana, got grilled by the Justices and had a hard time answering their questions.

Our Defense

Should nonresidents get to hunt on the opening day of Maine’s deer hunt?

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 Your opinion on this key question matters, and I’ll give you a chance to express your opinion at the end of this column.

Legislation that called for reduced hunting license fees for nonresidents who owned 250 acres of more and allowed residents to hunt there has led to a discussion of the possibility of allowing all nonresidents to hunt on the “Residents Only” opening day of the firearms season on deer.

LD 609, sponsored by Representative John Martin, has been discussed several times in work sessions by the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, but today’s discussion took a different turn when Dave Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, told the committee he’d heard a suggestion that the committee allow all nonresidents to hunt on Saturday’s opening day, which has been reserved for residents for at least three decades.

My Greatest Fishing Adventure - Alaska's Kodiac Island

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