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.

Walk my woodlot with me – Day One

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                 Hunting with a friend on my woodlot in November, I found myself stopping often to tell him a story about something that happened at that spot. Thinking about it later, I decided that would be a good way to share my hunting stories with you. So let’s begin to do that today, starting right in my home office.

                My 150 acre woodlot is located between Hopkins Stream and Route 41, while my house is a quarter mile away on Blake Hill Road. The woodlot is dedicated to my Dad. Up on Route 41 is a sign: The Ezra Smith Wildlife Conservation Area. I access my lot from Route 41, by canoing down the stream, or by crossing the road from my house and hunting through the woodlots of two of my neighbors until I get to my woodlot.

Novel set in Baxter Park is powerful and insightful

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 Bryan Wiggins began visiting Baxter Park 34 years ago about ten years before Linda and I purchased our camp at Camp Phoenix just outside the northwest corner of the park, and clearly, he loves the park as much as we do. That’s why, when I learned that he’d written a novel set in Baxter Park, I was eager to read it.

I didn’t realize this would be a learning experience, but thanks to Bryan’s generosity in arranging for a free download of his book from Amazon, it was. I’ve not been eager to read books online because there is something special about holding a book in my hands as I read it. But hey, I guess it’s time to step up to the new technology! So I downloaded a Kindle reader onto my laptop computer, followed by Bryan’s book, Autumn Imago. Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

My Suggestions for the Maine Legislative Session

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 With only a few issues and bills before you this session, I hope you will be able to devote some time to the issues and projects outlined in this memo.


Big Game Management Plans

Constitutional amendment to protect hunting re-launched at the Maine legislature

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 The Maine legislature may revive a proposal that legislators killed just last year: a Constitutional amendment that guarantees the right to hunt.

Four Constitutional amendments were proposed by legislators and sporting groups at the 2015 session. Two would have prohibited citizen ballot initiatives on fisheries and wildlife issues. The other two sought to guarantee the right to hunt and fish. The latter, by my research, were not worded correctly to actually achieve the sponsors’ goals.

Although the bills drew strong support from sporting groups and big turnouts at public hearings, the truth is that sportsmen didn’t have nearly enough support in either the House or Senate to win the necessary 2/3 vote to get these Constitutional amendments on the ballot. So most of the lobbyists for sporting groups quietly spread the word that the bills could be killed.

Moose study expanded despite Governor LePage’s veto

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 Last year, Governor Paul LePage vetoed a bill to expand the state’s study of the impact of winter ticks on moose, saying he thought studies were a waste of time. Given that the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife wanted and needed to expand their study, the veto was very discouraging.

So today, we applaud the department for finding a way to expand the study without the governor’s support. Previous studies in the Ashland area showed alarmingly high death rates. In 2014, 22 or 30 collared moose calves died, and in 2015, 21 of 35. Not good!

DIF&W’s moose biologist, Lee Kantar, told the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee in March of 2015, ““If we just took the (dead moose) results of last year, we would have concerns. And we do have concerns, but it’s going to take some time” to figure this out.

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.

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