Batten down the hatches, secure the anchor detail and dog down all doors, rig for heavy weather! The Maine State Legislature is back in session. The legislative documents (proposed laws) are working their way through the “democratic machinery” with a vengeance.
The unanswerable question is always on our lips: Will these new laws actually improve our lives, or simply make things more complicated and life less free?
In the narrow scope of fish and wildlife laws alone, there are enough new proposed laws to fill a book.
For example, here are a few that stand out:
1. Called the 100-yard archery bill, this one, not unlike the firearms law, would prohibit hunting with a bow within 100 yards of a dwelling. Word is that the bill as framed would exempt bow practice and bow hunters in the Expanded Archery Zone for deer.
2. Hunters 65 and older would automatically get an any-deer (doe) permit.
3. A bill that would establish a two-bear limit for all statewide bear hunters.
4. A bill that would allow all successful turkey hunters to tag their harvest electronically online. No trips to the tagging station required.
5. A bill that would eliminate the moose permit option that allows licensed lodges to outright purchase moose hunting permits for some clients.
6. A bill that would have legalized deer baiting during the deer season.
Of course, these bills are all in various stages of the legislative process — some won’t even get out of committee, or make it to the floor for a vote. Some will become law.
Bill number six above caught my attention. Sponsored by Rep. Peter Lyford of Eddington, the supporting rationale was that it leveled the playing field for hunters who did not own land or space for deer feeding plots. Interesting issue. Of the 50 states, only 22 allow deer baiting. New Hampshire allows some deer baiting by special permits. None of the remaining New England states permit deer baiting.
Not sure where you come down on this issue. There are pros and cons. At press time, it appeared that the bill would not pass muster with the Fish and Wildlife Legislative Committee. Perhaps this is as it should be. Wildlife officials said that if it became law, they would have to shorten the deer season!
There are other bills with a fish and wildlife connection. Providing public input is not as simple as it used to be before COVID, but there is an online conduit for public comment.
A good way to keep your ear to the ground is to cultivate a connection with your respective representative of the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council. (Names and contact info are available on the state Fish and Wildlife website). The council is not only a good source of up-to-date information, it is the final gatekeeper when it comes to state fish and wildlife regulations.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]