Maine is one of 11 other states in the country that prohibits hunting on Sunday. All of the remaining states permit Sunday hunting in one form or another. Two New England states — New Hampshire and Vermont — permit Sunday hunting.
According to Maine’s outgoing secretary of state, Matt Dunlap, himself an avid hunter, Maine has kept the Maine woods closed to Sunday hunting since 1883! What was the impetus for the original shutdown? Dunlap reports that there is a dearth of legislative record keeping from those early days, so tracing the motives for the Sunday closure is mostly guesswork. Most think that our Sunday hunting ban is a throwback to the old blue laws. Newspaper records indicate that in those days Sunday was popularly regarded as a day of rest, and the Lord’s day, not to be shattered with the echo of gunshots throughout the hills and dales.
Since I can remember, there have been repeated and diverse legislative attempts to allow Sunday hunting in Maine. When these Sunday hunting bills get to public testimony they are always strongly opposed generally by large landowners, some of whom threaten to post their land against all hunting if the Sunday option is allowed. And for as long as I can recall, Sunday hunting legislation has been soundly defeated.
According to Dunlap, state Rep. Jeff Hanley (R-Pittson) will submit a bill this winter for legislative consideration titled “An Act to Allow Hunting on Sunday.” If past is prologue, Hanley’s bill will confront tough sledding when it gets before the Maine lawmakers and general public.
The NRA has advanced some compelling arguments for a removal of the Sunday hunting ban in all states. Among these reasons are: 1) No other recreational undertaking is banned on Sundays; 2) Sunday hunting creates more opportunity, which is good for the economy of local communities and the preservation of the hunting heritage; 3) Working people who are limited to one day a week to pursue hunting have been allowed to hunt on Sundays in 43 other states, which have not experienced a decline in wildlife numbers.
What is your view on the longstanding Maine prohibition against Sunday hunting?
My feelings are mixed, which is out of character for me, an opinionated sort, not often given to walking the middle of the road on outdoor issues. An avid hunter for more than 50 years, I have always found a few hours to get in the deer woods or the duck blind, even when I was holding down a desk job 40 hours a week. It always seemed right, even at hallowed deer camp, to have a day off to split the firewood, oil the rifle, study the topo maps and just kick back until Monday morning at daybreak.
Watching the Sunday hunting debate this winter will be, as Yogi Berra once quipped, “Deja vu all over again.”
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]