State Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash has a proposed law in the legislative bin that would require nonresident Maine big game hunters to hire a guide, if they come from a state or province that has a similar requirement. It is being called the “reciprocal guide’s law.” It is LD 309, An Act to Require a Nonresident to Hire a Licensed Maine Guide to Hunt Big Game.
Is this really needed?
In actual practice this law would have narrow application: there are no states in the East that require any nonresident big-game hunters to hire a licensed guide. There are states in the West that require nonresidents to hire a guide for a particular species. In Alaska, for example, a guide is required for nonresidents hunting the dangerous brown bears.
Sen. Jackson concedes that, in practice, most nonresident big-game hunters requiring a Maine guide would be Canadian hunters from provinces that also require nonresident hunters to hire guides.
Currently, nonresident houndsmen coming to Maine to hunt bear with dogs are required to hire a licensed guide.
The Maine Professional Guides Association (MPGA) is opposed to this bill. MPGA spokesman Don Kleiner, in legislative testimony, raised a compelling question grounded in logic: “Nonresidents from states or provinces that require guides have no greater need for those services than nonresidents who happen to be U.S. citizens from Idaho or from the Yukon.”
Gone unsaid is the possibility, or at least the appearance, that this is a targeted punitive measure, not unlike a trade tariff, intended to spank the provinces for their nonresident guide mandates.
Of course, the MPGA always encourages nonresidents and residents alike to hire guides, for all of the obvious reasons. To its credit the guides association is taking the long view. Maine needs to promote tourism, incentivize nonresident hunters to visit us, not erect roadblocks.
In the past few years, Maine has made some progress in this area. Big-game hunters are making their way back to the Pine Tree State, after being discouraged by our dropping deer numbers.
We have long argued that our current opening day of the Maine deer season for Maine residents only was a slap in the face to nonresident big-game hunters. It may be popular with Maine deer hunters, but in the long run it hurts our overall hunting economy.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]