HSUS blasts bear hunters with $1.2 million in TV ads

Old Tales of the Maine Woods painting of bearThe Humane Society of the United States has reserved and paid for $1.2 million of TV ads for its referendum campaign to ban bear trapping and bear hunting with bait and hounds. This is nearly twice what HSUS spent on TV ads for its 2004 Maine campaign. And they did this in August!

It appears that HSUS intends to spend the $3 million on its campaign that the group announced earlier this year. There is no way the sportsmen’s campaign to defend bear hunting can match that level of spending. This may be a serious problem. In 2004 the sportsmen’s campaign outspent HSUS on TV and that was a critical factor in the defeat of the HSUS ballot measure.

But that doesn’t mean HSUS will win this campaign. I have been very impressed with the job that James Cote is doing for the sportsmen’s campaign. In 2004 I raised the money for the campaign that successfully defended bear hunting, and my sister Edie managed the campaign. This year James is doing both jobs, a very tough assignment.

James has help, of course. Rob Sexton at the national level and Eric Potholm, the campaign’s media guy who also did the media for our 2004 campaign, deserve special recognition for the significant roles they are playing.

The “Save Maine’s Bear Hunt – No on 1” campaign has wisely been setting aside a healthy portion of every dollar raised, to make sure their campaign will be competitive on TV. And while it is unlikely they’ll be able to match the number of TV ads that HSUS throws up, the sportsmen’s campaign will feature very credible messages and spokespeople.


The August banquet to raise money for the “No on 1” campaign astonished me. In 2004 our banquet attracted 750 people and raised $176,000. It was the most successful sportsmen’s fundraising event ever held in Maine. This year’s banquet brought 1100 to the Augusta Civic Center and raised an amazing $320,000.

A shout out also goes to the Presque Isle Fish and Game Club which raised over $50,000 at a bear campaign event in the County in late August. This club has always been one of the state’s best and most active, but this year they went well beyond the expected with their work to defend bear hunting and the bear hunting industry that is so important in the north country.

Several other clubs, including the Penobscot County Conservation Association and the Phippsburg Fish and Game Club have also done a great job of raising money for the campaign. But there are many clubs around the state that have yet to do anything significant for the campaign – including raising money – and they’ll need to step up in the next two months if the “No on 1” campaign is to be competitive.


Regional and local sportsmen’s clubs like the Presque Isle club are critical in this campaign for more than fundraising because they are responsible, with the help and direction of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the Maine Professional Guides Association, for the grassroots education and get-out-the-vote portions of the campaign.

I have to say I have not seen much evidence of that campaign yet, although there are a lot of one-on-one conversations going on, and quite a bit of activity in the social media.

Every day now I get one or two inquiries from friends who have questions about bear hunting and trapping and the referendum. Not surprisingly, most who do not hunt are leaning toward voting for the referendum. I think I’ve been able to move most of them to our side of the issue, but the fact that so many are asking for guidance indicates that we need to step up the work at the grassroots and match, as best we can, the TV ad blizzard that’s coming from HSUS.

Cote reports that the official ground game kicked off today, so perhaps we’ll start to see and hear a lot more about the campaign in and outside of our communities in the nine weeks leading up to the November 4 vote. Stay tuned!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.