Nonresident landowners may join residents on opening day of the deer hunt

Dad and Harry two websiteRepresentative Bob Duchesne summed it up nicely, saying, “I feel if you have a property tax paying stake here, you should be able to hunt on opening day.” And all but one member (Rep. Peter Lyford) of the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee agreed with Bob, who is House Chair of that committee.

After several discussions, including consideration of allowing all nonresidents to hunt on the opening day of the deer season, the committee settled on a proposal to allow nonresidents who own 25 acres of more to hunt on the first day of the firearms season on deer, as long as their property is open to hunting by others. Up until now, only residents could hunt on the first day.

The original bill would have allowed nonresidents who own 250 acres or more to hunt on opening day, but the committee wisely decided to use the same criteria used by DIF&W to determine which nonresident landowners can enter the any-deer lottery. The committee did sunset the bill, so this new opportunity will only be available to nonresident landowners in 2016 and 2017. The law will be repealed on September 15, 2018 unless the legislature reauthorizes it.

Only 400 nonresident hunters applied for any-deer permits last year, so it is unlikely that this new provision will do much to expand hunting access to land owned by nonresidents. Those 400 already have to allow others to hunt on their land in order to enter the any-deer lottery. Tom Doak, the executive director of the Small Woodland Owners Association, stated flatly that, “This isn’t going to open any more land to hunting.”

Although SAM’s Executive Director suggested a small fee could be charged to nonresidents for this opportunity, the committee rejected that suggestion. And DIF&W, in response to a question, reported that they no longer check the accuracy of nonresident applications for any-deer permits. They only respond to complaints that nonresident applicants are not allowing others to hunt their property. They said they would follow the same process for nonresidents who apply for a permit to hunt on opening day – they’ll only verify the information in response to a complaint.

Survey Responses

As the debate moved into a discussion of allowing all nonresidents to hunt on opening day, I asked for opinions from readers of this column, and 393 responded by expressing their opinions in a Sportsman Say Survey question posted on my website. The question was: Should nonresidents be allowed to join residents on the opening day of the firearms season on deer? 156 (39.69%) said yes, 231 (58.78%) said no, and 6 (1.53%) were undecided. I shared your responses with members of the IFW Committee.

New Survey Question

Now, I’m going to give you a chance to express your opinion on the final version of this bill. The question, posted in the Sportsmen Say Survey section of my website, is: Should nonresidents who own 25 acres of land and who allow others to hunt on that land be able to hunt on the opening day of the firearms season on deer? You can access the survey question here. I look forward to your answers, which I will report in a later column. Thanks!

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,, 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.