Divided report issued on bill to allow Amish hunters to wear red

The legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee issued a very divided report on LD 426 to allow Amish hunters to wear red instead of orange. With 7 committee members in favor and 5 opposed, the bill is far from certain of getting through the House and Senate and signed into law by the Governor.

At the bill’s publi hearing, the Amish testified that their religion doesn’t allow them to wear orange (it’s too flashy) and asked for permission to wear red instead.

The vote was somewhat surprising given that the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife supported the bill sponsored by Representative McCrea of Fort Fairfield. But an extended work session discussion demonstrated a real division on the issue. Senator Dave Woodsome expressed the principle problem when he said, “My concern is safety.”

And he backed that up with a story. In1992, the year before hunter orange was required, he was hunting with a high school friend when a shot hit the stone wall right beside his head. Another hunter, standing in the road, had seen movement and shot at him. “I stopped hunting for several years,” said Woodsome, who was really shook up by the incident.

Senator Michael Carpenter noted, “They’re asking for the opportunity to be less safe,” and noted the Amish, who live in his district “are very respectful of others.” He also noted that the aversion to orange applies to a “small segment within a small segment of Amish.” Some Amish are able to wear orange.

Representative Roger Reed said, “This is one of the toughest bills I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” reporting that he is very respectful of religions.

The committee’s House Chair Bob Duchesne, focused on the problem that the bill did not define red. Before the bill leaves the committee, DIF&W was directed to come up with a definition focused on nanometers and scale.

The bill does not specifically mention Amish, but would apply to all hunters whose religion prohibits them from wearing orange. There was some discussion about how a game warden was going to be sure the hunter wearing red was doing that because of religion, but no solution to that issue was added to the bill. In fact, DIF&W Deputy Commissioner Tim Peabody emphasized that game wardens would not be asking hunters about their religion. Tim said if a warden did issue a summons for not wearing orange, the hunter would have to prove in court that his religion prohibited him from doing so.

Once the department comes up with the definition of red that will be required, the bill will move on to the House and Senate for action.

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.