Wild Game Dinners are Legal

“Wild game dinners have been occurring for many, many years as a tool to raise funds for various charities and organizations, and have not been interpreted by the Maine Warden Service as a violation of law.”

Those words, offered in testimony on LD 587 by Warden Lt. Dan Scott, effectively killed my bill to allow fees to be charged for wild game dinners. Wild game dinners are hosted by lots of groups including churches, clubs, nonprofits, and even Unity College which hosts a fabulous wild game dinner annually.

Here’s what the law says: “Prohibition against buying and selling bear, deer, moose or wild turkey…. A person may not buy, sell, or offer for sale or barter a bear, deer, moose, or wild turkey.”

It’s always been assumed by many, including me, that wild game dinners are illegal but allowed by DIF&W. The law is very clear that you cannot sell wild game meat.

At a work session on the bill, sponsored at my request by Senator Tom Saviello, DIF&W Deputy Commissioner Tim Peabody emphasized that it is not illegal to charge people to eat wild game dinners. And Tim surprised me when he said this is ok for not just nonprofits and charitable organizations, but also can be done by for-profit businesses and organizations.

In fact, Tim reported that the department served wild game meat at Harvest on the Harbor, an annual event in Portland sponsored by a for-profit organization.

The bill got an 8 to 2 ought-not-to-pass vote from the legislature’s IFW Committee. Representative Steve Wood, one of the two who supported the bill, expressed one of my concerns, that a future Governor or Commissioner could change this, and interpret the law to mean wild game dinners are illegal.

I can only hope that doesn’t happen. But I’m done battling DIF&W on this one.

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.