Legislature debates turkeys and bears

At a work session this morning, the legislature’s Fish and Wildlife Committee acted on 3 bills carried over from last year’s legislative session.

Deputy game wardens

The first bill, LD650, was designed to strengthen Maine’s landowner relations bill, by adding 5 new deputy game wardens to DIFW’s staff. But DIFW did not support the bill, and the committee killed it.

Turkey Bill

The turkey bill, LD 1117, was mine. I worked with Senator Shenna Bellows on it, which would have, among other changes, eliminated the requirement of a fall turkey hunting permit, to encourage more hunters to kill turkeys.

DIFW’s Nate Webb told the committee about things his department did to encourage a higher harvest of turkeys last year, including adding 2 weeks to the fall season and increasing the bag limit in some districts.

Unfortunately, this didn’t work, and the fall harvest last year was 1,980, down dramatically from 3,507 birds the previous year. Nate blamed the low harvest on the large acorn crop.

The committee killed the bill, so we can only hope their strategy works this year.

Bear Season

A bear bill, LD 1118, proposed lots of changes to the laws governing bear hunting and trapping, most of which would give DIFW more authority to over them.

For example, the bill reduces fees and lets the commissioner set seasons within established dates. Another change would allow the commissioner to set bag limits and change trap sizes.

Legislative committee members reported that they’d received lots of messages from the public about the issues.

DIFW reported a decline last year from 13,000 to 10,000 bear hunters and that they need a substantial hike in the bear harvest to control the bear population which is estimated to be 45,000.

Among the changes, are a reduction in fees, an earlier start to the season, and establishing a 2 bear bag limit but only one by trapping.

The IFW committee unanimously approved the bill, which will now go to the full legislature for action.

During the work session Rep. John Martin noted that before the early 1960s the state paid $5 for each bear paw. I guess that was the good old days!


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.