Outdoors in Maine: Hunting falters on Sunday, but there’s still hope

Once again, a legislative bid to allow Sunday fishing in Maine caught fire. The bill, LD 2014, has faced some massive opposition, not least from the Maine Athletic Alliance (SAM) and the Maine Professional Guides Association (MPGA).

Paul Reynolds, outdoor columnist

Although SAM had long advocated hunting for Sundays, it opposed this attempt for two reasons: one, the proposal was a so-called reverse posting (all lands off-limits to hunting unless otherwise posted), and second, it was It is possible for the public to violate the principle of trust insofar as landowners can fish but non-landowners cannot.

But, as the saying goes, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

A group calling itself HUSH, led by Jared Bornstein, is filing a lawsuit against the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W). The plaintiffs in this case maintain that their right, and all miners, to harvest the food of their choice has been eroded by their inability to hunt on Sundays. The main legal pivot used by the plaintiffs is Maine’s new constitutional amendment titled “The Right to Food Amendment.”

This is explained in HUSH’s press release: “What this means in practice is that Miners have the right to hunt and harvest game of their choice as long as that game provides food for themselves and their family; as long as they don’t take more than their lot, hunt out of season or trespass on land. Outstanding. This amendment means that the IF&W is authorized to regulate Maine game species and Maine hunters based on biology. What this amendment does not say is that Miners cannot harvest game on arbitrarily established religious days.”

HUSH also emphasizes that Maine’s Sunday hunting ban, an outdated law, is a social issue rather than a biological issue related to wildlife management.

Will this case gain any traction in the courts? This is hard to say. The Right to Food Amendment, which the SAM has hailed as a major step in protecting our fishing rights in Maine, has not actually been tested in the legal field. So it will be interesting, and perhaps also educational, to see how it all goes.

The citizens of Maine are clearly polarized on this issue of allowing Sunday fishing. Maine may be the last state to ban Sunday fishing, but perhaps the fishing community needs to be careful what they wish for. Nowadays, anglers in Maine are blessed with access to 10 million acres in the North Woods. Many of these large landowners are against Sunday hunting.

Which is better? Accessing vast fishing grounds six days a week, or accessing vastly reduced tracts seven days a week?

In southern and coastal Maine, where a majority oppose lifting Sunday’s fishing ban, so much land has already been deployed that the question of diminishing access should loom more as a recreational fishing issue than the option of Sunday fishing.

F. Paul Reynolds, editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, is an author and guide from Maine and host of the weekly radio show, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. Call him at [email protected]

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