Why There Will Never Be Sunday Hunting in Maine
We’ll never hunt on Sundays in Maine. On April 25, the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee unanimously killed LD 910, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Fitts, a bill that would have authorized landowners to hunt on their own land on Sundays. It was the best Sunday hunting bill of this session.
Here’s why I’m pessimistic about Sunday hunting. Almost every member of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee hunts. And every member is an advocate for sportsmen. Yet not a single one was willing to support this very limited Sunday hunting opportunity.
And we’re in the midst of a legislative session where the rights of landowners are driving much of the agenda, including rollbacks in many environmental laws. Sunday hunting on your own land seems very compelling to me.
I purchased my Mount Vernon woodlot for the specific purpose of keeping it undeveloped so I could hunt there. Yet I am denied the opportunity to enjoy this principle purpose on my own land one day each week. This doesn’t seem fair to me, to put it mildly.
Maine’s Sunday hunting prohibition was first enacted on February 28, 1883. We’ve been trying to correct that mistake for 127 years, without success. I don’t think we’ll ever hunt on Sundays in Maine because – well, because we haven’t since 1883.
This prohibition hurts us economically – our neighboring states of New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York all offer Sunday hunting and steal our hunters (both resident and nonresident) who like to hunt on both days of a weekend. The national hunting magazines have punished and pummeled our state for its lack of Sunday hunting opportunity.
And I’m not the only one who recognizes this problem. In 2005, when Governor Baldacci made a serious effort to authorize Sunday hunting, the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel published an editorial, “Time for Maine to End Ban on Sunday Hunting.”
During my eighteen years at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I advocated for two initiatives that I thought held particularly great promise. One would have allowed Sunday hunting for small game in the unorganized territories. The other would have authorized Sunday hunting on your own land. Both bills suffered the inevitable defeats.
And here’s the rest of the problem. Sportsmen are far from united on this issue. I generally found the members of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to be divided 60-40 with 60 percent fiercely wanting Sunday hunting and 40 percent opposed for a wide range of reasons from religious to fear that landowners would post more land.
Groups that represent landowners, including the powerful Maine Farm Bureau and Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, strongly oppose Sunday hunting. We spend most of our hunting time on land that is privately owned. So the opposition of these groups is very significant and must be respected.
Unless and until landowners agree to give hunters this special privilege, we won’t be hunting on Sundays in Maine. Never.