The public hearing on two bills requiring some hunters using dogs or bait to have written or verbal landowner permission drew a large turnout of concerned sportsmen – and a few angry farmers and landowners – on March 21, but most did not return for the work session on the bills, held on April 4.
The legislature’s Fish and Wildlife Committee has already unanimously killed one of the two bills. It was proposed by the farm bureau and would have required written permission for all sportsmen to access cropland and pastures.
On April 4 the committee returned to LD 559, Rep. Andy O’Brien’s bill that requires hunters to get written permission when baiting, night hunting coyotes, and hunting bears, coyotes, or bobcats with dogs. It also would authorize the use of purple paint for land posting. The hearing on this bill was ugly and divisive.
Colonel Joel Wilkinson responded to questions posed by committee members. He reported that a few individuals are causing problems. His research also discovered that there is a lot of concern over the placement of bait on private land. And he said he was surprised to learn that it is legal to hunt coyotes with hounds at night, a practice he believes should not be allowed. He also said coyote hunters can use an unlimited number of dogs while bear hunters are limited to six dogs.
Wilkinson said the problem currently is limited to Waldo County (O’Brien’s district) but predicted conflicts between landowners and hounds hunters will spread throughout the organized municipalities. Senator John Patrick expressed concern about enacting a law that applies statewide to address a problem in one specific county.
Rep. Jane Eberle, who had really done her homework on this issue, suggested that the areas of agreement might include: Require permission for placement of bait; limit the number of hounds; prohibit night hunting of coyotes with dogs; allow the use of purple paint; and increase penalties for law violations.
Rep. Ralph Sarty agreed and suggested that landowner permission for the placement of bait should be limited to the organized areas of the state and not applied to the state’s unorganized territories.
The committee got hung up on the definition of hunting. That definition currently does not require the possession of a firearm (incredibly!). Sarty pointed out that this could cause a problem for hunters trying to retrieve hounds at night, after a day hunt has concluded, if night hunting is prohibited.
Rep. Wood suggested that the laws that apply to bear hunting be extended to coyote hunting, including the requirement that nonresidents hire a guide to hunt coyotes with dogs.
After an extensive discussion, the committee accepted a motion of support for an amended bill that includes: allow purple paint for posting land and eliminate the silver paint option; require written or verbal permission for all baiting; prohibit hunting of coyotes with dogs at night (half-hour after sunset); limit coyote hunters to six dogs; require name, address, and telephone number of owner on each dog; label all bait with the same information; and apply penalties for these violations that match bear hunting violation penalties.
An ought-to-pass motion won a nearly unanimous vote. Only Rep. Clark voted against the motion, unwilling to support it until he sees the amendment in writing. Committee analyst Curtis Bentley will draft the amendment and present it to the committee for examination on April 11.
This result is a remarkable recognition on the part of sportsmen that this is a new day and the old way of doing things needs to change. While the most contentious part of the bill, requiring landowner permission for running hounds for some game animals, was set aside, we haven’t heard the last of it.
And the agreement that hunters will be required to obtain landowner permission for placing any kind of bait on private land is a simple recognition that this is essential if sportsmen are to continue to enjoy the use of that land for their favorite outdoor activities.