As a rule, I don’t get too fired up about joining yet another new organization, but Hunting Works for Maine, which just got off the launch pad, has me stoked. This is a national movement with Maine being the 11th state in the country to participate.
Hunting Works for Maine has a two-fold mission that is simple and straightforward:
1. Educate the public and businesses about the positive impact that hunting and the shooting sports bring to our statewide economy.
2. Be a watchdog and spokesman for shooting sports and hunting-related issues at the policy-making level in Augusta.
From the media coverage and public dialogue during the recent bear referendum, a couple of things became clear, at least to me. Maine’s hunting heritage and gun rights can no longer be taken for granted in these changing times.
Our state seems to be made up of three categories of voters, when it comes to hunting-related issues:
1. Those who support hunting.
2. Those who oppose recreational hunting.
3. Those who do not have a strong opinion either way.
It is this third category that rabid anti-hunting organizations like the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) target in their multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, and often with much success. This may partly explain why the urban voting bloc in the Greater Portland area voted in the majority to close down Maine bear hunting as we know it.
In that bear referendum debate, and in its media coverage, there was scant attention paid to the economic stakes involved in the banning of traditional bear hunting. Bear hunting, like other forms of hunting in Maine, is more than a wildlife management tool; hunting, when you factor in the ripple effect, is a $363 million industry in this state — one we can ill afford to lose.
When Portland voters cast their ballots to close down bear hunting, did they consider that their vote would further diminish Maine’s hard-pressed rural economy? Did they ever consider that Maine hunting attracts over 40,000 nonresident hunters annually who, along with resident hunters, spend $60 million each year on hunting and hunting-related equipment? Or that hunters spend $102 million on trip-related expenditures? Or that 4,000 people are directly employed as a result of hunting?
This is the story that didn’t get told. When HSUS makes its next assault on Maine’s hunting heritage, and it will, Hunting Works for Maine plans to be manned and ready, ready to make sure that the economic dimension of the hunting story does not get lost in the campaign shuffle.
I am proud to be asked to serve as one of the co-chairman of this new organization, Hunting Works for Maine. and work alongside its highly capable state director, Rob Sexton. The National Shooting Sports Foundation and other national organizations are to be commended for helping to underwrite and move this educational program forward throughout the country.
The best news of all: there is no cost or obligation to become a member of Hunting Works for Maine. You can show your support for Hunting Works for Maine by simply asking to have the name of your business or outdoor organization included in our membership list. As a partner in Hunting Works for Maine, you will receive posters for your place of business and be kept up to date on important issues related to hunting and the shooting sports.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.” Online information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.