Outdoors in Maine: Governor let down sportsmen

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For the third and, presumably, the last time, Gov. John Baldacci’s misguided plan to consolidate the Maine Department of Inland Fisheres and Wildlife (MDIF&W) under a Super Department of Conservation has been soundly rejected by the state legislature. In the eyes of most sportsmen, this governor, not only has been unsupportive of sportsmen, but he has in some ways been antagonistic. The governor’s recent piece of emergency legislation that allowed eager anglers a chance to fish open waters before the traditional April 1 date was little more than a public relations gesture designed to get a headline and, perhaps, ingratiate himself to some early-bird anglers.

Few sportsmen are hoodwinked by these relatively superficial gestures. When considered in the larger context of this governor’s overall record on important sportsmen issues, they ring hollow.

Consider this. During the seven years since the Baldacci administration suspended the programmatic snaring of coyotes in deer wintering areas, Maine sportsmen and their respective organizations have made grass roots, good-faith efforts to stem the tide of declining deer numbers by encouraging winter coyote hunting tournaments. When the Washington County Conservation Association (WCCA) tried a few years ago to help its declining deer herd by conducting Maine’s first-of-a-kind competitive coyote-hunting tournament, the governor personally intervened and tried to persuade WCCA to cancel its coyote hunt. WCCA, to its credit, was not intimidated by Mr. Baldacci’s entreaty. The hunt went on.

Since that time, in an effort to take some kind of tactical measure to control coyote predation on wintering deer, coyote hunting tournaments have sprung up around the state like ostrich ferns on a riverbed. This past winter the Jackman Moose River Region Chamber of Commerce conducted a coyote hunting tournament. Ditto the WCCA in Washington County, the ACCA in Aroostook County, Whitetail Unlimited in Dover-Foxcroft, and a number of other sportsmen organizations around the state. A new group, the Penobscot County Conservation Wildlife Association, oversaw a coyote tournament that removed 81 coyotes from Washington County deer yards!

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Contrast this with a statement made by the governor’s spokesman, David Farmer. When asked by Maine Public Radio to explain the governor’s opposition to coyote hunting contests in Maine, Farmer said, “The governor doesn’t support this kind of tournament — he finds the practice inhumane. He has spoken with his Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and asked that he reach out to the group that is sponsoring the event and see if the group would be interested in calling it off.”

Can you believe this? The Aroostook County Conservation Association is so deeply concerned about the loss of deer in the North Woods that it sent the governor a 4,000 signature petition demanding that corrective action be taken by the state. Additionally, the ACCA also advised the attorney general of the state that the Aroostook group will consider legal action against the state if it does not enforce that statute that requires our Fish and Wildlife commissioner to protect our natural resources, which include deer. And yet the elected leader of our state is trying to use the prestige of the Blaine House to browbeat pro-active sportsmen into sitting on their collective hands while coyotes plunder deer in their wintering areas.

The governor not only doesn’t get it, his audacity is as breathtaking as his incredible naivete!

Shooting coyotes is inhumane?

The governor needs to take a breather from his cloistered life in Augusta, get out in the Maine woods and spend a day near a deer yard with a trapper like Dave Tobey or Jerry McLaughlin. Then he would see the true meaning of inhumane. Dave or Jerry would show Maine’s misguided governor the carcasses of deer that were pulled down, viciously ripped and torn apart and eaten alive by coyotes.

Let’s face it. For sportsmen concerned about issues like this, and so many others that will effect the outlook for Maine’s outdoor recreation industry, next fall’s gubernatorial election is a critical juncture.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal and has written his first book, A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook. 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, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is paul@sportingjournal.com.

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