Outdoors in Maine: Looking for a good sport in high office

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Even if you don’t follow politics much, you would have to be living on the moon not to notice that the Maine gubernatorial race is heating up.

This time around there are almost as many candidates vying for the Blaine House as there are coyotes in Washington County. A number of Maine outdoor writers are saying that it is high time that we elected a bonafide sportsman to the governorship. You know, the real thing, somebody who truly appreciates our sporting heritage, someone who hunted or fished long before he or she wanted to be governor.

Not a bad idea.

If the person at the top truly harbors a passion for the outdoors, the sportsmen of this state, and their concerns, are more likely to get a fair shake from Augusta policymakers. A perfect case in point is Teddy Roosevelt, the father of American conservation. A lifetime ardent hunter and dedicated naturalist, TR squeezed every ounce of power from his office, the Presidency, to preserve this country’s most scenic natural areas and wildlife.

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Trouble is, politicians tend to be slippery as a smelt. The challenge for those of us who vote is to distinguish the true sportsman from the phony. Let’s face it. Any gubernatorial candidate who dunked a worm in a brook as a kid, or played a hand of poker at a Maine deer camp can claim to be a sportsman. As far as I can recall, Maine has not had a governor who was a genuine sportsman for half a century. Governor Muskie ice fished some. Angus King tried to pass himself off as a Maine sportsman. We should have seen through him, though. His television campaign ad had him paddling an Old Town canoe. Close scrutiny revealed that he was, in fact, facing the stern and paddling the wrong way. That should have been the tip off. You don’t want a governor in the Pine Tree State who doesn’t know one end of a canoe from the other. We’ve tried that.

Anecdotal evidence, as they say, seems to bear out that at least one Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Pat McGowan, and as many as two Republican gubernatorial candidates, Steve Abbott and Les Otten, perhaps, are sportsmen. Still, this is a thorny and potentially deceptive area that warrants some closer scrutiny. We propose the following Sportsman Questionnaire for those gubernatorial candidates who are earnestly trolling for the sportsman’s vote during the June primary and the general election in the fall. Credit for the creation of this questionnaire must go to my youngest son Joshua, a resident of Wayne and a true sportsman, who is shopping for a sportsman-type gubernatorial candidate for whom he can cast his vote.

Top 10 outdoor questions for the prospective governor, the answers to which every Maine Sportsman should know before deciding who to vote for.

1. Do you own a boat – what type and is it registered?

2. Do you possess a 2010 Maine resident hunting and fishing license?

3. Do you own a “camp” in Maine?

4. Do you support a deer predation prevention and habitat restoration program? If so, how do you propose to fund such an initiative?

5. Give three names of potential candidates to head the Maine Department of Fisheries and Wildlife under your leadership.

6. Would you support a bill allowing Sunday hunting in the unorganized territories?

7. Have you ever entered or been drawn for a Moose hunting permit?

8. Would you support a bill to make it illegal to carry an unconcealed weapon in public?

9. In your opinion, what is the biggest threat to the sustainability of the deer herd in Maine?

10. Does your economic development plan include any provisions related to the outdoors?

If you are a concerned Maine sportsman and get a chance to meet one of the candidates before the June primary, you might want to ask him or her to fill this out for you or simply tell you their answers. Some of the gubernatorial candidates have provided me answers already to these questions. Read their answers in the June issue of the Northwoods Sporting Journal.

V. Paul Reynolds 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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