The Maine Professional Guides Association (MPGA) held its 25th anniversary meeting and banquet April 14 at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer. This association was started in Maine back in 1979 by guides Finley Clarke and Wayne Bosowicz. Over the years, it has performed well representing the best interests of this state’s growing list of professional guides. Of late, its most notable undertaking was raising large sums of money to help defeat the anti-bear hunting referendum in 2004.

As is its custom, the MPGA banquet was another opportunity for guides to rub elbows, talk shop, and honor the hard work and dedication of some of its members. Well-known bear guide and outfitter Wayne Bosowicz received special recognition, not only for founding MPGA, also for his years of extra effort.

“He has always been there for us when the chips were down,” said MPGA President Rick Hill, in presenting an award to Bosowicz. Treasurer Bob Parker and Bert Goodman, and his family, were also singled out for their hard work and presented with the Director’s Awards. Following the awards, an auction of donated outdoor items kept things moving.

Despite the festivities and relaxed atmosphere, most of the banquet speakers brought a serious tone to the podium with them and all sounded a common theme: “The battle to save our hunting rights is not over.”

That theme was driven home best by Edy Leary, an attorney who worked tirelessly to help Maine sportsmen defeat the anti-hunting organizations who bankrolled the bear referendum.

The MPGA has hired Leary to help it formulate an eight-month plan being undertaken to ramp up a defense of Maine’s hunting heritage against unrelenting assaults by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Wildlife Alliance of Maine (WAM), and a number of other anti-hunting and animal rights groups.

Leary noted that the Portland Press Herald had recently supported anti-trapping legislation now before the Maine Legislature, as well as an anti-trapping lawsuit being brought against the state by the Animal Protection Institute.

She also told the guides about a bill now before the legislature that would create mandatory curriculums in Maine’s public schools that would require the teaching of “compassion for wildlife, loving of all wildlife, etc.”

She said that this bill is actually an anti-hunting initiative being underwritten by the same group that bankrolled the bear referendum, HSUS.

The MPGA will soon undertake a major fundraising campaign. The money will be used in the months ahead as a hunting rights defense fund.The short-term goal is to raise $60,000 during the next eight months. During the banquet, another guest speaker, Art Wheaton, warned the guides that they should expect the road ahead to be arduous, difficult and scary.

“To succeed you will have to learn how to deal effectively with the electronic media. This is about political winds that blow, and unless you get media attention, you won’t win!” he warned.

Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Roland Martin spoke for a few minutes.

He said that there would be no coyote control program until such time as the state was successful in getting an Incidental Take Permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

He acknowledged the declining deer numbers in Eastern and Northern Maine.

“I share your concern, ” he told the guides. He also said that he would be creating a deer task force to deal with the problem.

In concluding his remarks, the commissioner made himself available for questions from the audience. Surprisingly, there were no questions from the large gathering of Maine guides.

Comic relief was provided by MPGA member and SAM representative Bob Cram. who also writes a popular outdoor humor column for the Northwoods Sporting Journal called “Me and Joe.” Cram, a Maine Guide, said that you had to be a little crazy to guide for a living.

“We got into the business because we love to hunt and fish, yet we rarely get a chance to hunt and fish ourselves, and we work at a wage below a ditch digger,” he added. “A Maine guide is still a special species. In some ways, we are still viewed as mythical figures who stand apart in a world where so many people live and make their livings in cities.”

V. Paul Reynolds 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, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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