Maine’s annual bear hunt begins Aug. 25 and goes until Sept. 20. If the past is prologue, more than 10,000 hunters will harvest between 2,500 and 3,000 of Maine’s bear population, which exceeds 30,000. As state biologists point out, this fall’s “take” of black bears isn’t sufficient to stem Maine’s expanding bear population.

Yet, thanks to power politics and a well-funded national anti-hunting movement, this could be Maine’s last bear hunt.

HSUS (The Humane Society of the U.S.) is back in Maine, moneyed up and fired up, poised to wage another full-scale assault against the trapping and hunting of the Maine black bear. According to the Maine Professional Guide’s Association (MPGA), “Mainers For Fair Bear Hunting” recently bought $624,000 of Maine television time. Between Labor Day and the early November vote on whether to ban bear hunting, expect to see the television airwaves saturated with TV spots opposing the bear hunt.

As you may recall, back in 2003 the Maine bear hunting community waged the battle of its life and beat back a HSUS-sponsored state referendum initiative to ban bear baiting, which would have, in effect, ended fall bear hunting as we know it. HSUS is a powerful, well-heeled animal rights organization.

The 2003 bear referendum battle was expensive and close. SAM raised $1.5 million and many Maine guides and outfitters made big financial sacrifices to ensure a favorable political outcome. According to George Smith, the bear hunting community squeezed out an electoral victory, 53 percent to 47 percent. Could it prevail again if another similar referendum fight ensues?

Frankly, there have been some doubters in the state outdoor community, some who wonder whether Maine sportsmen and outfitters have the will or the money to fight this battle all over again.

Do we have a choice? Not really, not if we want to preserve Maine’s entire hunting heritage. For that is what is at stake. Proponents of the bear hunting ban are against all forms of recreational hunting. They see the Maine bear hunt, politically, as our Achilles heel; if they succeed in banning the bear hunt, their appetites will be whetted. They will be back for the biggest fight of all.

As is the case with most political contests today the battle hinges on who has the biggest war chest, who can wage the most intense media campaign. The bear referendum will not be an exception to the rule. Our opposition already claims to have $3 million to spend on the bear referendum. We must respond in kind.

Two key organizations that led us to victory in 2003 have begun the monumental task of raising the money required to match the opposition dollar for dollar: The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) and the Professional Maine Guides Association (MPGA).

The outdoor community, and non-sportsmen citizens, who want to save Maine’s hunting heritage, will open their wallets and contribute whatever they can. One of the best ways that you can help is to attend the Super Banquet being held on Aug. 9. This promises to be a memorable, if not historic, fund-raising event. For tickets call 207 623 4505 or get information online at: [email protected]

Or, if you can’t attend, send your donations today to the Maine Professional Guides Association 2014 Referendum Campaign, 55 Morrison Hill Road, Wilton, ME 04294.

Contributions can be made to the following to help the Council and SAM oppose the upcoming bear referendum:

Individuals and entities that are not 501 (c ) can contribute to the PAC, make check payable to:

Maine Wildlife Conservation Council

205 Church Hill Road, Suite 1

Augusta, ME 04330

Entities that are 501 (c ) can contribute to Ballot Question Committee, make check payable to:

Friends of Maine Sportsmen

205 Church Hill Road, Suite 1

Augusta, ME 04330

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.”


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