When it comes to prospective new state laws related to hunting and fishing, state lawmakers are one step ahead of Barnum and Bailey. There is a stack of bills, some worthy of discussion, some transparently self-serving, and a few just plain silly, if you ask me.

Here are some of them. You decide into which category they belong.

There is a bill to lower the age of junior hunters from 10 years to 8 years of age. There is one in the hopper that would allow all non-resident college students to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at the resident rate. One bill, LD 242, allows hunters to wear blaze pink instead of blaze orange during the month of October. Another would allow farmers and other depredation hunters to kill crop-damaging wildlife with rifles equipped with silencers! (Sounds like fodder for another Warden Bowditch novel.) There is a bill that would allow a registered guide to use one leashed hound to find a wounded bear. Still others, if passed, would allow: the transfer of moose permits among family members; the use of a crossbow in any deer season by a hunter 70 years or older; the hunting of small game with a slingshot; and Sunday hunting on land that is larger than 10 acres.

This one really caught my attention: LD 257. An act that would allow ice fishermen to leave their traps unattended for 20 minutes every two hours. There has to be a story behind this one. Which reminds me of a story.

One day on Seboeis Lake a buddy and I were ice fishing. “I’m going back to camp to check the beans,” he said. “Better raise your bait up to the hole before you leave,” I said. “Naw,” he said,” I’ll be right back in 20 minutes. You keep an eye on ’em.” Then he left.

Moments later, as if by some higher plan, Warden Smith arrived by snow sled. “You have five traps too many,” he said with a scowl. “Only five are mine, sir,” I said. “Well, who belongs to the others?” he queried.

Pointing a finger down the snow-covered lake at a speck of a snow sled headed our way, I said, “That would be him. He went back to camp to check the beans.”

Upon my buddy’s return, he was greeted by Warden Smith and a summons for unattended traps. To this day, my ice fishing companion is convinced that I threw him under the bus. It is his belief that I should have taken the rap, as an act of true friendship.

No, neither of us had anything to do with the promotion of LD 257, but we suspect that behind this piece of legislation there is a similar story. My friend, the bean checker, feels his pain.

Of all the bills introduced so far that relate to sportsmen, SAM’s bill, LD 176, strikes me as the most serious, far-reaching and worthy. Put simply, it would safeguard our citizen referendum process by not allowing groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to hire professional, out-of-state petition signature gatherers. During the bear referendum, HSUS reportedly spent $228,000 on hired guns from away to gather signatures. This is an outrage, and a corruption of our referendum process.

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 or by calling Diane at 207 745 0049.


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