Recently, in a sweeping, breathtakingly cavalier — if not bizarre — editorial, the Bangor Daily News called for the Maine State Legislature to “eliminate once and for all” the practice of trapping bears or hunting them with hounds.

Apparently, the newspaper was moved to take its bold position by an announcement made this fall by Katie Hansberry, the state director of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This animal rights organization, which has failed twice by referendum in Maine to ban bear hunting as we know it, says that it won’t try again by public referendum in 2016. In an email to the BDN, Hansberry wrote, “We’re going to give it some time and see if we can make some progress on hounding and trapping via the legislative and/or regulatory process.”

The editorial does at least acknowledge that state bear populations aren’t being stabilized even by legal hunting, by whatever means. It suggests spring bear hunts and more liberal bag limits as a way of replacing hounding and trapping as a bear population management tool.

These suggestions are not without some appeal and ought to be considered as an addition to current bear harvesting regulations, including hounding and trapping.

Most disturbing about this editorial, however, is the unmitigated willingness of a Maine newspaper, one that serves many in rural Maine where hunting, trapping and hounding is a way of life, to simply throw houndsmen and trappers under the bus with a few keystrokes.

Shame on them.

There is and should be a larger perspective. It is this: The Humane Society of the United States has outstayed its welcome in the state of Maine. It is time for a preemptive strike, time to turn the tables on HSUS. It can be done using the same mechanism that HSUS itself twice invoked in an attempt to ban bear hunting in Maine: the citizen initiative referendum.

Until Maine changes its state Constitution as 19 other states have done — including very recently, Texas — HSUS will continue to chip away at Maine’s hunting legacy.

On election day, Texas voters approved Proposition 6 to amend their constitution and guarantee the right to hunt and fish. Proposition 6 amended the Texas Constitution by adding the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife to the Texas Bill of Rights. It also guarantees that wildlife decisions will continue to be based on sound scientific principles, and not emotionalism driven by the Humane Society of the United States and other anti-hunting organizations.

The measure won by a margin of 81 percent to 19 percent. The measure swept all 254 counties in Texas.

As demonstrated by the Bangor Daily News editorial, hunting is under unprecedented attack, not just in Texas but in our own backyard. Proposition 6 in Texas was another major blow to anti-hunting organizations like HSUS.

Before it is too late, Maine needs to take a lesson from the Texas example.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors.” 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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