When it comes to cultivating one of its last remaining industries, tourism, it seems that Maine is its own worst enemy.

Take hunting for example. In 2002, there were 41,538 nonresident hunters who bought a Maine big-game hunting license. Less than a decade later, in 2010, that number fell to 27,898.

Think about that. Over a span of eight years, that’s 13,640 nonresident hunters who opted NOT to come to Maine to hunt, 13,640 potential visitors who did not buy gas and groceries, hunting equipment and lodging. Additionally, that’s 13,640 nonresident hunters who did not contribute more than $136,000 to the dwindling budget of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Adding insult to injury, all of this happened during a time when the sale of hunting licenses nationally had been on the upswing.

What’s wrong? Decreasing deer numbers keeping nonresidents away? Certainly that has to be a factor. But there is more going on. There has to be. A few years back, a task force was assembled to study this issue and come up with some salutary recommendations. The task force, acknowledging the significant economic impact of the problem, made suggestions and handed the ball to MDIF&W and the state legislature for action.

Two members of the former task force, Maine Guides Don Kleiner and Tenley Bennett, told me that some progress had been made, some of the recommendations had been implemented, but not enough. The Office of Tourism did allocate some funds to MDIF&W for promotional activities, and a comprehensive survey of hunting and hunters was completed.

The task force recommended “repackaged licenses that feature privileges or opportunities” for nonresident hunters.

Nothing of any real consequence has been done in this area. In some respects, new changes have, wittingly or unwittingly, made matters worse when it comes to the way we treat the nonresident hunter. Under this new law, nonresident college students in Maine, including foreign students, can now purchase a resident hunting license.

Here is how Maryland hunter David Simpler, a disabled Vietnam veteran who owns property in Machias, reacted to news about a recent change in Maine’s hunting license law:

“I have a Lifetime Disabled Veteran Hunting License for the state of Maryland,” Simpler said. “Seeing as how a nonresident or foreign college student can now get a resident hunting license in Maine is a slap in the face to us veterans! Especially since I own Maine property, pay Maine property taxes and put money into the local economy, but can’t get the same privileges as a nonresident college student or foreign student. I also have to wait until the second day of deer season to hunt, they (non-resident college students) don’t.”

The Maryland hunter believes that his Disabled American Veteran hunting license should be reciprocal from one state to another.

Not a bad idea. It’s a beginning.

But if Maine, especially the state legislature, truly cares about reversing the tide of annoyed, and sometimes bitter nonresident hunters who are staying away in droves and feel disenfranchised by Maine’s provincial approach toward them and their patronage, it will consider two changes:

1. Eliminate the shortsighted and archaic residents-only day for deer hunters.

2. Allow Sunday hunting, in the North Woods at the very least.

In the realm of good public relations, these existing laws send the wrong signal not unlike a surly clerk at the corner market. Maine needs to smarten up and get with a program that embraces the constructive tenets of modern marketing practices.

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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