This is the time of year when Maine’s whitetail deer population begins to recover from a long hard winter. After surviving on reserve fats, twigs and lichen, and whatever else they can find in their wintering areas, the spring “greenup” is the deer’s salvation.

Not far from where we live on the lake, the rain-soaked dirt road is peppered with small deer tracks. The hungry critters come down off the ridge at night to munch the early grass that springs up atop lakeside septic systems.

While this is playing out, there is another related drama unfolding at our state capitol as legislators debate proposed laws that, if passed, will change our hunting laws in ways that will have an impact on Maine deer numbers.

Among the list of legislative documents that propose to change our deer hunting laws there are no less than seven — count ’em, seven — that would significantly alter the way in which antlerless deer permits are awarded to various segments of our resident hunter population.

As it now stands, the annual doe-permit pie is divided up roughly like this: 1) 25 percent to youth hunters; 2) 25 percent to landowners; and 3) 10 percent to non-residents. The remaining 40 percent go to the rest of us licensed deer hunters in a chance drawing.

Every year, well-meaning legislators, prompted by a constituent, craft a bill to further divide up that antlerless deer-permit pie.

For example, there is a bill that would guarantee a doe permit to any Maine veteran who was discharged honorably. There is another bill that would guarantee a doe permit to any disabled vet. There is yet another bill that would guarantee a doe permit to any licensed hunter 70 years or older. There is even a bill that would allow certain landowners to take a doe on their own property without a doe permit.

The list goes on. You get the idea.

As a rule, most of these special-interest bills are not supported by the folks that manage Maine’s deer populations. As a matter of fact, Judy Camuso, who is wildlife director for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, has a standard pitch she delivers when testifying in opposition to this annual parade of somewhat self-serving bills. She uses the pie analogy, explaining that there are only so many does to go around.

If, for example, you guarantee old codgers like me (older than 70) a doe permit automatically, you have just issued 36,000 new doe permits! Yes, believe it or not, there are 36,000 Maine hunters 70 years or older.

As Judy explains, the pie is only so big. If you add a doe permit opportunity, then, in order to properly manage the deer herd, you have to take away an opportunity somewhere else.

Looking at the big picture, especially in light of Maine’s chronic deer shortage in the western, northern and eastern part of the state, it is astonishing that so many legislators are willing to go this route year after year, just to please a constituent deer hunter, who believes that he or she deserves special treatment when it comes to divvying up the statewide doe-permit pie.

The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM), which speaks for Maine’s hunting community, likes to say, “We are the conservationists.”

Evidenced by the foregoing, there are still some among Maine’s deer hunting fraternity who still haven’t really gotten the message.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He also is a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program — “Maine Outdoors” — heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on “The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network.” He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.

This is the time of year when Maine’s whitetail deer population begins to recover from a long hard winter. After surviving on reserve fats, twigs and lichen, and whatever else they can find in their wintering areas, the spring “greenup” is the deer’s salvation.

Not far from where we live on the lake, the rain-soaked dirt road is peppered with small deer tracks. The hungry critters come down off the ridge at night to munch the early grass that springs up atop lakeside septic systems.

While this is playing out, there is another related drama unfolding at our state capitol as legislators debate proposed laws that, if passed, will change our hunting laws in ways that will have an impact on Maine deer numbers.

Among the list of legislative documents that propose to change our deer hunting laws there are no less than seven — count ’em, seven — that would significantly alter the way in which antlerless deer permits are awarded to various segments of our resident hunter population.

As it now stands, the annual doe-permit pie is divided up roughly like this: 1) 25 percent to youth hunters; 2) 25 percent to landowners; and 3) 10 percent to non-residents. The remaining 40 percent go to the rest of us licensed deer hunters in a chance drawing.

Every year, well-meaning legislators, prompted by a constituent, craft a bill to further divide up that antlerless deer-permit pie.

For example, there is a bill that would guarantee a doe permit to any Maine veteran who was discharged honorably. There is another bill that would guarantee a doe permit to any disabled vet. There is yet another bill that would guarantee a doe permit to any licensed hunter 70 years or older. There is even a bill that would allow certain landowners to take a doe on their own property without a doe permit.

The list goes on. You get the idea.

As a rule, most of these special-interest bills are not supported by the folks that manage Maine’s deer populations. As a matter of fact, Judy Camuso, who is wildlife director for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, has a standard pitch she delivers when testifying in opposition to this annual parade of somewhat self-serving bills. She uses the pie analogy, explaining that there are only so many does to go around.

If, for example, you guarantee old codgers like me (older than 70) a doe permit automatically, you have just issued 36,000 new doe permits! Yes, believe it or not, there are 36,000 Maine hunters 70 years or older.

As Judy explains, the pie is only so big. If you add a doe permit opportunity, then, in order to properly manage the deer herd, you have to take away an opportunity somewhere else.

Looking at the big picture, especially in light of Maine’s chronic deer shortage in the western, northern and eastern part of the state, it is astonishing that so many legislators are willing to go this route year after year, just to please a constituent deer hunter, who believes that he or she deserves special treatment when it comes to divvying up the statewide doe-permit pie.

The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM), which speaks for Maine’s hunting community, likes to say, “We are the conservationists.”

Evidenced by the foregoing, there are still some among Maine’s deer hunting fraternity who still haven’t really gotten the message.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He also is a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program — “Maine Outdoors” — heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on “The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network.” He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.

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