Lack of access is one of the leading obstacles for recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters. Access to quality hunting land is getting harder to find and, as the old saying goes, they’re not making any more. However, the situation does vary depending on which species you seek. There’s one group of game that is – and for the foreseeable future should remain – quite accessible.

As their name implies, waterfowl spend most of their time where it’s wet. With very few exceptions, like designated sanctuaries, waterways are open to free and unfettered access. If you can reach it by boat, canoe or kayak, you can hunt it. From a ramp, accessible shoreline or roadside overpass, launch your craft and you can go as far as your motor or paddles will take you to jump-shoot wood ducks or slip into the reeds and set out a small spread of decoys.

For those with the mettle to brave tide and weather, the ocean is wide open to waterfowling. You just have to get there. It takes more specialized equipment and attention to weather but coastal waters offer a potential mixed bag including puddle ducks, divers, sea ducks and geese.

The intertidal zone is also open to free-access hunting. Unlike most other states, Maine and Massachusetts have retained the Colonial Ordinance of 1647. In a 1989 case, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld that ordinance which allows public access for fishing, fowling and navigation in, on or over the area between mean high and low water.

Back on inland waters, Maine’s Great Ponds Act allows access to all lakes and ponds over 10 acres. Like rivers and the ocean, if you can get there, you can hunt there. Furthermore, it is illegal to deny foot access over unimproved land to a great pond – the only exception being over land owned by a water district, and only when that body is used as a public water source.

Obviously, all other laws, rules and regulations still apply. For example, you must be the required distance away from a dwelling or state-owned boat launch (100 yards) to discharge a firearm, or oddly enough, a bow. You can’t shoot from a vessel under (fuel or electrical) power unless retrieving crippled waterfowl.

A healthy helping of common sense is also advisable. You may be well within your rights, but blasting away at sunrise on a Saturday in proximity to someone’s waterfront paradise is only going to cause hate and discontent. It’s likely the authorities will be summoned, at the very least resulting in an interruption of your activities. While upland habitat and access to it are being gobbled up at an alarming rate, waterways and water bodies remain – for the most part – open and available.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

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