Committee to hunters: You don’t have the right to feed your family

I have three words for the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife – shame on you. By bowing to anti-hunting activists and out of state interests, you have sold your own constituents down the river. And for what good cause?

LD 11, sponsored by State Representative Stephen Wood, proposed amending Maine’s constitution to establish the right to hunt and fish was recently before the committee for a vote.  The result was a split decision with ‘Ought Not to Pass’ gaining the majority vote.

This bill would have ensured Mainers had the protection from anti-hunting activists under Maine’s constitution to keep putting food on their family’s tables through hunting and fishing; subsistence living being a reality, and a tradition, in many rural parts of the state. Representative Wood had this to say in his earlier testimony before the committee:

“I’ve proposed this bill as an attempt to join 21 other states around the country which guarantee the right to hunt and fish in their constitutions; most recently Kansas and Indiana. Two states also guarantee only the right to fish, California and Rhode Island.

Here in Maine and around the country there are growing threats to state conservation work as well as our sporting heritage. The purpose for this amendment to Maine s Constitution is to establish a protection for Mainers now and future generations.

This amendment ensures that traditional rights are not threatened and allows for the protection of traditional state authority in state wildlife management. Although our rights may be viewed as obvious, we live in a time when rights are threatened and infringed upon. I truly believe this amendment deserves its place in our State’s most important document to ensure its protection.”

If enacted, the proposal would have protected Maine’s hunters and fishermen, both those who do it for recreation and those who rely on it for subsistence, from the onslaught of repeated ballot initiatives brought by anti-hunting activists with out-of-state funding and support. Does the bear baiting referendum ring a bell?

It was your opportunity to serve and protect the interests of the people you represent. Instead, you chose to serve the interests of anti-hunting, extremist organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States and WildWatch Maine; both of whom are actively working to outright ban all forms of hunting by choosing to not recommend the bill’s passage.

The anti-hunting movement has been targeting states like Maine by exploiting our citizen’s initiative referendum process. This movement is so widespread and so well-funded that 21 states have already enacted protections. Sadly, Maine will not be joining them; and the citizens who rely on hunting and fishing are running out of money needed to repel repeated attacks at the ballot box.

Rural Mainers who rely on fishing and hunting for food and their livelihoods had a chance to see their representatives in government make a tough decision in standing up to anti-hunting lobbyists and stop the ridiculous abuse of Maine’s citizen ballot initiative process. Well, that did not happen.

Not a sport for all

I think many in the capitol area and urban enclaves see hunting and fishing as recreation or sport, and as such believe recreation and sport do not have the merit needed for constitutional tinkering. While that may be the case in Portland, Augusta or even Bangor, it most certainly is not the case for the people who live in the places suburbanites come to recreate in.

In most rural parts of Maine, hunting and fishing aren’t weekend sports that are casually practiced when time away from the bustle of the city gets to be too much. It is a way of life out here.

Mainers living in the country depend heavily on hunting and fishing to help support their families. Have you looked at the price of a steak in the supermarket lately? Or even a one pound package of ground beef?

Out here, where any-deer permits are sparse and most can only take a buck, that one deer can amount to hundreds of dollars in food. And that is if you are lucky enough to take one.

Similarly, you are more likely than not to find locals fishing for white perch, which provides for the opportunity for more table fare due to liberal bag limits, than those fishing for a trophy-sized trout. I’m sure my neighbors would not pass up the chance of landing a trophy brook trout or two, but due to current bag limits, only two are permitted under general fishing law. You aren’t feeding a family with two fish.

Your message was spoken loudly and clearly, and this is what we heard – you don’t have the right to feed your family.

The economic impact alone on rural communities and small businesses that rely on sporting revenues will be devastating when the anti-hunting activists actually succeed on a referendum initiative. Yes, I said when.

The ramifications of not sending this proposal out of committee with an ‘Ought to Pass’ means the likelihood of passage through the legislature is slim to none. And make no mistake; the opponents of lawful hunting and fishing are practically dancing in the street over your decision. I can already hear them sharpening their pencils for the next attempt at banning some form of hunting or fishing activity.

Much of the opposing testimony submitted was rife with wild speculation; and lots of ‘what ifs’. The vast majority of it was plain old anti-hunting propaganda. Propaganda that you fell for.

The text of the legislative document was concise, plainly written and made provisions to ensure that regulation and game law enforcement would not be compromised. Critics of the bill wavered at the idea of making hunting and fishing an absolute right; fearing rampant trespass and wanton slaughtering of animals. Not even the original bill of rights is considered absolute anymore. Gun owners must still abide by firearm laws, ordinances and regulations enacted by governments, notwithstanding the right to keep and bear arms guaranteed under the second amendment to the U.S. constitution.

“Section 26. Right to hunt, fish and harvest game and fish.

The right of the people of this State to hunt, fish and harvest game and fish, including by the use of traditional methods, may not be infringed, subject to reasonable laws enacted by the Legislature and reasonable rules adopted by the state agency designated for fish and wildlife management to promote wildlife conservation and management, to maintain natural resources in trust for public use and to preserve the future of hunting and fishing.

Public hunting and fishing are a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. This section may not be construed to modify any provision of law relating to eminent domain, trespass or property rights.”

Where is the problem? Why is this such an outlandish idea? Most importantly, why did you vote ‘Ought Not to Pass?’

By siding with moneyed outsiders like Humane Society of the United States, the organization who spent a fortune trying to eliminate bear hunting in Maine, and turning your back on the very people who need this protection to ensure the livelihoods of their families, you have emboldened the special interest groups who seek to extinguish a very important, and needed, component of rural Maine lifestyle.

Your message was spoken loudly and clearly, and this is what we heard – you don’t have the right to feed your family.

John Floyd

About John Floyd

John is a freelance writer and lives in northeast Maine. His background includes work as a hunting and fishing guide, certified firearms instructor and as a United States Army Non-commissioned Officer. He covers outdoors topics and the politics and policies that affect traditional, rural lifestyle. He can be reached at or on Facebook @writerjohnfloyd