Contact: Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States and States Program Assistant
Why it Matters: Across the northeast, anti-sportsmen have attempted to curb the hunting of coyotes, and this legislation is just the latest attack on one of our nation’s time-honored sporting traditions. Of particular concern, these proposals fail to recognize the crucial role that state fish and wildlife agencies have in managing our nation’s fish and wildlife and their habitats. These agencies are in the best position to make informed, science-based decisions, and legislation that proposes to undermine their management expertise ignore the many variables considered when managers are tasked with conserving wildlife populations. Additionally, legislation that would expose sportsmen and women to penalties for allowing their dogs to be “at large” while hunting is a direct attack on hunters that utilize dogs afield – a practice that predates our nation.
Prior to a unanimous vote of “Ought Not to Pass” in Committee, LD 1265 presented a very real threat to the enjoyment of many of Maine’s hunting pursuits. By amending the current definition of “dogs at large” so that dogs used while hunting were no longer exempted, this bill would have had devastating consequences for a significant portion of Maine’s hunting community. Dogs have an instrumental role in many sporting traditions, including but not limited to hunting waterfowl; tracking small game; hunting upland fowl, and the pursuit of certain furbearing species. Many methods of hunting require the dog to be “at large” for the handler to have any success in harvesting their quarry, which is often a primary intent with legislation such as this. Ultimately, the elimination of the hunting exemption would have handcuffed those who employ the help of a dog in the field.
LD 1265 would have also legislatively modified coyote hunting methods in Maine without the input of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), who ultimately opposed this bill in Committee. As the primary managers of Maine’s fish and wildlife resources, the MDIFW is in the best position to determine any alterations needed for the coyote hunting regulations. Should any changes be needed, the MDIFW maintains the ability to proceed through the normal process — publishing a notice of agency rulemaking proposal, receiving public comments and testimony at a public hearing, making a recommendation to the MDIFW Advisory Council, and then acting upon the Advisory Council’s decision. LD 1265 would have diminished this entire process, irrespective of the management of the state’s coyotes falling squarely within the MDIFW’s jurisdiction.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States, testified to the effect of these arguments during the public hearing on May 3, and submitted a letter of opposition against this bill. CSF commends the Maine Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for its continued support of Maine’s sportsmen and women through its unanimous vote of “Ought Not to Pass” on LD 1265.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?