By: J.R. Absher
The Archery Wire
Last week’s announcement that an anti bear-hunting question has qualified to appear on Maine’s general election ballot this November should serve to rally bowhunters and archery organizations to help protect what’s commonly considered the best bow-and-arrow black bear hunting in the Eastern U.S.
Maine Secretary of State Mathew Dunlap on March 5 certified more than 63,500 petition signatures, enough to qualify the ballot measure that will likely ask voters if they favor prohibiting hunting black bears over bait, with hounds or using traps.
Bear hunting over bait is the most common method used in Maine – especially by bowhunters – primarily because the state’s dense forests make it impractical to hunt bears using spot-and-stalk or other methods.
A similar ballot measure failed in Maine in 2004, but only by a slight margin.
At that time, voters in nine mostly rural counties opposed Question 2 overwhelmingly, while more southern and coastal regions of the state were evenly divided. Voters in cities like Portland and Bangor gave the ban strong support. A final tally showed the measure was defeated by a slim 53 to 47 percent margin.
The sportsman’s organization leading the campaign against Question 2 in 2004 – the Maine Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council – spent a total of $1,743,625 to defeat the issue. It is expected to take an equal or greater amount to ensure a future for Maine bear hunting this November.
In 2004, the opposition campaign, dubiously named Maine Citizens for Fair Bear Hunting, spent $1,286,375. Its lead donors were the notorious national animal rights/anti-hunting groups, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Fund for Animals. HSUS’ portion of contributions totaled nearly a half million dollars. The Fund for Animals contributed $385,000.
Since the 2004 effort, the Fund for Animals became part of HSUS and its massive fund-raising machine.
The group fronting the campaign to ban bear-hunting methods in 2014 goes by the equally misleading moniker of Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting.
Biologists and sportsmen’s groups generally agree that banning the most practical forms of bear hunting in Maine would be a disaster for the species as well as the residents of the state. With a present bear population at a historic high estimated at 30,000 statewide, biologists predict that failing to keep the population in check will lead to widespread conflicts between bears and people, both in the woods and in developed areas.
Need proof? The three hunting methods targeted by the anti hunters presently account for approximately 93 percent of Maine’s total annual bear harvest. Do the math.
James Cote, campaign manager for the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council, called on Mainers to rally against the ballot measure.
“Maine people must now decide who they trust more to manage our public wildlife resources – our biologists at (the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife), who have performed decades of scientific management and research and are responsible for an extremely healthy bear population, or one interest group in Washington, D.C., (HSUS), [which] is bankrolling this initiative in order to advance an anti-hunting, anti-science political agenda at the expense of Maine people,” Cote said in a news release after last week’s announcement by the Secretary of State. “We are proud to stand behind the work of Maine’s biologists and game wardens.”
In the decade since the 2004 election, with the legal use of baiting, trapping and hounds, the number of bears in Maine increased an estimated 30 percent, from 23,000 to the current level of 30,000. In 2012, bear nuisance complaints increased dramatically across the Northeast after an unusually mild winter, with complaints in Maine jumping from around 500 annually to more than 800.
“We will be the voice of reason in this debate,” Cote said. “This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is not a north or south issue. This is an issue where Mainers of all political, geographic, and cultural stripes are banning together to defend the integrity of our bear and other wildlife management programs at MEDIFW.”
To learn more about how you, your archery club or hunting organization can help the sportsmen and women of Maine defeat this dangerous ballot measure in November, go to Save Maine’s Bear Hunt/.
– J.R. Absher