Our hunting youth deserve better

12 years ago

Our hunting youth deserve better

To the editor:

    Many have asked that I put in writing my opposition to the continuation of the discriminatory Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s program that I refer to as the Northern Maine Anti-Youth Program on youth deer hunting day. I am very happy to do so.

    I strongly opposed this program when it was originally proposed when I was on the Advisory Council, and I strongly oppose it even more today. It has accomplished nothing except to totally alienate our northern Maine youth, their parents, landowners who have a family, and to limit access. If these are the goals of anyone, then they can consider themselves a rousing success.

    Over the years as a master Maine guide, a State Senator, a member of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine board of directors and having served on the IF&W advisory board I always supported managing our fishery and wildlife based on solid biological research and factual statistical information gathered from departmental records and a variety of other professional sources including a little common sense. The present northern Maine anti-youth program fails any and all of these tests.

    Let’s look at where this anti-youth program originated. The Legislature passed LD 823 which resulted in the creation of yet another deer study or task force. The report from this group was filed with Commissioner Martin in December 2007 and has since been filed in the round file under the desk along with the others. While the report goes on and on for many pages in its redundancy the basic recommendations are itemized on pages 11 to 16.

    Look on page 15, paragraph number 1 under HUNTING. This is very clear that this anti-youth proposal is merely a recommendation, supported by absolutely no biological data or anything else. It was submitted for consideration by this group along with the many other recommendations, yet it is the only one that was accepted by the department. The other recommendations under paragraph 2, a. b., and c as well as all of paragraph 3 were and continue to be completely ignored. Paragraph number 1 was accepted as it cost the department nothing, required no effort and would cause the department no heartburn from 12-year-olds. The other recommendations under HUNTING, paragraph 2, a, b, and c that were ignored would have required biological and statistical studies, effort and funding in some cases. This was all a very cut and dried issue as several members of this task force were departmental employees, appointed by the Commissioner, and were the very employees that were in position to make decisions on behalf of the department to either accept or reject any or all recommendations!

    Even then if this recommendation had been incorporated as part of a comprehensive deer management plan, including but not limited to coyote and bear predator control, landowner relations, an attempt to limit the slaughter of our deer on our highways, shorter hunting seasons in certain areas, and other conservation issues it might have been acceptable. As a stand-alone item it is a sad pathetic joke to blame our northern Maine youth for the deer decline.

    Because of the past two easy winters, weather-wise, and efforts by the Aroostook County Conservation Association and others in reducing coyote numbers, there has been a remarkable increase in deer numbers east of Route 11. The bear predator issue now needs to be addressed. West of Route 11 the deer situation is an entirely different story. Yet management is still always based on the old North-South issue. I really don’t know why we have game management districts for deer in northern Maine. A few permits could be issued to our youth East of Route 11 and do no harm to the resource and do a world of good in other ways.

    The biological position of the department on this youth day issue was made very clear recently by the Commissioner at the Advisory Council meeting in Augusta on May 19, 2011. On page 3, step 2, number 1 any deer permit-youth day. Mr. Thurston stated that he would like to know the Department’s biological opinion on this. Commissioner Woodcock stated there would be insignificant impact. He had talked it over with biologists and in total there weren’t many does killed on youth day. This quotation is taken directly from the meeting minutes.

    While I and others believe that every deer is important, we also believe that every one of our youth, their parents, and landowners that are being lost to hunting, along with lost access, are more important than saving a very few deer on youth day for coyote feed next winter. Our youth deserve better.

R. Leo Kieffer