Welcome to the inaugural edition of a quarterly update from Maine Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Our goal is to provide highlights of current news on the policy front, preview coming events and plans, share news from other New England Chapter states, and in general help keep the Maine membership and others informed. Links provided with some of the items below will provide more in-depth articles on the New England BHA webpage. Look for Maine Backcountry in your email box and let us know what you think.
Around the Campfire- Looking Back at 2021
Member Meetups and Skills Workshops
Despite constraints of the pandemic Maine BHA volunteers were able to pull off a number of events for members and othersinterested in hunting and fishing. We kicked the year off with an ice-fishing meetup at Little Ossipee Lake in Waterboro organized by nationally-known forager, chef and poet Jenna Rozelle from Parsonfield. As the birds were flying north in May, Maine Beer Company in Freeport hosted BHA’s successful outdoor showing of the 2,000-Mile Migration waterfowl film. A shout out to members Mike and Heather Holland for hosting an archery skills day and pint night at Outland Farm and Brewing in Pittsfield and to Maine BHA team leader Emilie Cram, who hosted a second archery event and women’s forum at her family’s place in Pownal. For the bird hunters in the group there were meetups at the LL Bean 5-Stand clay target field in Freeport. As deer season approached Rob Bryan demonstrated deer butchering and wrapping at a workshop organized by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at the Swan Island Wildlife Management Area.
Passing it On: Mentoring New Hunters and Anglers
In addition to skills workshops Maine BHA continued to offer its mentoring program to new hunters and anglers, folks seeking to learn new skills, and helping members who have recently move to Maine from another state get started. Depending on the schedules of mentors and mentees and the mentees needs, mentoring can range from phone or email conversations about getting started to field scouting or a mentored hunt. In 2021 mentors and mentees covered a range of topics including turkey hunting, fly fishing, bowhunting deer, bird hunting, and finding places to hunt. In September Rob Bryan helped a BHA Armed Forces Initiative (AFI) member from Colorado scout for moose Thanks to Ian Biggers for fielding mentoring inquiries and pairing mentors and mentees. If you’d be a mentor or mentee, contact Maine BHA at the address below for more information.
Women in the Woods
Women in the Woods is a new program for BHA aimed at creating a community of women who hunt and fish and fostering an atmosphere in which women can share knowledge, expertise, and experiences. In 2021 Maine BHA hosted New England’s first Women in the Woods event at the Southern Maine Field Day. Maine team leader Emilie Cram and New England BHA Board member Heather Kusmierz of New Hampshire led a group of women hunters on a 3D archery shoot and discussion of hunting gear, clothing and tactics. Maine BHA hopes to offer more Women in the Woods programming in 2022.
Business Support for Maine BHA Grows
A special thanks to donations from BHA Maine’s first corporate partner, Maine Beer Company. Thanks also to Weatherby’s Lodge in Grand Lake Stream for donating three nights lodging and meals for BHA’s North American Rendezvous auction, to LL Bean for providing drawing prizes for the 2,000 Mile Migration fundraiser, and to Outland Farm and Brewery for donating proceed from beer sales at the BHA pint night in Pittsfield.
Big Win for Public Lands and Access
Thanks to letters of support from members and our testimony BHA and other conservation partners helped secure $40 million in new funding for the Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program. BHA’s advocacy helped guarantee that all lands or conservation easements purchased with LMF are open to hunting and trapping when it is safe to do so. In addition, we successfully supported changes to the Land for Maine’s Future law in three areas to prioritize projects that will protect deer wintering areas to be owned and managed by DIFW and to allocate a percentage of funding to ongoing stewardship of public lands. For more on LMF see our Op-Ed in the Bangor Daily News and on our Webpage.
Busy Year for BHA in Augusta and Beyond
2021 was the first year of the biennial session of the Legislature and a busy one for the Maine BHA policy team. In addition to the LMF win, volunteers worked on number of issues of interest to BHA. From January to June we reviewed innumerable bills related to fish and wildlife and habitat conservation and identified 15 bills as BHA priorities. Bills are often scheduled for hearings on short notice and it can be a scramble to research the issue, develop a position, discuss and approve it internally, write and deliver the testimony. To read more about BHA’s many key wins for scientific fish and wildlife management and advocacy for access and opportunity, read our web post here.
New England’s coastal waters represent a huge area of public “backcountry” that is open to all. Many of our members enjoy fishingfor striped bass, but the population continues to struggle along the entire Northeast and Mid-Atlantic coast due to a combination of spawning habitat degradation, commercial fishing, and recreational fishing. The New England Chapter, led by Mike Woods of Rhode Island, teamed up with New York BHA to submit comments to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The focus of BHAs comments was to push back against efforts by other interest groups aimed at delaying goals for recovery of the population and to ensure that the various management measures in states from Virginia to Maine do not weaken progress toward those goals. FMI see the full BHA blog here.
Eastern Chapters Gather at Muster in the Mountains
Maine Chair John Simoneau and Vice-chair Rob Bryan represented Maine at the BHA Muster in the Mountains in the hosted by New York BHA in the Catskill Mountain. Surrounded by public lands and classic Catskill trout waters, members from New England, New York, Pennsylvania and other Eastern states camped for the weekend while enjoying great food, workshops, fly fishing practice, a 3-D archery course and interacting with BHA staff and other members. On Saturday night New England BHA’s pot luck dinner featured Rhode Island black sea bass, risotto-stuffed Maine clams, venison stew from Missouri via Vermont, and much more. “Spending time with such a great group of members at the Muster really got my BHA batteries recharged,” said John.
Maine Policy Watch
Maine BHA monitors activity at the Legislature that affect fish and wildlife management, habitat, and access and collaborates with other states in the New England Chapter on federal issues. We have just begun the second year of Maine’s 130th Legislature’s session and only carryover or approved emergency bills will be heard.
LD 116 - An Act To Allow the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife To Authorize the Hunting of Antlerless Deer without a Permit in Certain Areas. This is carryover from 2021. BHA supported bill, which was submitted by DIFW and would give the Commissioner rulemaking authority to designate areas where antlerless deer may be hunted without an antlerless permit based on consideration of biological evidence and management needs.
LD 1033 - Resolve, To Direct the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife To Examine Sunday Hunting. Maine BHA testified on several Sunday hunting bills in 2021 as describe here. These were tabled and replaced with LD 1033, which resulted in a scientific survey of hunters, landowners, and the public on the question of Sunday hunting. This issue is complex, with some hunters advocating for Sunday hunting and others opposed due to due to threats by landowner representatives that increased posting and leasing of private land could follow if Sunday hunting were allowed. BHA helped develop the survey questionnaire to get a better sense of where opportunities for allowing Sunday hunting may lie and will be involved in reviewing the pending results and will interact with the Legislature if any legislation is proposed.
LD 736 - An Act To Enhance the Ecological Reserve System. This bill would allow modest changes in the area that could be put into ecological reserves on lands managed by the Bureau of Public Lands. Existing motorized access trails would be allowed, but these areas otherwise provide a true backcountry hunting, fishing, and recreational experience. The proposed limit on ecological reserves is 8% of lands that can be managed for timber, which allows for BPL to manage for both old and young forest habitat to benefit the full spectrum of Maine’s wildlife species.
The Maine Policy Team will continue to monitor and weigh in on priority bills and agency activities as they arise.
- Maine BHA is still in the process of planning events for 2021. Weather and volunteer help permitting we’re hoping for an ice fishing day later in February or early March. Stay tuned.
- Reports are that the ice is safe in most places, but beware that many spots have unsafe ice that is covered by snow. Even in lakes and ponds there are springs, narrows, and broader areas with subtle upwelling currents that almost always have unsafe ice.
- To challenge your eyes and tracking skills snowshoe hare season is open until March 31
- Moose applications are open until midnight May 12.
Help Wanted for Maine BHA Leadership Team Positions
While we get some help from our chapter coordinator who splits his time between New England and New York, almost everything we do within Maine depends on volunteers. To better serve our members and mission, Maine BHA is looking for several motivated volunteers who are willing to take the lead and to organize other volunteers in key program areas. We need help coordinating events, hunting and fishing skills workshops, monitoring fish and wildlife policy and developing policy positions and getting the word out about what we are doing. Time commitment will vary, but expect to spend 10-15 hours per month between working on specific tasks and internal communication.
For more details on each of the positions we are seeking to fill and how to apply, follow this link.
Not ready to take on a formal role, but you want to get more engaged? Do you have an event idea or public lands or waters clean-up opportunity? Would you like to at help at hunting, fishing and backcountry skills workshops, become a mentor to new hunters and anglers, or get involved in Women in the Woods? Are there hunting, fishing & public lands issues that you’d like to work on? If you answered yes to any of these questions please contact us with your interests at the email address below.
Let Us Know What You Think
How are we doing and what could we be doing better? What kind of events and programs would you like to see? Send us an email and let us know your thoughts so we can do the best job possible in serving Maine members.
Contact Us & Keeping in Touch
Email: [email protected]