Last week, two hunters in Old Orchard Beach allegedly discharged weapons that struck a fence near a house. The homeowner was outside with her two dogs at the time.
Published reports have indicated that the home is in a development off busy Cascade Road.
And while Maine Game Warden Lt. Adam Gormely won’t comment specifically about the case except to say that it is still under investigation and that Maine Warden Service representatives will meet with the district attorney later this week to review the case.
According to the town of Old Orchard Beach’s website, hunting with rifles is not permitted within town limits.
“It shall be unlawful for any person to shoot or discharge a firearm of any kind or description, except for shotguns, within the geographic boundaries of the town,” the ordinance reads.
Gormely would not disclose whether the incident in the town involved shotguns or rifles.
But Gormely did say — while stressing that he is not referring specifically to the Old Orchard Beach incident — that it’s imperative for hunters to act responsibly when they’re in the woods.
One factor that is sometimes not fully appreciated by some hunters, Gormely said, is that the landscape on a particular parcel of land can change drastically from year to year.
One year, there’s a stand of trees, or a forest. Maybe that forest has been hunted by locals for decades.
But that’s no guarantee that the forest will be exactly the same the next year.
“[Maybe a landowner] bought the land and put a house there where somebody else has hunted for six generations,” Gormely said, hypothetically. “It’s the hunter’s responsibility [to know that and hunt safely].”
With so much of the state’s population residing in southern Maine, Gormely said hunters might want to view “hunting season” in a different way.
“I say the southern Maine hunter’s hunt should start in August,” Gormely said. “[That's when you start] by getting landowner permission, making sure there’s not a house in the area where you’ve hunted in the past.”
Gormely said there are plenty of deer living in the southern part of the state. And many of those deer are living in tiny parcels of land near neighborhoods.
Some of those areas are better suited to bow hunting or hunting with shotguns, rather than with rifles.
“As hunters, we need to be proactive,” he said. “We need to know, if this is a new development, maybe we don’t hunt here any more. Maybe we need to go in and meet the homeowner and see if we can legally hunt there.”
The key thing for hunters to remember, Gormely said, is that they’ve got to determine not only what they’re shooting at, but what exists beyond their target.
“High-caliber rifle bullets travel great distances,” he said. “A lot of times [hunters] can’t see through the brush or the evergreens. But the hunter matter-of-fact owns that projectile until it stops.”
Gormely said it’s important for the Maine Warden Service to continually stress safety and responsibility. And it’s equally important for hunters to avoid acting irresponsibly.
If you don’t shoot a deer this year, it’s not the worst thing that can happen, after all.
Make a bad decision in the woods, and it may be.
“Don’t take unnecessary chances,” Gormely said. “It’s just a deer.”