Last week, I wrote a column that outlined my thoughts on the upcoming referendum that would ban the use of traps, bait and hounds while hunting bears.
The main point: If voters choose to ban the methods we currently allow, they’re essentially paving the way for a state that harvests very few bears each year.
Emotions are running high, and I expected that my stance on Question 1 would ruffle a few feathers in one camp, and would be met with cheers by the other.
I was right: As of last count, that column had been the subject of more than 500 on-line comments. In addition, I received several emails on the subject.
One email in particular caught my eye. It came from John Home of Beaumont, Texas — not typically a town that we’d consider part of our core BDN readership. Thanks to the internet, and the website that carries our stories around the globe, our relationship with readers has changed in recent years.
We’re not just a little paper in the Maine woods any more, you see. We’re not operating in a news vacuum any longer. And when a metaphoric tree falls in the Maine woods — like Question 1 — chances are good that a reader hundreds of miles away may take an interest in it.
And while some say that non-residents shouldn’t have a say in the current referendum battle — both sides have taken aim at those “from away” for differing reasons — I’ve always thought those arguments were short-sighted.
Yes, the Humane Society of the United States is based in Washington, D.C., and it has pumped tons of cash into the effort to pass this referendum. And yes, non-resident hunters like John Home have injected their own hard-earned money into our local economy year after year while pursuing our state’s black bears.
Here’s some of what the Texas hunter had to say:
“My son and I have been coming up to Maine from Texas every year for the past four years and have discovered an amazing and unique state,” Home wrote. “First, we seem to relate to Maine folks as an almost fiercely independent bunch that seem to hold firmly to their individual rights and lifestyle. Second, it is a very beautiful place where the abundant woods, rolling landscape and country-like small towns are augmented by a coastline that will take your breath away. How did we discover this fabulous destination? The answer is simple … a great bear population, an expertly managed state hunting program and a skilled outfitter who knows how to follow regulations and put people like us on an exciting fair chase hunt.”
Home said that even his small hunting party has done its part to boost the state’s economy.
“Each year we drive Maine from south to north and back, staying in hotels, eating in small local restaurants, making purchases from numerous large and small stores, paying for hunting licenses and tags, purchasing taxidermy services with shipping to Texas, paying an outfitter, staying at hunting camps, not to mention airfares and rental cars,” Home wrote. “I estimate we have spent over $75,000 on these trips; most in small towns and every dollar magnified as it is re-spent many times. Everyone we do business with is Maine to the core and relies on hunters and people like us for their livelihood. This year in particular, there seemed to be a pall come over them from concern over their future ability to make a living due to the anti-bear hunting referendum.”
Home said he thought funding the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, tasking its biologists with managing wildlife, then seeking to ignore the conclusions of that agency makes no sense.
“I have hunted my entire life yet do not simply believe in hunting,” Home wrote. “What I do believe in is ‘responsible, regulated hunting’ factually controlled by local wildlife agencies driven to protect and conserve resources. It has been proven that managed hunting is the very best way to maintain and grow a healthy animal population living in concert with people and I almost never meet hunters who feel differently.”
Home said he hoped to return to Maine for another bear trip in the fall of 2015 … but that may not happen, depending on how the referendum turns out.
“Please consider voting ‘No’ on the bear referendum,” he concluded. “We are tentatively scheduled to come back, so if you vote ‘No,’ somebody leave the light on for us.”
John Holyoke can be reached at 990-8214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke