Commentary

Worship in the Woods

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The day is coming to a close. You have been suffering through wind, rain and hunger since 6:00 a.m. this morning awaiting your prize; a white tailed deer. As a working man, you have waited your whole week for this special day, and know that if not shot before sunset tonight, you will have to wait another week before you’re able to go back into the woods to stalk your prey. As the sun settles on the horizon, and your stomach moans for dinner, you climb down the tree stand and head home; hoping that the monster buck you’ve been watching since last spring survives another week.

This may seem like an outtake from a Field & Stream story, but it is a very harsh reality for most of Maine’s hunting population. Yes, legally the Maine hunter has six days a week (Monday through Saturday) to take to the woods, from sunrise to sunset. The problem is that many of Maine’s hunters are working women and men (or students) who can only hunt on weekends.

This makes it hard for local hunters to have adequate time to hunt and discourages out-of-state sportsman from purchasing a hunting license here in vacationland.

Being one of the only three states in the country with an outright ban on Sunday hunting discourages many sportsmen who would hunt here from making the trip up to Maine whenthey can go to states like New Hampshire and Vermont where and spend the entire trip in the woods pursuing game.

So why is it that if I own fifty acres in “The County,” I can’t meander off the beaten path with “K9” Millie and flush some grouse on a Sunday morning? The answer is plain and simple: it is because of our forefathers and what they called “Blue Laws.” If you were to look at the eleven states that currently restrict or ban Sunday hunting, you will quickly notice that they are concentrated on the east coast and in states with a strong Puritan influence.

These laws were established as early as the 17th century and as recently as the late 19th century, and were justified by the Old Testament. As religious influence was stronger during these times, Blue Laws became firmly ingrained in our society. As a religious man, I completely understand the idea of Sunday as a day of rest, but I am also a believer in the separation of Church and State. Today, we have no need for these archaic laws. They are limiting our economy and preventing us from access to millions of dollars.

Many of our mills have shut down, our resident farming population has shrunk and our fishermen are being suffocated by federal regulations. While we struggle to find our new economic identity, we have the ability to inject millions of dollars into our economy to help fill the void.

It is estimated that if the state of Maine were to allow hunting on Sundays, we could produce an economic surge of somewhere near $45 million dollars each year in additional revenue and create thousands of new jobs. Whether it be an extra guide or two at your local camp, an extra waitress at an area breakfast joint, or five new employees at the nearest outfitter, new jobs would be created and more money would be injected into some of the poorest areas of the state.

Simply allowing Sunday hunting within our boundaries would drastically help reverse the recent trend of dwindling non-resident license sales by making Maine a more competitive state for hunting tourism. Currently, neighboring New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and New Brunswick all allow hunting every day of the week, putting Maine guides and hunters at a significant disadvantage.

As a state, we underestimate the reputation that our name bears. Mainers are seen as a rugged, rural and welcoming people; the perfect combination to encourage a strong hunting presence. To many, the vast wilderness of northern Maine is a dream hunting location. Adding an extra day to our time in the woods would provide a competitive edge that our hunters and guides desperately need.

We have nothing to lose by adding an extra day each week to the hunting season, but everything to gain.

About Dominic DeLuca

Dominic DeLuca is currently a Junior in the Environmental Science program at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. He serves as Chairman of the University of Maine at Fort Kent College Republicans, and as Treasurer of the Maine Federation of College Republicans.

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