Most members of a legislative committee on Monday rejected the latest attempt to allow Sunday hunting in Maine.
Maine is one of only two states — Massachusetts is the other — that does not permit hunting on Sunday. Following two hours of testimony, six Democrats and two Republicans voted against an amended version of a bill that would allow people to hunt on land they own on Sunday or for others to hunt on private land with written permission on Sundays. Three Republicans voted in support of it.
Supporters of the bill told members of the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Committee that working Mainers need an additional day to get into the woods and that adding Sunday would be an economic boost to the state.
Registered Maine Guide Joel Vail said many of his clients work long hours, and with rising costs Mainers need more options to fill their freezers with food.
“I can go get really good protein for my family and I can stock it up and it costs me far less than going to the store,” he said.
National Rifle Association State Director Lauren LePage, the daughter of former Gov. Paul LePage, said it’s time for Maine to get rid of “an antiquated blue law” that prevents people from hunting on Sundays.
“Expanding Sunday hunting will also provide economic benefit through the purchase of fuel, food, lodging and other incidentals that go along with a day’s hunt,” she said. “We allow various other outdoor activities on Sunday, including fishing and hiking, and hunting should be treated the same.”
Opponents say it would create a confusing patchwork of regulations and that it would take away the rights of non-hunters to enjoy the woods on Sundays. In addition, they said it could prompt more people to post their land to prohibit hunting, which would take away access to hunters.
Groups opposed included the Maine Potato Board, Maine Professional Guides Association, ATV Maine, Maine Farm Bureau, The Nature Conservancy and the Maine Forest Products Council.
Portland resident Jack Erler, who owns 130 acres of forested land, said he and his family like to go for walks on Sundays.
“They just want to know if they climb the mountain on Sunday they are not going to get shot at,” he said.
The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife testified in opposition to the bill, saying that a recent survey showed 54% of Mainers oppose Sunday hunting. In addition, 44% of landowners surveyed said they would be more likely to close their land to hunters if Sunday hunting is allowed, said Timothy Peabody, deputy commissioner for the department.
“Sunday hunting is a social issue that as a state we have struggled with for years,” he said.
The original version of LD 2014 also proposed to allow Sunday hunting north of U.S. Route 2 from the New Hampshire border to Bangor, north of Route 9 from Bangor to the Canadian border and within any portion of the White Mountain National Forest in Maine.
But Rep. Lester Ordway (R-Standish) stripped that language out of the bill saying it was time to get something passed to allow Sunday hunting after more than 40 years of discussion about it.
“I think it’s just time, it’s time to do something with this bill,” he said. “I see the economic impact it would have on northern Maine, I believe.”
The bill will now move to the full House and Senate for consideration.