AUGUSTA, Maine — A national sporting group linked to the archconservative rocker and activist Ted Nugent said Thursday it would fund a lawsuit against Maine’s Sunday hunting ban.
An advocacy arm of the Kansas-based Hunter Nation said Wednesday it would make a five-figure donation toward a lawsuit filed in an Augusta court last week. The group’s CEO, Luke Hilgemann, declined to give a more specific figure, saying legal costs are hard to predict.
The Sunday hunting lawsuit is a milestone in Maine as the first one to ask that a major state law be overturned because of a constitutional right to food passed by voters here in 2021. Only Maine and Massachusetts still ban hunting on Sundays in a remaining example of a religious “blue law” barring certain activities on church days that dates back to the 1800s.
Eroding the ban is a perennial topic in the Maine Legislature, with lawmakers considering roughly 35 attempts in the last 45 years to do so. But it has survived with most hunters in favor of it and most landowners — particularly those in southern Maine — generally opposed. The Legislature has been wary because hunting here largely relies on access to private land.
The lawsuit was organized by the Maine Hunters United for Sunday Hunting, a coalition led by Democratic lobbyist Jared Bornstein that lobbied on the cause in the Legislature. He is out in front of other sporting groups here, including the influential Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, which supports Sunday hunting but opposed the most recent legislative bid.
Hunter Nation is most notable for its influence in Wisconsin politics and lobbying across the country to liberalize hunting seasons. Hilgemann is a Republican operative based in that state and once ran the top advocacy group founded by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers known for a network of influential conservative groups.
The hunting group sued Wisconsin last year to force a wolf hunt that has been on hold during a wider fight with environmental groups and tribes. It also backed a Republican-backed “Sporting Freedom Package” of bills that died or were vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. It lobbied on Sunday hunting in Maine and worked on a successful Virginia effort to expand it there.
“For us, we just can’t come up with a good reason as to why hunters shouldn’t be allowed to pursue a legal ethical tag that they’ve purchased on Sunday just because this outdated law prohibits them from doing so,” Hilgemann said.
Hunter Nation has gained attention for its affiliation with Nugent, who was named the group’s “national spokesman” last summer. His music career peaked in the 1970s. Since then, he has become an activist known as much for his extreme comments, including in 2014, when he referred to then-President Barack Obama as a “subhuman mongrel.”