Even as it prepares this week to submit an appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court as part of its 2022 Sunday hunting lawsuit, Maine Hunters United for Sunday Hunting is making a new push.
The group on Wednesday announced its endorsement of LR 1561, a bill aimed at opening the door for hunting on Sundays with the use of a bow and arrow or crossbow. The bill sponsor is Rep. Sophia Warren, D-Scarborough.
The bill is the latest in a long series of attempts to alter Maine law and allow Sunday hunting. However, dozens of previous efforts have all failed as lawmakers have resisted interfering with property owners’ desire to enjoy one quiet day in the woods during the hunting seasons.
Jared Bornstein, the executive director of Maine Hunters United for Sunday Hunting, and Warren were among those on hand in Augusta to outline details of the compromise legislation, which they believe would provide Mainers whose hunting time is limited because of work responsibilities the opportunity to get out in the woods.
“The bill is pretty simple. If it passes, Mainers will be able to hunt on Sundays with a bow or crossbow, provided that they pay a $31 fee to participate,” Bornstein said.
Proceeds from the fee would be split among the Land for Maine’s Future program ($10), youth hunter education programs ($10) and any increased Warden Service expenditures ($10).
Maine Hunters United for Sunday Hunting believes there is public support behind the initiative based on a study performed by Pan Atlantic Research, located in Portland.
The study found that 48 percent of Mainers polled support the Sunday bowhunting and crossbow hunting concept, with 24 percent of respondents indicating they “strongly support” it and another 24 percent expressing moderate support.
One quarter of those polled were “neutral” on the subject, while 19 percent “strongly oppose” and 8 percent “moderately oppose” Sunday bowhunting.
In her comments, Warren pointed out that 48 of 50 states allow some form of Sunday hunting and that Maine should follow suit.
Rep. Aaron Dana, Tribal Representative, also spoke Wednesday in support of the Sunday bowhunting and crossbow hunting bill. He said the prohibition is outdated.
“This bill strikes a fair balance between landowner relations and the need for hunters to be in the woods,” Dana said. “Hunters provide assurances of safety by not using firearms, while hikers, landowners and non-hunting outdoor enthusiasts let them in the woods on Sunday.”
Bornstein said Maine Hunters United for Sunday Hunting will file its appeal this week of the November ruling by Superior Court Justice Deborah Cashman, who dismissed the suit filed in April by Joel Parker and Virginia Parker against Judy Camuso, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
The lawsuit asserts that hunting should be included under the right-to-food amendment passed by Maine voters in November 2021 and is the first to argue that a new constitutional right to food trumps a major state law.
The Parkers contend the ban is archaic and prevents them from harvesting food for their family.
However, the most recent Sunday hunting effort was again met with resistance from landowners, many of whom want to maintain Sunday as a day free from worrying about hunters being on their property.
A study commissioned by the state found that 44 percent of landowners who do not post their land said they would be more likely to restrict access to their land if Sunday hunting were allowed.
Since most of Maine’s hunting territory is private land, many hunters realize the potential widespread posting of private land under a Sunday hunting scenario is a possibility that must be considered.