Two days of dedicated deer hunting for youth hunters in Maine is one of two bills that earned the support of the Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife during its Wednesday work session in Augusta.
The committee unanimously supported an amended version of LD 482 which, if approved by the Legislature, would allow youth hunters ages 16 and under to pursue deer on the Friday and Saturday immediately preceding the regular firearms season on deer in 2023.
Passage of the emergency legislation, which means it would be considered in time for implementation this year, would extend the traditional Youth Deer Hunting Day to two days in October.
Then, after examining harvest data from the fall season, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife would report back to the fisheries and wildlife committee about any concerns or issues resulting from the new arrangement and the bill would be considered for permanent adoption.
That bill was among the 30 hunting-related items proposed by Maine lawmakers this session, and will now advance to the Legislature for a vote. Every year, dozens of bills are introduced that target a variety of hunting-related topics, and while some advance to a vote others fail to garner enough support to get past the committee level.
The committee also approved by a unanimous vote a revised version of LD 481, which seeks to help certain moose permit lottery winners. In cases where more than one member of a household is drawn for a moose permit, the bill would allow one of the winners to defer using their permit until the next calendar year.
DIF&W reported that 110 households won two or more permits for the 2022 moose hunt. The committee would implement specific language that would limit the deferment to grandparents, parents, step-parents, children, step-children and grandchildren living in the same dwelling.
That bill, if passed, would not take effect until 2024.
Also on Wednesday, the committee voted “ought not to pass” on LD 544. That bill was developed with the intent of rewarding active military members and veterans with one extra bonus point each year when applying for a moose permit, thus improving their chances of receiving a permit.
The committee voted 8-1 not to support the measure, with one member, who is a veteran, citing concerns that providing such a benefit to one segment of Mainers would open the door to having to reward numerous other groups in similar fashion.
One other bill, LD 831, sought to require the DIF&W commissioner, when establishing rules managing moose hunting seasons, to take into consideration the success rate of each Wildlife Management District when determining the starting date for hunting in that district.
It also sought to direct the commissioner to establish two separate moose hunting seasons in WMDs 7 and 8.
DIF&W will also examine issues related to the moose hunt and must convene a stakeholder group to look at the issues involving the timing and length of the seasons to reduce conflicts.
DIF&W must report back to the fisheries and wildlife committee with its findings and recommendations by Jan. 15, 2024.