A Radical Agenda to Bolster the Ranks of Hunters

The Anatomy of a Bill

By guest blogger Val Philbrick

Most Mainers probably do not know that on June 2, 2015, the minimum age for a child to hunt in Maine was reduced from 10 to zero by the legislature. So, now in addition to having to watch out for gun suppressors while walking in the woods, we have to be aware of children carrying firearms while hunting within 20 feet of a parent or adult guardian. See the previous blog on gun suppressors:

http://loprieno.bangordailynews.com/2015/10/19/home/sam-the-nra-and-silencers

According to mainelegislature.org, on January 29, 2015, LD 156: “An Act to Lower the Eligibility Age for a Junior Hunting License” was introduced to the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee by Gary Hilliard, (R-Belgrade), a member of the IFW Committee and supporter of the Sportman’s Alliance of Maine. The bill proposed to lower the eligibility age for a junior hunting license from ten to eight years of age.

On February 3, 2015, the IFW Committee took up the matter. A public hearing was held on March 26, 2015, at which time, James Cote, lobbyist for the U.S. Sportmen’s Alliance, Rep. Gary Hilliard, sponsor of the bill, David Trahan of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM), and Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, all testified in support of the bill. For the full testimony of all participants: See the following link:

http://www.mainelegislature.org

Rep. Hilliard testified, “Junior hunting participation rates are not keeping pace and are the lowest in states with the most restrictions. For every 10 hunters lost, they are replaced by less than 7 hunters. lf this trend continues, funding for hunting could drop by 25% in the next 10 years. Studies show that the younger we start youth hunting, chances are better they will stay for a lifetime. Lowering Maine’s hunting age helps our economics. According to Bill Swan at MDIFW [Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife], lowering the youth hunting age to 8 could result in 2,900 extra youth hunters; and the Fiscal Impact Statement attached to this bill is a positive $22,300 per year in additional license fees, which would also be matched by Federal funds [from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service].”

James Cote proposed that two amendments be added to LD 156 and provided copies of the amendments along with information about the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance “Families Afield” Apprentice Junior Hunting Program to the IFW Committee: 1) to eliminate the minimum age for a junior hunting license and 2) to lift the cap on the numbers of years an adult may purchase an apprentice hunting license testifying, “By lifting this cap, we give adults more opportunity to try various types of hunting before they have to commit to a hunter education course, and all of the other investments, and barriers frankly, that come with hunting. The more exposure that we give to those who haven’t tried hunting in the past, the higher the likelihood that they will continue to explore and engage in the sport in the future.”

David Trahan of SAM testified before the Committee, “Since this bill was introduced, we have learned that a number of other states do not have any age requirement; instead they rely on parents to make that decision. In addition, our organization is very impressed with the mentoring program ‘Families Afield’ being implemented through the United States Sportsmen’s Alliance and a coalition of other organizations including the NRA, and we believe exploring their effective and successful mentoring program is a responsible way to proceed with this legislation.”

Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, spoke out in favor of the bill, “If the [IFW] Committee supports this proposal, we believe a mandatory safety course should be considered. We would encourage the Committee to eliminate the age restriction to hunt and in conjunction with this, we suggest a mandatory safety course for all hunters.”

The lone dissenter was Karen Coker, stating, “The motor skills of eight-year-olds are not fully developed, but still developing, and they are at a stage of emotional development where their emotions, thoughts and feelings can change rapidly… Sportsmen’s groups, shooting sports groups, and state and federal hunting agencies are concerned about significant declines in hunting participation and are, therefore, working to attract and engage more children in hunting activities. This objective should not blind this Committee to the tremendous potential for accidental injury and death that this bill would create if it passed. I urge you to oppose LD156.”

Predictably on May 5, 2015, “the Majority Ought to Pass as Amended Report was ACCEPTED [by the IFW Committee with a majority of members in SAM]. The Bill was READ ONCE. Committee Amendment “A” (H-105) was READ and ADOPTED… The Bill was PASSED TO BE ENGROSSED as Amended by Committee Amendment “A” (H-105).”

What this means is that LD 156 as first proposed was replaced by Amendment “A.” (H-105). This is a common practice in the legislature, which often changes the intent of the original bill. Amendment “A”, An Act To Eliminate the Minimum Age Requirement for a Junior Hunting License and Increase the Number of Times a Person May Hold an Apprentice Hunter License was adopted by the legislative on May 6, 2015.

According to the summary of Amendment “A.” (H-105), “This amendment instead removes the minimum age requirement for a junior hunting license. This amendment also provides that the adult supervisor of the junior hunter must hold or have held a Maine hunting license or have successfully completed a hunter safety course. It also increases the number of times a person may hold an apprentice hunter license from twice to five times before becoming ineligible to purchase the license.”

Next, Senate Amendment “B” (S-123) was adopted by the legislature on May 27, 2015. This amendment requires that hunters under 10 years of age must: 1) Hold a junior hunting license; and 2) Be in the presence of and under the effective control of an adult supervisor who remains at all times within 20 feet of the hunter.”

The final version of the original LD 156 entitled, “An Act To Lower the Eligibility Age for a Junior Hunting License”, was passed by the legislature and predictably was signed by Governor LePage on June 2, 2015. The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2016.  Theoretically speaking, a child of five years or six years with some coaching could pass a hunter safety course, obtain a junior license, walk through the woods, and carry a firearm under adult supervision. There is no mention of how many children may accompany an adult guardian or supervisor at one time.

While the final version of LD 156 was working its way through the legislature, a national organization, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance located in Columbus, Ohio, was lobbying the Maine legislature to get the bill passed. According to mainecampaignfinance.com, James Cote received $9,000 for his lobbying efforts for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance in 2015.  It is believed that local and national hunting organizations, such as the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and SAM, have a vested interest in introducing children to hunting, an activity thought to be on the decline, in order to keep the revenue from memberships in these organizations and similar organizations flowing into their coffers. For more information, see the following link:

http://mainecampaignfinance.com

You heard throughout the 2014 bear referendum about the radical animal agenda. I submit to you that there is a radical hunting agenda as evidenced by the vitriolic rants by so-called experts on all things guns and wildlife that appears in reply to every post, letter, article, or blog that does not conform to their extreme views. These internet trolls have no purpose in life except to berate those who express an opinion that they disagree with as if by doing so, they are going to change someone’s mind.

 –Val Philbrick is a local writer, talk show host, and animal advocate.

Note: A comment about David Trahan, previously included in this blog, has been withdrawn. He was paid $3521.74 as a registered lobbyist for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, not the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.The confusion resulted from the similar names of these two organizations.

Don Loprieno

About Don Loprieno

Don Loprieno is a student of history and a published author.