LD222: An Act Regarding Maine’s Moose Lottery sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis (R-Senate District 4 Piscataquis County) would prevent hunters under the age of eight years old from hunting moose and participating in the moose permit lottery (voted ought not to pass by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, now dead, and placed in the legislative files).
LD558: An Act to Improve Moose Hunting sponsored by Rep. Gary Hilliard (R-Belgrade) would prevent children under eight years old from hunting moose, but they may purchase applications for moose hunting permits “in order to accrue points in the public chance drawing for moose permits” to start building points to improve their chances in future years with an emergency provision that this legislation take effect before the moose permit lottery deadline of May 15, 2017. (Voted ought to pass by the IFW Committee and scheduled for further review.)
At the present time, an individual who is eligible to obtain a Maine hunting license is eligible to apply for a moose hunting permit. Apparently this year, some adults have been applying with one or more of their offspring for a moose permit. However, this could have been avoided by making the legal age of a hunter eight years old.
Let me explain: Last year, in the 127th Session of the Maine Legislature, LD156: An Act to Lower the Eligibility Age for a Junior Hunter License was sponsored by Rep. Gary Hilliard (R-Belgrade). The bill proposed to lower the hunting age of children from age ten to eight years old based on the testimony of an eight-year-old girl, who spoke at a public hearing in front of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. Most people seemed to be okay with lowering the age of young hunters to eight years although some people had misgivings about lowering the age to eight years.
LD156 as originally proposed would have lowered the eligibility age for a hunting license from ten to eight years of age. Before LD156 could be passed, it was suddenly replaced by Amendment H-105 under pressure from a national hunting group, the U.S. Sportmen’s Alliance, to swell the ranks of young hunters. The amendment that replaced LD156, which was virtually written by the U.S. Sportmen’s Alliance, removed the minimum age requirement for a hunting license provided that the child hunt within 20 yards of a parent or guardian and obtain a junior hunting license for $8.00 providing that the adult supervisor of a junior hunter has a Maine hunting license and has completed a hunter safety course. Even some seasoned hunters were taken aback by the elimination of the age requirement. Consequently, all of the children in a family can apply for a permit to hunt a moose, which some people think gives some families a distinct advantage.
According to an article that appeared in the Outdoors section of the Portland Press Herald on October 2, 2016, “This year, Maine reduced its moose permits by 22 percent from 2,740 to 2,140, the lowest number since 1998 when only 2,000 permits were issued. The largest decrease was in hunting Senate District 4 (Piscataquis County), which saw a 58 percent decrease from 600 to 250.”
Coincidentally, some people feel that there should be no moose permit lottery to hunt moose at all for at least a few years as sightings of moose are reportedly down in every state in this country and around the world thought to be due to climate change with moose populations moving farther north. Beginning in 2011, due to a dwindling moose population, a person who obtains a moose hunting permit is ineligible to obtain another permit in Maine until three years have elapsed after the issuance of the last permit.
The Maine legislature urged on by lobbyists from national hunting interests fell for the bait and switch tactic of substituting a zero age requirement in the form of a last-minute amendment to swell the ranks if young hunters. Constitutionally speaking, if children are old enough to hunt, they should be old enough to apply for a moose permit and hunt a moose. For simplicity’s sake, the legislature might consider changing the minimum age for a junior hunter to eight years old for all hunting, not just moose. This would solve the problem and seems to make a lot more sense.