Ted Williams once said, “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of 10 and be considered a good performer.” (He was also the last man to hit .400 – batting .406 in 1941.) Rulemakers strive to make the rules of their respective sport fair or, one might say, challenging. The very best NHL players average roughly four shots per goal. The overall batting average in Major League Baseball is .253. Top NBA players average about twice that in field goal percentage, and NFL placekickers are successful more than three out of four times. All of which are considered fair odds.

Hunting too is a sport, and while the overall objective of rules and regulations includes maintaining healthy, renewable wildlife resources and keeping participants safe, they’re also designed to preserve the element of fair chase. Are they succeeding?

Let’s look at deer hunting. In 2012, hunting success in Maine’s regular firearms season was estimated at approximately 14 percent. The success rate for those who were fortunate enough to draw an any-deer permit ranged from 20 percent to 48 percent and averaged 30. Of course, one must consider those rates are largely the result of deer numbers. In other states with similar regulations but more deer, success rates are higher – sometimes much higher. Even there, most folks still consider it a fair contest. And deer populations are held at a level the general public can tolerate.

Success rates for bowhunters were not available but it’s probably fair to say they were considerably lower. Maine bowhunters only accounted for 1,913 deer in 2012, and anyone who has tried it knows it’s far more challenging than hunting with a firearm. The bowhunting success rate in Virginia, where they have lots more deer, is around 30 percent.

What about elk? Every year I survey all the elk hunting states. In 2013, success rates for bowhunters ranged from 6 percent to 50 percent, averaging 28. Knowing just how challenging it is to try and kill an elk with stick and string, I find those rates surprisingly high. Still that’s what we get with what is currently permitted for methods, and considered fair chase.

There are some who consider the current bear hunting practices allowed in Maine as unfair. Well let’s look at bear hunting. Using any legal weapon, which includes rifles and shotguns, roughly one in four bait hunters is successful – a 25 percent success rate. That seems to fit our criteria for fair chase, though it falls a tad short of Ted Williams’ level of success.

Who decides what’s fair in the sport of hunting? In Maine, our elected governor appoints a commissioner who oversees a staff of highly qualified wildlife biologists and managers, nationally recognized by their peers for their exemplary work on bear management. These professionals, all with college degrees and practical field experience, operate under a mandate, given by we the people, to manage our wildlife resources to the best of their ability, in a way that most benefits both human and wildlife populations.

We all want the same thing: To maximize healthy wildlife populations while minimizing negative human-wildlife interactions. Our wildlife biologists know how best to achieve that, and recommend retaining all bear-hunting methods currently allowed. We can and should hold their feet to the fire in ensuring they accomplish overall objectives, but few if any among us have the credentials to challenge their specific recommendations on how they do it. Let the professionals do their job and allow them to utilize their most effective tools, that is the hunters who generate the income necessary to manage our wildlife resources.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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