Fewer out-of-staters are coming to Maine to hunt. That fact is no great surprise to those familiar with Maine hunting but is of great concern.

From 2006 to 2011, the number of Maine hunting licenses bought by nonresidents dropped by 9,000. The decline caused a loss of $1.2 million in license fees for the state, according to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Tourism is Maine’s largest industry and hunting is a critical component. A legislative task force examined this decline.

Its first recommendation was to commission an analysis of economic contributions of hunting in Maine. According to a report prepared by Southwick Associates, hunters spent $231 million in Maine in 2013. When the multiplier effects of that spending are considered, it represents a total economic output of $338.7 million. Additionally, recreational hunting supports more than 3,400 full- and part-time jobs.

The report also broke down economic contributions of hunting-related spending into eight tourism regions in Maine, and by game species sought by hunters. Not surprisingly, deer hunters topped the list, accounting for roughly $68 million in annual expenditures. However, the relative importance of deer hunters in terms of both numbers and dollars did not match the national trend. Nationwide, deer hunting accounts for more hunters and dollars than all other types of hunting combined. In Maine, it accounts for 84 percent of hunters but only 29 percent of total expenditures. Upland bird hunting is second on the list, accounting for nearly $50 million in spending. And while turkey hunters rank third in terms of numbers, bear hunters rank third in economic impact, providing more than $35 million.

Where hunters traveled depended to some extent on what they were pursuing. Deer hunters primarily targeted Maine’s lakes and mountains, the highlands (Bangor-Katahdin-Moosehead Lake), and the Kennebec Valley. Those three regions, along with Aroostook County, were also tops with upland bird hunters. Resident turkey hunters focused primarily on the midcoast and highlands, while nonresidents favored the Kennebec Valley, lakes and mountains, midcoast and south coastal areas. Aroostook County, lakes and mountains, and highlands were favored by bear hunters. Resident waterfowlers keyed in on the highlands, while nonresidents spent more time in the midcoast and Downeast regions.

Though the Southwick analysis didn’t delve into why, there were likely several factors contributing to the choice of destinations. In some cases, it may be relative abundance of a particular game species. For residents, access to huntable land is a vital factor, while nonresident hunters may be more inclined to visit areas with better infrastructure in the form of lodging, guides and outfitters.

This analysis represents a good first step toward finding ways to increase nonresident-hunter participation in Maine. The task force has also generated a list of recommendations that include greater collaboration between IFW and the Office of Tourism, more funding for analysis of nonresident hunter motivations, more marketing tools, strategies and training for Maine’s hunting industry partners, better hunting opportunities, and increased promotion of those opportunities. The future of Maine hunting and its contribution to the state’s economy now depends on how effective we are at heading those recommendations.

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

[email protected]