With the new year comes a new legislative session and a plethora of proposed hunting-related bills. Some are based on hard science and others pure emotion. Some will be quickly dismissed, others discussed and debated at length. The following are but a few of the more noteworthy examples.

First on our list is “An Act To Continue To Permit Persons 70 Years of Age and Older To Hunt With a Crossbow.” The current law had a sunset provision. The experiment seems to have been a success and I wouldn’t expect any major or minor objections to renewal. Then again, some folks adamantly opposed establishing youth days for waterfowl, deer and turkey hunting, so you just never know.

Something likely to spur more heated debate is “An Act To Remove Crossbows from the Restriction on Discharging Weapons near Buildings.” This restriction was largely the result of efforts from the anti-crossbow contingent. However, it backfired when hard data demonstrated little if any physical difference in trajectory and effective range between crossbows and compound bows. That led to prohibiting the discharge of any bow within 100 yards of specified structures. The restriction on compounds has since been repealed, so it only makes sense that crossbows should also be excluded. Still, the erroneous perception that crossbows are more effective at longer ranges will likely prompt some objection.

Not surprisingly, there are several deer-related proposals. “An Act Concerning Antler Restrictions” should stir some lively interaction. State biologists have long opposed the concept, but increasingly more hunters are promoting it, particularly in light of how successful it has worked in other states. Biologically, it would be a plus, as it would allow more bucks to reach older age classes. However, it would take away considerable opportunity from hunters who are merely looking to fill their tag with any buck, regardless of antler size. There was no specific wording available for “An Act To Enhance the Male Deer Population” but it likely also includes some mention of antler restrictions to reduce mortality on yearling bucks.

I’m curious to see the contents of “An Act To Enhance Management of Deer Herds in Coastal Areas.” The state initially addressed burgeoning and sometimes over-abundant deer populations in coastal and more-developed areas with establishment of the expanded archery season, which has seen substantial changes over the last decade or so. Many hunters have complained the expanded season was too effective, as deer herds have dwindled. Meanwhile, landowners still lament that too many deer are causing property damage and spreading Lyme disease.

Voters settled the bear hunting debate last fall, but certainly not once and for all. Objection to current bear hunting practices has already resurfaced in two proposals: “An Act To Ensure Safe and Humane Bear Hunting Practices” and “An Act To Prohibit Hunting Bear Using Dogs and Trapping Bear.”

For the time being, wildlife management remains in the hands of those most well-equipped to handle it – biologists. Seven measure are proposed to ensure that remains the case, at least in part of the state. Two are constitutional amendments that would exclude wildlife issues or laws governing hunting and fishing from the citizens’ initiative process. Numerous states have already enacted similar measures.

Two other proposed constitutional amendments would require either a two-thirds majority in each county to approve direct initiatives of legislation, or that five percent of signatures on a citizens’ initiative come from each county. Yet another proposal would amend Maine’s constitution “to limit the application of citizen initiatives concerning wildlife matters to counties in which they are approved.”

There are a couple equipment-related proposals worth mentioning. Regular readers may recall a column I did on suppressors. Apparently it made an impression, as there is a proposition to allow their use for hunting certain wildlife. Then there’s “An Act To Allow the Hunting of Small Animals with a Slingshot.” It may seem trivial; however, I saw a new slingshot at the 2015 Archery Trade Show that fires a conventional hunting arrow and is capable of taking down most any North American game animal. That’s probably not what the bill’s author had in mind, but it could be amended. If not, it still offers more opportunity, especially for youth hunters.

Speaking of youth, there are proposals to designate a youth bear hunting day and to allow certain youths to take a deer of either sex. As mentioned, we have youth days for deer, turkey and waterfowl; why not for bear? As for either-sex deer hunting, that’s probably best left to the folks at IFW, as it could directly influence overall population management objectives.

Five proposals address Sunday hunting in some way. Several are strategically titled to suggest they would “stimulate the economy and invigorate the hunting industry,” “increase economic development in rural communities” or “spur job creation and strengthen Maine’s deer herd.” All will be hotly debated.

Finally, there are proposals that would reduce poaching, improve hunting opportunities, expand the landowner relations program, and promote and market hunting and fishing in Maine. Who wouldn’t want that? Their seemingly innocuous titles are all that is available at present. The fine print could garner some objection.

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

[email protected]