Legislators once again could not find a compromise on Sunday hunting. Maybe that’s because we already have one.

Hunting has for decades been prohibited on Sundays, giving the private landowners who provide space for hunting one day a week during the season on which they don’t have to worry getting shot on their own land.

And for decades some hunters have unsuccessfully tried to change that law to give hunters more time in the field, particularly for those who work during the week.

Recent bills on the matter have tried to find some middle ground, with proposals to allow landowners the ability to permit Sunday hunting on their own lands.

This year, a legislative committee again considered Sunday hunting legislation, this time rejecting a bill with a geographical component: It would have split the state up between a north and south region, with hunting allowed on Sundays everywhere in north, and everywhere else with landowner permission.

It doesn’t work, because Sunday hunting is not simply a north-south issue. A new state survey found that opposition is strongest among landowners in southern Maine, but still a solid majority in central and northern/eastern Maine.


Nor is it simply a matter of turning over authority to landowners themselves. According to the survey, landowners approve of Sunday hunting slightly more if their permission is required, but they still don’t like it.

Testimony offered this year and in years past show the same thing, and it’s not a small issue. Nearly all the hunting land in Maine is open only by the good graces of private landowners, any of whom could cut off access just by putting up a sign.

Most are happy to keep their acreage open, however, as long as it doesn’t infringe too much on their own lives. Some landowners already find themselves dealing with hunters who don’t treat them with respect, as well as an uptick in litter from all sorts of recreational users of their land.

If Sunday hunting were to become a reality, there’s no doubt landowners would consider posting their land, making it off-limits to hunting, and perhaps other activities, at all times.

Even allowing each landowner to decide is problematic. For one, allowing Sunday hunting in one part of the state but not the other means favoring some Maine guides and other sporting businesses over others.

For another, it would be difficult to enforce, with game wardens having to make all sorts of on-the-spot determinations about land ownership, if they get involved at all. In most cases, it seems, enforcement would be left to the landowner — just one more thing to have to consider for the good deed of allowing people on your land.

If the goal is to extend the hunting season, then a better way may be by simply adding another week or so. We certainly have sympathy for folks who want an extra day to hunt during the short deer-hunting season.

But the fact they have that right at all depends on the good graces of private landowners. Without a doubt, Maine’s hunting industry depends on maintaining the delicate balance between the wishes of hunters and those of the diverse group of people who allow hunting on their land.

That’s why Sunday hunting is banned now, and why it’s likely to stay that way.

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