The rules and 'rationale' of hunting tourists...
As a veteran volunteer Hunter Safety Instructor for the State of Maine, with thirteen years of teaching to my credit, I have been approached by a number of my fellow sportsmen to address the problem of the bad public image that has been plaguing responsible Maine hunters for the past several years. The tradition of tourist hunting has long been a treasured part of the Mainiac culture, and it is my desire to encourage my fellow Mainiacs to conduct themselves responsibly and with the essence of good sportsmanship, so that our traditions will continue to be viewed with the respect they are due.
With this yearsâ€™ tourist season quickly approaching, I would like to take just a moment to review and explain the process by which our hunting regulations are determined. Each year the Department of Tourism, in conjunction with the Maine Department of Fish and Wildlife, calculates the estimated influx of Flatlanders into the State of Maine, and then determines the number of tourists that can be safely harvested in order to maintain a healthy ratio of tourist to habit. This will ensure a successful tourist season for both the native businessman and the tourist population. Maine relies heavily on the tourist trade for its economic welfare, so it is necessary to maintain a proper environment in which the tourists may flourish. Flatlanders have also become an essential part of the Maine construction industry, providing hides for mobile home roofing, tarps for bass boats, and other manufacturing materials. Therefore it is imperative that the harvesting of this precious commodity be regulated in order to ensure that each citizen has an equal opportunity to avail themselves of these supplies.
As a result of the current high fuel prices, the Department of Tourism is anticipating a significant decrease in the tourist population this summer, and has lowered the legal bag limits accordingly. The bag limits have now been decreased to a combination of TWO (2) Massachusetts tourists, ONE (1) Connecticut tourist, and ONE (1) New Jersey tourist, for a limit not to exceed a total of FOUR (4) tourists per licensed Maine hunter during this summerâ€™s tourist season. The ANY FLATLANDER PERMIT allows the taking of either sex of any of these species. Because of the hardships anticipated this season, the New York and Rhode Island species have been eliminated from the summer seasonâ€™s legal harvest. There will be a special limited season for these particular species, bucks only, held during the Leaf-Peeperâ€™s Season this fall. A special lottery will be held, and a limited number of permits will be issued for the controlled harvest of these particular tourist species.
In response to complaints from previous tourists, and especially to petitions from the legislators of the bordering New England states, the Maine Department of Tourism has agreed to increase the number of game preserves set aside as safe havens for these tourists. Effective this season, the following areas have been designated as NO SHOOT zones: Old Orchard Beach (does not include PRIVATE beach areas), the Maine Mall in South Portland, the Kittery Outlet Mall, Christmas Shops (all store locations), LL Bean (Freeport location only), Bar Harbor, Wells (downtown areas only) and Ogunquit. Any tourist that has safely arrived in any of these localities shall be protected from harvest until such time that the tourist decides to leave the game preserve.
It is considered unethical and poor sportsmanship to set up tree stands or camouflage stations within fifty feet of the borders of these game preserves. It is also in poor taste to set out bait traps along the immediate routes to and from these preserves, unless the traps are at least a minimum of a half-mile from these preserves. It is illegal to use such baits as â€śGucciâ€ť, â€śDockersâ€ť, or items labeled â€śorganically grownâ€ť, since these are considered to be staples of the Flatlander diet. It is, however, legal to use such baits as â€śdiscountâ€ť, â€śhalf-priceâ€ť, â€ścloseoutâ€ť, and of course â€śfree directionsâ€ť, as these items are not part of the Flatlandersâ€™ core diet, but merely highly sought after treats preferred by these tourists.
Finally, one of the biggest complaints of the anti-tourist hunter sect, is that the Maine hunters are not wisely or fully utilizing what they harvest. Any self-respecting hunter would agree with these objections. Not only should a responsible hunter be able to identify the particular species of his game, but that hunter should also be keenly aware of the harvest value of each species he or she hunts. Tourists are a valuable resource that should not be wasted, and we heartily encourage every sportsman to keep apprised of the current market values of the game he harvests, as well as the varied uses for that harvest.
Current market prices for hides will vary depending on the species and sex of the tourist harvested. The most abundant hides, those from Massholes, are selling for $20 per hide for bucks, and $15 for does. The male hides of this species is often bloated and crude, the females often small and chemically treated, thus making them unsuitable for anything except the more basic tarps or roofs. The Connecticut hides, however, are less abundant, tend to be much softer and more supple, and will therefore command prices fluctuating between $30 and $40 each, depending on the sex. The most sought after hides are the New Jersey bucks, carrying market values of $50 each. These particular hides are extremely tough, and the natural oils provide an excellent natural weatherproofing which is highly prized for roofing materials. The female hides of the New Jersey tourist, however, are too tough and frequently chemically or genetically altered. The female hides can only be used for the crudest construction applications, thus yielding a bounty of only $10 per hide.
In the early history of Maine, the hunting of tourists provided many native Mainiacs with a viable income and livelihood. Tourists were abundant in those days, and hides were prized materials for some of the most luxurious homes along the coast. Years of over-harvesting, along with the decline in habitat, accompanied by the economic crunch, has limited the availability of tourists which we can safely harvest. I implore you, as responsible fellow hunters, to please obey and respect the current bag limits, conduct your hunting parties in a safe and humane manner, and resist the temptation to over-harvest this precious resource. Remember, only by preserving the species can we assure our children the thrill and experience of our cherished heritage of hunting tourists.