Wednesday, September 3, 2014
I wish we could spend all the time, energy and money that will be spent on “Question One” instead working toward curing childhood diseases, improving our states educational system or combating domestic violence but unfortunately, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has decided that for the second time in a decade, Mainers need to raise and spend MILLIONS of dollars defending our wildlife management practices and prove that the black bears in Maine are being treated fairly. Now don’t get me wrong, being a Registered Maine Guide and passionate outdoors person, I certainly have a love and appreciation for wildlife but when I visit the states rural areas and see the level of abject poverty that exists, I wonder how an out-of-state special interest group has managed to push our state priorities this far out of whack. It’s plain to see that HSUS cares for wildlife but how much do they really care for their fellow man?
I realize that the folks running HSUS ”ain’t from around heah”, meaning they do not live and work in this state and as such have a real disconnect with the people and politics of Maine. If they were more “localized” maybe they would realize that Mainers are donating millions of their hard earned dollars trying to save Maine’s bear hunt from going the way of the woolly mammoth, money that could have instead been invested in our struggling state economy. Most of the people donating are comprised of Registered Maine Guides, sporting camp owners and non-profit organizations that operate barely above the poverty line and often struggle to put food on the table for their families. The people unable to give the least are once again being asked to give the most.
People, myself included, certainly have a disconnect with the meat they eat and when buying a cellophane wrapped supermarket steak we often don’t take a moment to think about the animal that gave up its life, so that we can consume its flesh. Animals die so that we may eat and the way that commercial animals die is sometimes a brutal and unsettling process. I don’t like to see animals suffer and I wish that every animal killed in a slaughterhouse or shot by a hunter passed peacefully into the light . . . but that is an unrealistic and infantile view of the world. Killing things for meat is a messy business and NOBODY respects that more than a hunter, who must kill, butcher and eat the bear, deer or wild turkey they take from the Maine wilds.
I have hunted bear for over 5 years and during that time invested over 30 days in pursuit of black bears over bait. During those many evenings spent sitting in my tree stand staring through the dense woodlands at a small pile of oats and molasses, I was fortunate enough to see 5 black bears. The first bear I saw, I estimated to weigh 125 pounds. Bears are notoriously hard to estimate weight but because I was hunting over bait, I was able to study the bear for almost 15 minutes before ultimately deciding it was a small bear and not in the size class I was looking to harvest. The second, third and fourth bear I saw was a large sow with two cubs. While the sow was well over 200 pounds it was easy for me to identify it was with cubs because of my high perch in a nearby tree and their distraction caused by the pile of bait. Had I been still hunting and needed to make a quick identification and shot, I wonder if I would have been able to determine the sow had cubs before shooting. The last bear I saw was well over 300 pounds. As the monsterous bruin ambled out of the woods, I raised my rifle and upon looking through the scope noted that the available light did not allow me to place the cross hairs precisely on the bear’s vitals, ensuring a humane shot and quick death. I let that bear pass as well as the others, because as hunters we all have a code of ethics that we use to judge and control our actions. This code of ethics operates on an even stricter limit than what is allowed by the law and is driven by our love of the Maine wilderness and the animals that inhabit it. Bait sites are not the tool of lazy hunters they are the tool of law abiding, highly ethical hunters who know that in order to properly identify and harvest adult bears humanely, hunters need time to study and examine the animal they plan to shoot. In Maine’s dense woodlands, this level of study and examination is not just difficult when still hunting bears, it is practically impossible.