Pigs In the Maine Woods?
By Bradford MacDonald

You know the Maine woods is home to deer, bear and moose. You may have heard of sightings of the occasional mountain lion or wolf. But did you know that the Maine woods has a number of pigs? I don't mean feral hogs and wild boar, for the real pigs in the Maine woods are bowhunters. Recently the Legislature finally passed a bill to allow crossbow hunting in Maine.

Unfortunately, thanks to the intense lobbying by the Maine Bowhunters Associations (MBA), the law is far too restrictive. The law allows the use of crossbows only for bear and deer hunting, only during the open firearm seasons on those species, and prohibits crossbow use in expanded archery zones. The result is to allow the potential crossbow hunter to hunt only two species and only at times and places where that same hunter could use a firearm. The reason for this is that the bowhunters do not want the competition from potential crossbow hunters, especially in the expanded archery zones.

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The expanded archery zones are generally in areas where there is an excessively high deer population and where firearm use is prohibited due to high human population density. Crossbows have the benefits of quiet operation and fairly short range when compared to firearms, much as handheld bows do. Yet crossbows have handling qualities and simplicity of operation and use similar to a firearm. These qualities make crossbows ideal for use in the expanded archery season and zones. But the bow hunters won't allow it.

Currently, bowhunters can hunt any legal species in Maine any place where hunting is legal and in many places where firearms are restricted. That is fine, but that's not enough. The bowhunters also have a special archery season on deer during the whole month of October when they may hunt deer throughout the State of Maine, and take deer of either sex, not just "bucks only". But that's still not enough. The bowhunters have an expanded archery season which runs for a full three months from September into December. During this long season the bowhunters can take additional deer over and above the deer they may take in the special archery season or the firearm seasons, and they may do it in areas with many deer and few hunters due to the restrictions on firearm use common to many expanded archery zones. A few years ago a bowhunter could take up to two "extra" deer in the expanded archery season. Presently, due to the desire to manage deer populations in the expanded archery zones (which was a primary reason for establishing the season) the bowhunter can take an UNLIMITED number of deer in the expanded zones.

Surely these extensive seasons and the opportunity to take an unlimited number of deer would be plenty for the bowhunters, right? Not for these oinkers. They don't want to allow the use of crossbows in the expanded archery season and zones because many more hunters would participate due to the effectiveness and ease of use of a crossbow as compared to a handheld bow.

Even with all these opportunities, bowhunters still can't control the deer populations in the expanded zones, which is why the bag limit was eliminated a couple years ago. The reason is that relatively few people hunt with handheld bows. Crossbows are ideal tools for managing excessive deer populations in areas where fireaIm use is restricted. Rather than continuing to allow a small group of bow hunters to kill unlimited numbers of deer, it would be better to allow the larger number of hunters that crossbow use would bring to the expanded zones to each take one or two "extra" deer. The result would be better management of deer populations and more revenue for IF&W.

There is no reason not to allow the use of crossbows in any hunting situation where a firearm may be used, and there is every reason to allow the use of crossbows in the expanded archery season and zones. The Legislature should lift the restrictions on crossbows and sweep the pigs aside.

Bradford S. Macdonald lives in Bangor.

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