Will constitutional amendments protect hunting?

by Jun 5, 2024Conservation, Hunting in Maine, Maine Hunters, Maine Outdoors, Wildlife Conservation, Women Who Hunt

Will constitutional amendments protect hunting?

When the International Order of Theodore Roosevelt met this spring in Arizona, they spoke about the need for constitutional amendments to help protect our hunting rights. They were focused on Florida and a few other states. I thought of New Jersey and their on again, off again bear hunt.  And I thought of a conversation that I was a part of following Maine’s win in the 2014 election to save our bear hunting methods. We wondered if a constitutional amendment would make sense to ensure we didn’t have to continually fight ballot initiatives.  The answer we were told was no.

A no because it would be too expensive and it wouldn’t actually protect anything. A constitutional right to hunting and fishing means just that; we can participate in those activities.  It does not protect the methods that we can use. It wouldn’t necessarily save a method like trapping or hound hunting from being targeted.

 

The Court Decides

We saw this play out in a recent ruling by the Maine Supreme Court in the case of Parker et al. vs Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, on the issue of Sunday hunting as it relates to Maine’s right to food amendment.

The Parkers’ argued that because of their work schedules and their children’s school commitments, they have limited time to harvest food through hunting. It is the same argument that a lot of people make when talking about wanting more time to hunt.

The court looked at the language of the amendment, Article I, section 25 of the Maine Constitution and focused on a few pieces; the definition of harvest and the second half of the Amendment itself.  In order to define harvest, they reviewed several definitions of what it could mean, from gathering a crop to catching, shooting and trapping fish or game for consumption. Given that it is a common phrase used when someone hunts an animal, they were comfortable concluding that the amendment was referencing hunting as a part of the right to food.

The second half of the amendment states that someone can have these rights “…as long as an individual does not commit trespass, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.”  Basically, you have these rights as long as you follow the law.

And we all know what Maine law states – Sunday hunting is illegal in Maine.  The Court’s conclusion was simple, “In sum, we hold that the right to hunt for food created by the amendment does not extend to illegal hunting, and therefore Maine’s longstanding Sunday hunting ban does not conflict with the Maine Constitution.”

As more states to push for protecting for hunting, fishing and trapping, I wonder if it will really work or if we will find ourselves in more battles, spending more money in the name of wildlife conservation.

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Meet The Author

Erin Merrill, author of And a Strong Cup of Coffee, is president of Women of the Maine Outdoors, a senior writer for Drury Outdoors, a contributor to the Northwoods Sporting Journal and passionate all things Maine, Hunting, and the Outdoors.

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