Summit Treestands
Bowhunting public land in Maine
Contributors to this thread:
Altek 09-Nov-19
From: Altek
Some who bowhunt or plan to bowhunt Maine may not be aware of restrictions that apply when on public land. In some ways restrictions exceed (by rule or simply by MDIFW staff interpretation, depending on who you ask) those for private property, which leads to an interesting question of whether the Maine Legislature and Maine IF&W are over-regulating bowhunting to the point of 'dissuading' interest in it.

For example, treestands are almost a necessity when bowhunting any area where tree/shrub cover is sparse or normal cover is reduced by late-season foliage loss. Under such conditions close-range hunting from the ground, with a bow, becomes impractical. Did you know you need to obtain (before hunting) a written permit from MDIFW to use any treestand on any public land open to hunting? Or that you can only use a limited number of stands? Are you aware that ALL stands must contain a visible tag identifying you the owner...i.e., your name and legal address...for all who pass by to see? Did you know that MDIFW wants you to tell them the latitude and longitude coordinates for all of your public treestand locations when you apply for written permission, even if you haven't scouted or otherwise set foot on the public property yet? Yup, that one's a real head-scratcher. Did you know you must remove all of your stands shortly after the season ends or risk forfeiture of them to the state? Did you know that permanent treestands built/existing on state property are technically illegal even if MDIFW 'passively' allows them to exist? Finally, did you know that MDIFW policy is 'variable' regarding climbing does not specifically exclude them from the established rules mentioned above even if you only use the stand for a few hours before removing it on the same day? Again, it depends on who you ask...?!

It is already quite difficult for bowhunters not owning their own land to hunt in Maine. Quality hunting areas and opportunities are shrinking, not only because of increasing license costs and significant private land posting but also due to the ever-increasing state rules restricting what used to be a simple and traditional right of hunting access. As with public land, state law also requires written permission from private landowners before erecting or using treestands. With each passing year these permissions are getting harder to obtain for honest hunters that try to follow the confusing myriad of rules and do the 'right' thing, but it's not usually a problem for those who ignore them. We've all been there...a landowner is politely asked for permission which is politely denied, and the following day a line of cars and hunters appear to hunt that same spot without any permission whatsoever...and to top it off YOU are indirectly blamed for the transgression by landowners and the MDIFW as part of the illegal/unethical hunting crowd. Whether on public or private land, when it comes to hunting in Maine nice guys really do tend to finish last under current state policies and approaches.

So as bowhunters who don't own land there isn't much you can do. Just try to know the regulations, cross your fingers when asking landowner permission and hope the redneck crowd doesn't win the day too often. Judging from growing trends (less overall interest in hunting, more posted land, higher license fees, and more complicated rules) bowhunting in Maine may be dying or at least may become practical only for those who own huntable land tracts or know someone who does (something the MDIFW success stats don't make much of an attempt to decipher).

Good luck with YOUR situation this hunting season, and stay safe out there.

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