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'On Sunday, you don't go hunting:' Mainers split on bill to allow Sunday bow hunting

The bill would allow bow and crossbow hunting only. (WGME)
The bill would allow bow and crossbow hunting only. (WGME)
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CAPE ELIZABETH (WGME) – There’s a new debate over hunting on Sundays in Maine.

The issue has come up dozens of times over the years, and now there's a new effort in the legislature to open up that day to bow hunting only.

It’s been a decades-long battle for hunters in Maine to go out on Sundays. This latest effort would just legalize bow and crossbow hunting. The hunters and lawmakers behind the proposal say this is a compromise.

"So with this bill, it makes a very fair compromise that it's only archery weapons that have a very limited range and lethal range," Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) said.

If passed, hunters would pay a $30 fee to fund things like outdoor education for young people.

Lawmakers claim it's popular, citing a Pan-Atlantic research poll that found almost 50 percent of Mainers polled supported this proposal and fewer than 30 percent opposed it.

Sunday hunting critics have long claimed landowners, where the hunters hunt, don’t want this.

“This sort of offsite idea of landowners don’t want this,” Jared Bornstein of Maine Hunters United for Sunday Hunting said. “Well, I’m a landowner. I think probably a few of us are landowners, and we all want it, so I challenge those who say that to come forward as landowners, not through proxies who are just going to generalize statements.”

Tom Doak is the executive director of Maine Woodland Owners, a proxy for landowners in the state.

He says about 80 percent of landowners in Maine allow hunting on their property, but that could drop significantly if this bill were passed.

“Almost half of the landowners that allow access now would close their property for hunting and about 25 percent would close it for all uses,” Doak said.

Other opponents of Sunday hunting say there’s a simple reason why the law hasn’t changed over decades of attempts.

“The majority of Mainers want to have that one free day a week where they can go out in the woods and enjoy themselves,” Maine Animal Coalition President Beth Gaille said.

Winnick Woods in Cape Elizabeth is one place that allows bow hunting and offers hiking trails for dogs to be off leash.

“It doesn’t really matter the likelihood that they’re going to be shot with a bow or a bullet, they want to have one day that they can go into the woods and feel at peace,” Gaille said.

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There have been 35 proposed bills to allow some type of hunting on Sundays over the past 45 years. The last effort failed about a year ago.

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