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Coös commissioners take interest in proposed deer-baiting rules

Martin's Agway co-owner Sonny Martin of Lancaster asked the county commissioners at their Wednesday meeting to write a letter to the state Fish and Game Department in opposition to changing today's game rules governing deer baiting. The board agreed to ask Fish and Game how the deer herd numbers served to spark the proposed rule changes. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
May 14, 2014
LANCASTER — Sonny Martin, co-owner of Martin's Agway on Route 3 North (393 Main St.) with is wife Diane, would like to keep the state Fish and Game Department's deer-baiting rules just as they are currently in the state's rulebook.

Martin said that realistically hunting — both with bows and guns — from a deer-stand requires baiting — or use of an attractant, as he prefers to call it — to lure one or more does that, in turn, brings in one or more bucks.

This kind of deer hunting, which has become common in the last 15 years or so, is good for elderly hunters and for those who, like himself, are "cripples," unable to walk great distances in the woods. Martin explained that he had suffered an accident on July 20, 2013. "A tree hunter who is bow-hunting has to have a deer that is 20 yards away to make a kill, and that angle makes it a safer shot," he said.

At a April 3 hearing in Lancaster, Fish and Game had said that it did not have statistical data to prove that any harm to the size of the herd has already taken place because of today's rules, Martin said. As described at that meeting, rule changes are being proposed because of the Department's concern about the future and the potential that this fast-growing practice could result in too many deer deaths.

Martin pointed out that he is not only a lifelong deer hunter but that he also sells attractants and deer-feeding supplies at his Agway store, doubling his interest in this hot-button issue. Hunting and wildlife watching in Coös, including in the Unincorporated Places where the commissioners act as selectmen, continues to be of economic importance, drawing wildlife-loving visitors to this economically challenged region.

The commissioners voted unanimously, 3 to 0, in favor of a motion made by District 3 Commissioner Rick Samson of Stewartstown to engage in a two-step process of letter-writing to the state agency: the first letter to give Fish and Game a chance to detail its statistical data and to explain its rationale behind proposing deer-baiting rules changes based on the estimated size of the herd in Coös County; and a second one, if the first reply is not convincing, to oppose any rule changes.

Wildlife Program Supervisor Kent Gustafson explained in a Thursday telephone interview that the Department had incorporated less stringent changes in the proposed rule than had been originally proposed due to the comments heard at public hearings. Now, in order to protect the resource, the Department proposes a 29-day season in most parts of the state.

Gustafson said that as soon as Legislative Services has edited the proposal for grammatical errors, it would go before the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR) at the state Legislature for approval.

The new rules for 2014-2015 will be reflected in the new state Hunting and Trapping Digest, published in August.

Commissioner Paul Grenier said that he had heard complaints about proposed deer-baiting rule changes from constituents at the recent Androscoggin Valley Fish and Game Association annual banquet.

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