There is no more divisive issue among Maine sportsmen and women than Sunday hunting.
I have no idea if that’s actually true, but it makes for a snappy first sentence. My knowledge of the subject is, to put it politely, nonexistent. Until recently, I was under the impression there was some kind of large animal called a Sunday (sort of a cross between a unicorn and an ice-cream dessert) that some folks wanted to shoot, while others preferred gelato.
Since I don’t hunt, I wouldn’t presume to tell those who engage in this activity whether Sunday hunting is a good idea. But I have noticed that hunters haven’t been able to resolve this issue to anyone’s satisfaction for roughly a millennium.
A fresh perspective might be required, by which I mean one with a best-used-by date that hadn’t expired about the time motion pictures added sound.
We’ve heard from those in favor, those opposed, landowners, poachers, legislators, columnists, communists, animal-rights activists and space aliens, all without coming within rifle range of consensus. Perhaps that’s because what’s being overlooked is the opinion of those most affected by an extra day of hunting each week:
The animals that get hunted.
To correct this omission, I asked several creatures that constitute legal game in Maine for their views. The information I gathered was incisive, instructive and (possibly) imaginary.
“There should be a day each week when hunting isn’t legal,” said a bull moose. “But it shouldn’t be Sunday. That’s the only day we have to run errands, and lots of places aren’t open on Sunday.”
“Just try to get something dry-cleaned on a Sunday,” a doe told me. “There’s no place available. If you need a plumber, you’re going to pay extra because plumbers don’t usually work then. And if something goes wrong with the car, forget about getting it fixed. The big box stores are open, but a lot of smaller places aren’t.”
A black bear offered a possible solution: “Instead of banning hunting on Sunday, they should ban it on Wednesdays. That way, we could get to the fabric store, the hardware store and the pot shop without any hassles. And all those hunters would have a mid-week day to run errands without having to miss out on time in the woods on weekends.”
“Lots of gun shops aren’t even open on Sunday,” a turkey pointed out. “If we wanted to shoot back, we couldn’t buy a firearm. That’s just not fair.”
The majority of the woodland creatures I surveyed favored changing the Sunday ban to a mid-week day. “I don’t care if it’s Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday,” said a ruffed grouse. “I can visit the hairdresser, schedule a doctor’s appointment or get to the liquor store without ruffling my feathers any more than they already are.”
The Sunday hunting ban is a remnant of old blue laws meant to keep the Christian Sabbath holy. But not only do lots of non-Christians not celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday, neither do most animals. “No matter what Walt Disney told you, a lot of us are atheists,” a duck admitted. “That’s why you never see us in church.”
While our furred and feathered friends make some solid arguments in favor of shifting the off day for hunting, their voices aren’t being heard in the Legislature and the offices of powerful fish-and-game bureaucrats. The reason is obvious. Animals aren’t allowed in the buildings where all the important decisions are made. The only exception is seeing-eye dogs, and seeing-eye dogs don’t seem to have strong opinions on Sunday hunting.
“We’d hire a lobbyist,” said a pheasant, “but what are we going to use for payment? Venison steaks? Beaver pelts? A nice mounted moose head? You can see why we aren’t willing to make that kind of deal.”
The Legislature failed to lift the Sunday ban again this year. Nevertheless, some woodland creatures are hoping that when such a bill is introduced in future sessions, it covers a broader range of activities than merely hunting.
“Clearly, we need one day a week when it’s not legal to play bagpipes,” said a rabbit. “And it wouldn’t hurt if they shut down accordions, too.”
This article originally appeared (in a slightly different form) in The Maine Sportsman. You can email me at email@example.com. Even on Sunday.