A wining partnership.
That kill might seem unremarkable, but she was the third doe I'd taken in as many days from the same stand, and my fifth bow kill for the season. That's noteworthy because I was hunting in Maine, a state that, until 1997, had an annual bag limit of one deer, regardless of the season or weapon. Furthermore, I was hunting in one of Maine's designated Game Sanctuaries, an area that had been closed to hunting by Legislative decree for decades.
This was all the result of an initiative of the Maine Bowhunters Association (MBA) called the Bowhunters and Landowners Information Program (BLIP). About four years ago MBA Legislative Representative Mike Rovella got the idea for BLIP from a similar program in Pennsylvania. The initial impetus was to provide more opportunities for bowhunters, but the timing fit nicely with recent efforts by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W) to control burgeoning deer numbers in parts of the state with high human populations. So, the two organizations combined their efforts to develop a mutually beneficial program.
Here's how it works. The MBA offers a course in Advanced Bowhunter Education and gives a list of students who complete the course to MDIF&W, which in turn provides the names of BLIP hunters to municipalities or landowners that report nuisance deer problems. It's a win-win-win situation: bowhunters get a place to hunt, landowners get relief from excessive numbers of deer, and the Department doesn't have to waste its limited resources dealing with problem wildlife.
The program works because it allays most fears that landowners might harbor about allowing strangers on their land. First, BLIP hunters are endorsed by MDIF&W. Second, in order to qualify for BLIP, bowhunters must: 1) Pass a mandated bowhunter safety course under guidelines set by the National Bowhunter Education Foundation; 2) Have no revocation of any MDIF&W license of any kind in the past 10 years; 3) Be at least 18 years of age; and 4) Have taken at least one big game animal or turkey with a bow in Maine within the past four years.
Qualifying hunters then Cake an Advanced Bowhunter course. This three-hour course concentrates on landowner relations, ethics, safety, and professionalism, and instructors stress the importance of landowner trust and cooperation. Students are reminded that hunting on private land is a privilege and that cooperating BLIP landowners may have special conditions or procedures Chat hunters must follow.
Often, BLIP archers hunt in tight quarters, under nontraditional conditions. To avoid alarming neighbors, hunters may have to enter and exit the woods in street clothes, changing into and out of their camo garb in the woods. Landowners may request that any deer killed are removed whole and eviscerated off the property. They may also ask that archers hunt only on certain days or at certain times. By following such specific instructions, hunters build trust with landowners--and probably improve the image of hunters in general.
Instructors also familiarize BLIP students with urban and controlled hunting, explaining deer population biology and discussing alternate methods to population control and why, in most cases, they don't work. Each student is also given educational materials on these subjects to share with landowners. Upon completing the course, BLIP hunters are also issued a card that identifies them as Advanced Bowhunters. They can then show their cards to landowners when asking permission to hunt. In effect, they become ambassadors for the sport.
Although still in its infancy, the program is already showing signs of success. In December 2002, MDIF&W recruited BLIP hunters for a controlled hunt in the Wells Game Sanctuary. Twenty-three BLIP hunters took 27 does during the two-week hunt for an 85 percent success rate. Even better, despite some opposition from local residents, the hunt went off without incident. The hunt was repeated in 2003, and only eight deer were taken, suggesting the BLIPsters were doing an effective job at reducing deer numbers.
BLIP provides an excellent model for other state or regional bowhunting groups to follow. For more information on BLIP, contact: The Maine Bowhunters Association, PO Box 5026, Augusta, ME 04332; www.mainebowhunters.org; or the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Landowner Relations Program, 8 Federal Street, Augusta, ME 04330; (207) 287-8091; www.mefishwildlife.com.
The author is an outdoor writer and al-laround good guy from Pownal, Maine.
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|Title Annotation:||Neighborhood Deer|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2004|
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