In just a few short weeks, Maine voters will decide whether or not baiting, hounding, and trapping bears is an acceptable way to hunt as a means to reduce the growing population in the state. Such a vote will surely also have greater implications for hunting and wildlife conservation methodologies in general for the state of Maine, and greatly affect how and what are considered ethical, responsible, and sustainable hunting practices. Maine has always been an outdoorsman's paradise, but has experienced hunting-related catastrophes in the past, such as when French trappers nearly exterminated the beaver population in the 17 and 18th centuries. Maine's indigenous population effectively practiced sustainable hunting practices that environmentalists and hunters are seeking to replicate today in Maine's forests, parks, and hunting grounds.
As the United States and Canada become stricter in regards to acceptable methodologies and the total amount of game that can be harvested in a given season, hunters may find that hunting in the United States is becoming crowded, expensive, and ethically, as well as legally questionable in modern times. Adventurous hunters interested in leaving North America and heading off on an extensive hunting road trip elsewhere should consider an often overlooked corner of the world, Scandinavia, specifically driving through Finland or Norway, for greener hunting pastures and an accommodating and well developed tourism and hunting industry.
Hunting in Finland
Finland has the highest percentage of people who regularly hunt in all of Europe at 6%, with well over 300,000 hunting on an annual basis for either sport or commercial purposes. Most hunting occurs on private land, and like here in Maine, there is a huge level of respect for the land and allowing visitors to explore and utilize your property, appropriately and respectfully of course. Prospective hunters should seek one of the over 4,000 hunting clubs that lease private land for the hunting of all different game species of grouse, hare, deer, duck, and even moose, as well as fur game such as badger, beaver, fox, mink, and pine marten. In order to legally hunt in Finland, one most merely provide documentation from their home country showing that are legally allowed to hunt there, and pay a small administrative fee.
Sustainable Hunting in Norway
After Finland, Norway has the highest percentage of hunters relative to its population, with 4.75% of the population partaking in hunting on an annual basis. The Norwegian Association of Hunters and Anglers (NJFF) is the largest and only truly nationwide organization for hunters and fishermen in Norway, and works to maintain viable game and fish stocks to ensure sustainable and regular hunting and fishing in the future, while maintaining reasonable prices for hunters. Additionally, the NJFF works to promote hunting and fishing as legitimate forms for harvesting natural resources, and views hunting as a right for landowners and part of Norwegian identity. As support for the NJFF and its policies have grown amongst Norwegian hunters and fishers, game stocks have also increased, allowing more and more hunters to partake.
Where Will 2014's Hunting Season Take You?
As you prepare for your upcoming hunting excursion in Norway, Finland, or anywhere other than your home state, do some research with the NJFF and private hunting clubs in both Norway and Finland to prepare yourself for hunting regulations, best practices, and to take note of how environmental and public policy is increasing opportunities for hunting and adventure travel in these countries while opportunities in the United States, and Maine specifically, decrease in this regard. Hunting provides a sustainable livelihood for significant segments of Norwegian and Finnish society and is part of national identity, and these countries have led by example by enacting effective policy to protect natural resources while simultaneously expanding tourism and hunting opportunities. Ultimately, supporting an industry with responsible practices is the key to promoting and increasing opportunities for hunting and other outdoor activities in our home country and abroad.