Charles Bullen Dunn, right, and Herbert Washington, both of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area, represent the dilemma of Maine hunting in the late nineteenth century.
The state and many businesses promoted the image of Maine as a hunting paradise and sought to attract out-of-state sportsmen as a way to boost the economy.
Hunting and fishing regulations and their enforcement seemed to some Mainers to favor the out-of-state sportsmen over the Mainers who wanted to hunt for food or economic reasons of their own.
An 1853 law banned out-of-state hunters from Maine, a prohibition that was lifted in 1870.
The Dunns traveled to the Ragged Lake area every year, spending a month or so camping, hunting, and fishing.
Hunting and fishing seasons overlapped and the Dunns recorded taking birds, deer, and a variety of fish during their August trips.
As many hundreds of photographs in private and public collections demonstrate, game was plentiful and hunters were proud to pose with their trophies.
Hunting did not always have the same face in Maine.
In 1830, a decade after Maine became a state, a law was passed that set the moose- and deer-hunting season at September 1 to December 31. It set no bag limits.
From the early 1850s to 1870, Maine banned out-of-state hunters
Some Maine hunters had, for many decades, taken advantage of the prolific game in the state and killed deer and caribou, especially, by the hundreds and shipped them to out-of-state markets.
Others took numerous deer or other game as food for families or logging camps.
Also popular since at least mid century was the practice of killing moose primarily for their hides, leaving most of the meat behind.
By the end of the nineteenth century, however, a new sensibility about natural resources was spreading.
A law passed in 1883 set up the argument between the "gentlemen" hunters and those who hunted as a livelihood.
The law forbid Sunday hunting, a provision that remains intact; restricted hunting with dogs, set game dates as October 1 to January 1, and set possession limits of one moose, two caribou and three deer.
It also beefed up enforcement of hunting laws.
In 1875, the National Sportsmen's Association began and Field and Stream began publication.
Both supported limits on hunting and fishing that would help conserve the resources. They also promoted ideas about ethical hunting and fishing.
The ideas the magazine and group promoted helped to spur passage of laws like the 1883 Maine law.
Many, in fact, thought the 1883 law tilted toward the interests of conservation and sportsmen's groups.
In 1893, a decade after the conservation law passed, Mainers formed the Maine Sportsmen's Fish and Game Association.
J. F. Sprague of Monson said of the group in 1896, "We would not kill any of God's mute creatures unnecessarily; we would not kill a deer or a trout except in open season and then only by the methods of the true sportsman, who always gives the game, the trout or the salmon all of their natural advantages in the fight.
"These are our cardinal principles and we need no word of encouragement from the watch towers of right and justice to keep us within these bounds.
"Our mission is rather to inculcate all others with the same adoration for these things which possesses our own souls."
Another group, the Maine Game and Protective Association began about the same time.
Ethical behavior essentially was defined as hunting for sport. Killing large numbers of animals, hunting with dogs, using "jack" lights for night hunting and similar tactics were seen as unsportsmanlike or unethical.
In addition to ethics, though, sportsmen's groups began to worry about over-hunting and diminishing numbers of game animals.
Gerrish Hunting Camp, North Twin Dam, ca. 1895
Item 13213 info
Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum
Conservation concerns prompted an 1891 law that prohibiting killing cow and calf moose. It was repealed two years later and reinstated two years after that.
Legislators continued to try to preserve the moose herd by shortening the hunting season, eliminating it altogether from 1915-1918, and then opening it on a limited basis until 1935, when moose hunting was banned until 1980.
The state reintroduced moose hunting in 1980 on a limited basis, then instituted a moose lottery in 1982. Hunters apply, hoping to have their name chosen and have the opportunity to hunt for moose.
Yet, even as conservation measures were enacted, the state and various businesses continued to promote the vitality of the Maine game resource.
This image of the Maine booth at the 1897 New York Sportsman's Show features dozens of trophy animals and fish.
Cornelia "Fly Rod" Crosby, who worked for Maine Central Railroad, organized the booth to try to attract New Yorkers to the Maine woods.
Crosby, credited with marketing Maine for hunting and fishing, recognized the economic value of the Maine woods and its fish and game resources.
She was interested in conservation because she wanted to make sure Maine could continue to benefit from the economic resource of hunting and fishing.
Not all Mainers agreed.
Among the vocal Mainers who opposed the new hunting regulations was Fanny Pearson Hardy, daughter of noted Maine hunter, fur dealer, and author of books about Maine wildlife Manly Hardy.
Fanny Hardy, writing in Forest and Stream, expressed the view that enforcement of the laws unfairly favored sportsmen and discriminated against those who made their living or fed themselves from Maine game.
She was opposed to conservation, but was against the use of legal restrictions against Maine farmers, lumbermen and others who relied on the hunting.
She was not alone in her criticism of the laws and ideas about hunting and fishing.
Nevertheless, conservation efforts continued and additional hunting restrictions became law.
Caribou hunting had ended officially in 1898. Few caribou remained in Maine by then.
Deer hunting dates and limits changed frequently.
In 1921, for example, deer hunting was limited from October 15 to December 14. Hunters could take two deer, one of which had to be a buck.
In 1925, the bag limit was reduced to one.
Among the other legal changes was the addition of hunting licenses.
Licenses helped wardens control the size of the hunt, but also raised revenue that the state could use to hire wardens.
Trapping also was an important source of livelihood for many Mainers.
They trapped a variety of animals, many for the fur, some as food sources.
Bear, marten, fisher, bobcat, coyote, fox, mink, muskrat, opossum, otter, raccoon, red squirrel, skunk, weasel, and beaver all can be trapped in Maine.
Successful hunt in the Aroostook Woods, ca. 1900
Item 16313 info
Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum
By 1900, Eric Wright notes, Maine was the fish and game capital of the East.
Part of the economic benefit of hunting and fishing to Maine was the fees paid to Maine Guides. Wright says guides earned more than game wardens.
Maine began licensing guides in 1897 and gave Cornelia "Fly Rod" Crosby license # 1.
Other economic benefits went to hunting and fishing camps and hotels, which advertised heavily in various publications, including the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad yearly publication In the Maine Woods.
Taxidermists, photographers and shops that sold clothing, boats, guns and other sportsman's supplies also relied on hunters and fishermen from Maine or from other states.
Maine now has a firearms deer season that runs essentially for the month of November. Hunters are permitted to take one deer annually.
An archery deer season is more limited, but begins early in September.
The bear season runs from September to roughly the end of November. One bear annually is permitted.
Game bird season is from the beginning of October to the end of December and turkey season is in May. Migratory game bird seasons vary.
Summing up the natural world romanticism of the end of the nineteenth century, J.F. Sprague of the Maine Sportsman's Fish & Game Association wrote, "Maine is the mecca at whose mossy and verdant shrines millions of earth worn pilgrims and toilers worship and receive the holy blessings of Nature in rest and invigorating recreation.
"The moose and the deer are their allies and ours and must be preserved."
For more information:
Dean B. Bennett, The Wilderness From Chamberlain Farm: A Story of Hope for the American Wilderness, Washington: Island press, 2001.
L.T. Carleton, Carleton's Pathfinder & Gazetteer of the Hunting and Fishing Resorts of the State of Maine, Augusta, 1899.
Julia A. Hunter and Earle G. Shettleworth Jr., Fly Rod Crosby: The Woman Who Marketed Maine, Gardiner: Tilbury House; Augusta: Friends of the Maine State Museum, 2000.
Edward D. Ives, George Magoon and the Down East Game War: History, Folklore and the Law, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988.
Eric Wright, Maine Game Wardens, Freeport: DeLorme, 1985.
This slideshow contains 21 items