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Lawsuit Against Sunday Hunting Ban Will Go to Maine’s Highest Court

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Two Mainers complained that a statewide prohibition of hunting on Sundays affects their ability to harvest food for their family. And now, the first legislative challenge the ban has ever faced is on its way to the state’s supreme court.

If you’re on the eastern seaboard, hunting on Sunday could very well get you in trouble. That’s because many states in the region ban it, in some capacity or other. It’s a practice that dates back to the United States’ Puritan origins — and it’s still enforced in Maine.

There, two residents are escalating the issue all the way to the Maine Supreme Court.

In April 2022, Joel and Virginia Parker brought a lawsuit before the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, challenging the agency’s decision to ban Sunday hunting under its recently adopted right-to-food amendment. Superior Court Justice Deborah Cashman dismissed the suit in a “brief” Nov. 30 ruling, Maine CBS affiliate WGME 13 reported Tuesday.

But the Parkers allege that the measure restricts their ability to provide for their family, WGME said. That’s because the ban, added to their work and family responsibilities, stops them from hunting more than one day a week, the two hunters told the outlet.

The Parkers’ suit is the first formal challenge in court to the statewide ban, which has existed since 1883. And even though Cashman struck it down, one advocate working to get the ban repealed thinks the lawsuit is nowhere near finished.

Lobbyist: Dismissed Suit Will Still Move Forward

Lobbyist Jared Bornstein is the executive director of Maine Hunters United for Sunday Hunting. It’s the first group in the state dedicated to removing the ban, and has played a supporting role in the Parkers’ months-long challenge.

Bornstein said the superior court’s decision to dismiss the case — rather than take action to discredit it — indicates positive progress.

“[The court] didn’t try to nullify any of our arguments, or agree with any of the attorney general’s arguments,” he said. “It’s great for us.”

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey argued against the suit’s validity because the Sunday hunting ban complies with Maine’s constitution, WGME said. However, the outlet said, his arguments culminated in his motion to dismiss the case.

Maine’s voter-supported right-to-food amendment passed in November 2021. The text says that all individuals have the “right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing,” as long as they do not commit “trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources.”

The superior court dismissed the Parkers’ suit knowing it would draw an appeal,” Bornstein said.

“Dismissing it, they left it ripe for appeal,” he said. “It’s hard to describe to people how a dismissal can be a good thing, but [this means] it was always going to go to the state supreme court. It was a gift for us that they decided to just go with the same arguments as usual.”

Maine’s attorney general’s office does not comment on pending cases, as a policy.

Understanding Maine’s Sunday Hunting Ban

The Parkers’ case represents the latest of many previous ingresses on Maine’s Sunday hunting ban. WGME and The Piscataquis Observer noted an estimate that at least 35 “challenges” to the law have surfaced in the past 40-45 years.

Most Sunday hunting proponents in the state share some form of the Parkers’ perspective, the Observer said. For them, access to food is the key issue. Critically, the bulk of the opposition to Sunday hunting comes from private landowners.

Their lobby is pivotal in Maine, where the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife estimates that a massive 94% of forest lands are privately owned. Large-scale land investors and some timber investment management organizations (TIMOs) — such as Weyerhaeuser and Irving Woodlands — account for much of that group.


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Private landowners open roughly half of that land to the public, according to officials, amounting to a 10-million-acre “gift.”

“[I]n order to preserve it, everyone who ventures outdoors needs to understand the contribution that landowners make,” the department stated. “Most private landowners are happy to allow outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing, on their land, as long as their property is treated with respect.”

The Piscataquis Observer noted most private Maine landowners prefer the ban. That’s mostly because it preserves one day a week when they won’t encounter hunters in the woods. But Bornstein said the corporate- and investor-heavy ownership profile waters down that argument.

“For most of the multinational or multi-state operators, Sunday’s the only day that there’s no one on their land — including them, because there’s no one working there.” Bornstein said that 9-to-5 workers dominate the operations’ largely blue-collar workforce.

The legal firm representing the Parkers is currently drafting the appeal, based on Bornstein’s contact with the partners.

When that appeal lands in the state’s highest court, it could result in Maine disappearing from a very short list of states that still disallow Sunday hunting. Other states on the East Coast have bans, but with some exceptions.

The only other state that completely bans all hunting on Sunday is Massachusetts — where hunters have also made reasoned arguments to change the rule.

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