As it crosses the bridge into Kittery, the weary driver decides he needs a break. His passenger suggests a stop at the Kittery Trading Post. “OK, but not too long,” the driver concedes.
After a rest stop and a quick run through the hunting department they converge at the register – nonresident hunting and fishing licenses: $149 each; bear permits: $74 per; souvenirs for the folks back home such as maple syrup, balsam-scented cushions and Maine T-shirts for the kids: $96.50. Then it’s back on the road.
Riding along, the driver and passenger note the license plates of other vehicles headed south: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York – tourists hoping to beat the Labor Day rush. Summer’s not over yet, but it soon will be and the exodus has begun. Meanwhile the hunters continue north like salmon swimming against the tide.
The truck next exits in Fairfield and pulls into a convenience store. The gas tank is topped off for $87 and the passenger exits the store with $10.57 in beverages and junk food. As they continue northwest up Route 201, civilization slowly melts away. Small enclaves of gas station convenience stores and fast-food outlets are replaced by corner stores. Urban duplexes yield to single-family homes on increasingly larger lots. Fields become woodlands.
An hour later the passenger spots a sign, a large slab of wood cut into the shape of a bear and engraved with the name of a lodge. “There it is,” he says. “We made it.”
They’ve barely left the truck when the outfitter steps out to greet them. Handshakes and jovial conversation ensue as the trio gets reacquainted. The trip is an annual tradition for the New Jersey pair, something they eagerly await throughout the long, hot summer.
The outfitter is just as eager to see them. Deer hunting has waned with the declining herd and he increasingly depends on bear hunters to meet his expenses and keep a roof over his head.
After the formality of settling up – $2,400 apiece – the hunters are shown to their cabin.
The hunt begins on an up note when one of the Jersey boys connects with a fine black bear, his first in three years. That calls for more celebration with his partner, a generous tip for the guide and a trip to the local check station to register the kill. Being a game registration station is a big boost for these little stores. It draws successful and unsuccessful hunters who seldom leave without picking up a few necessities and non-necessities.
In chaos theory there is something called the butterfly effect, wherein a small change at one place results in large, important differences in a later state. The classic example is a butterfly flapping its wings, which sets off a series of events ultimately leading to a cataclysmic storm in a distant location. It serves as a lesson on how seemingly minor, innocuous actions could have significant consequences. A pair of New Jersey bear hunters may seem of little import to Maine’s economy, but they are a small part of a much larger equation. When theirs is combined with the input of similar hunters, thousands become millions of dollars. Those dollars represent a vital source of income to guides, outfitters, shop owners and countless other residents of remote regions who depend on hunters and fishermen to help them meet expenses, keep a roof over their head, and put food on the table underneath it.
With the demise of Maine’s deer herd, resident and nonresident bear hunters become of increasingly greater economic importance to people and regions who depend on their expenditures. It behooves us to be mindful of our actions, however small, and what impact they might have on preserving this tradition, and the economic viability of a large part of our state.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at: