Thursday, February 27, 2003

Scarborough hunting ranch escapes ban

Published in the Current

A so-called “hunting ranch” in Scarborough has been spared from a proposed law that would have banned the hunting of game animals inside enclosures like the 200-acre Bayley Hill Hunt Park here.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Tom Bull, D-Freeport, and Rep. Matt Dunlap, D-Old Town, failed in a legislative committee Monday.

“Fortunately, (Monday) it was completely squashed,” said Nick Richardson, manager of the Bayley Hill Deer and Elk Farm and the adjoining hunt park. “It was really a storm in a teacup.”

Hunting ranches are typically several hundred acres of forest and wild land, Richardson said. They are stocked with deer and elk raised on farms like Bayley Hill’s farm. The animals are then released into wildland-type areas with fences around them.

Hunters pay the owners of the ranches hundreds and even thousands of dollars to hunt on the ranch’s land and are sent home with trophy heads as well as meat processed from the carcass of any animals shot.

Critics of the ranches say the practice is inhumane, effectively hunting an animal that has been penned up. Ranch supporters, including Richardson, say the animals are allowed to run free in natural environments, where they are hard to find and shoot, and added that hunters are hunting for meat as well as trophies.

“They’re not just coming to shoot an animal for its horns,” Richardson said.

Further, economic and regulatory pressures on supplier farms mean it is already difficult to make ends meet. Without being able to sell trophy animals to hunting ranches, the business would fail, Richardson said.

Hunting ranches bring tourist dollars into the state, helping the economy, Richardson said.