Hunting, fishing, and trapping are key parts of Maine’s outdoor economy and an important part of our heritage. So it troubles me greatly when I hear or read ugly statements about these outdoor activities.

In a column published here in August, Karen Coker of a new anti-hunting and anti-trapping group, WildWatch Maine, sharply criticized beaver trapping, claiming “Mainers are becoming increasingly intolerant of the brutal methods used to trap these charismatic animals.”

I sure hope that is not true. And I’ve certainly never known beaver to be described as charismatic. Destructive, certainly, aggressive, yes, damaging, for sure, but not charismatic. And today’s trapping methods are not brutal.

Beaver flood our roads, cut down our most valuable trees, and even chase us out of our favorite trout pools. At least, I was once chased out of a favorite pool by a very aggressive beaver. And I had to put metal sleeves on some of the trees on our lawn to protect them from beaver, which live in the stream that passes by our house. State fish and wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock recently complained, “We have beaver everywhere. They are a nuisance.”

North Country Press recently published my new book of hunting and fishing stories, titled “A Lifetime of Hunting and Fishing.” The stories were written over the last 30 years, including one about trapping.

“Dad also taught me to trap,” I wrote. “Early mornings before school, he always accompanied me to check my traps on a nearby stream. It was exciting to find a muskrat in a trap. And we returned to that same stream to hunt ducks. I have a vision of a flock of black ducks flying low over our decoys and Dad saying ‘Shoot!’ We shot at the same time and each got a duck.”

WildWatch Maine has also been very critical of hunting in the past. I do respect anyone’s opinions about our hunting and fishing heritage when they are respectfully presented, but that is not the approach taken by Coker and her group.

I can only wish that they would read my book and understand and respect my outdoor heritage. I do know that hunting has changed a lot in my lifetime. One story in the book is a column I wrote after hearing a Maine TV newscaster say, while introducing a segment at the end of the deer season, “some of the images might be disturbing.” That news piece showed a dead deer in the back of a truck.

I wrote, “My, how hunting has changed in my lifetime. We would mount our dead deer on the front hood of our car and parade up Winthrop’s Main Street, then hang the deer in the front yard for all to see and admire. Yes, admire. I don’t believe anyone found the dead deer to be disturbing.”

On the good side of change, hunters today are much more attuned to conservation and actually pay for most of the good work of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. And most of us are really focused on good landowner relations, realizing how fortunate we are to be able to hunt on private land.

If the WildWatch people would read my story about Dad’s last hunt, they would gain an appreciation of what hunting is all about. It is most definitely not about killing an animal.

Dad was in the hospice unit at the veteran’s hospital at Togus for six months. He wasn’t able to hunt in the spring but when the October turkey season opened, he spotted some turkeys on the lawn and inquired as to whether he might hunt them, Guns are prohibited on the property, so I got another idea.

I wheeled Dad out to my Subaru one October morning, loaded him into the front passenger seat, and we drove around Windsor and Somerville to all the places we’d hunted turkeys with our friend Harry Vanderweide. It was a wonderful morning, full of great memories.

Astonishingly, as we approached the strawberry farm where Dad shot his first turkey, we spotted a bunch of turkeys. I stopped the vehicle and we watched the birds walk down through the field. Dad urged me to get out and see if I could get close. I did not have my shotgun, but I did get out, to please Dad, and crept down through the woods adjacent to the field, getting close enough to the birds to shoot one if I’d had a gun and wanted to do so.

Dad got quite a kick out of it. And we counted it as our 54th year of hunting together.

Three weeks later, Dad died, the night before the opening day of the firearms season on deer. I’ve often said I think he died that night because he was so aggravated he couldn’t hunt the next day.

I wear a piece of Dad’s clothing every day now when I am hunting, so he’s still there, with me.

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.