Move over, bear-baiting referendum. Maine’s hunting-and-fishing community has another fight on its hands — and this one has little to do with our furry, finned or feathered friends.

This one is personal.

On one side we have George Smith, who for 18 years served as executive director of the politically powerful Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and now writes an outdoors blog for the Bangor Daily News and a weekly op-ed column for the Kennebec Journal.

On the other we have David Trahan, a former legislator who now runs SAM and wishes Smith would stop mentioning his old job when sounding off on matters in which Smith and SAM lately see anything but eye-to-eye.

Things like Gov. Paul LePage’s re-election and, more specifically, what role SAM may or may not play in helping the Big Guy bag another four years in the Blaine House.

I know, it’s not exactly a wildlife issue — unless you consider LePage an untamed, well, you know. But as any Maine politician worth his salt knows, an endorsement from SAM and its 10,000-strong membership is a powerful weapon when it comes to winning statewide elective office.

That anointing process, based largely on questionnaires already completed with the utmost care by LePage, independent Eliot Cutler and Democrat Mike Michaud, will reach its climactic conclusion early next month when SAM announces its pick for governor.

Smith’s take: LePage has broken almost every promise he made to SAM back when he won its stamp of approval in 2010. Thus, if the organization endorses him again this time around, “I think that’s going to be a very hard case to make. I just feel that they’ll be putting themselves in a very vulnerable position.”

Trahan’s take: “Many people still see George as the face of SAM. And that kind of confusion is what’s caused us problems. And he just keeps doing it.”

Counters Smith: “I’ve been gone (from SAM) since 2010. Is that my fault?”

Counters Trahan: “It messes up our process.”

It all started on Monday with Smith’s near-3,000 word blog posting under the not-so-subtle headline “LePage Should Not Get Votes of Maine Sportsmen or SAM’s endorsement.”

In it, Smith laid out numerous promises that LePage made to SAM four years ago, all of which he says the Guv has pretty much ignored since taking office.

There’s LePage’s big-ticket pledge to use the state’s general fund to cover 20 percent of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife budget. (Currently, the department relies exclusively on license fees and other self-generated revenue.) Didn’t happen.

“That’s a pretty big broken promise!” wrote Smith.

There’s LePage’s promise to implement recommendations from a 2004 study of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s anemic customer-service and marketing operations.

“But he did none of this,” wrote Smith. “Nada. Nothing.”

There’s LePage’s thumbs-up to letting landowners hunt their own land on Sundays (“But (he) did nothing to initiate or authorize that.”) and to allow nonresidents to hunt alongside residents on the first day of firearms deer-hunting season (“Didn’t get that one done either.”)

Not surprisingly, Smith got hammered by LePage supporters who, upon reading his manifesto, called him everything from a “bully” (oh, the irony) to a shill for Cutler and/or Michaud. One reader even told Smith that he’d “stepped in something soft again.”

Smith, admittedly against his better judgment, reloaded with another blog posting on Wednesday titled “Criticism of LePage Brings Wild Crazy Just Plain Wrong Charges.” In that one, he recalled in painstaking detail his many years with SAM and, one by one, refuted all the wild, crazy and just plain wrong charges leveled at him.

Enter SAM’s Trahan.

In an email blast on Wednesday to numerous Maine media outlets, Trahan basically said that was then — and this is now.

“For the last four years SAM has worked closely with the administration while Mr. Smith has embarked on a career writing about issues that are often in conflict with the positions of our organization,” Trahan wrote. “It appears he is using his media access and past position and internal knowledge derived from his employment at SAM to force his political will on our process.”

Trahan went on to say that SAM “has asked Mr. Smith to stop using our name while advocating his personal political positions and it appears he is unwilling to do so. So we are again asking him to stop this practice.”

(Specifically, Trahan was alluding to Smith’s softening in his longtime opposition to a national park in Maine’s North Woods and a 2012 TV ad, produced by Smith with Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, calling for voluntary background checks during private gun sales.)

Smith, meanwhile, insists that he keeps referring to himself as SAM’s former leader precisely because too many people think he still has the job.

“So the main reason I mention it is to make clear I’m not speaking for SAM. And I’m not,” Smith explained.

Trahan also argues that Smith is “cherry-picking things that made this governor look bad.”

On the plus side, Trahan said, LePage has supported bills involving more land for deer yards, tax credits for investment in fisheries and making concealed-weapon permits confidential.

(About that last one: What do concealed weapons have to do with hunting? Is it easier to sneak up on a 16-point buck if it can see both your hands?)

From where Trahan now sits, Smith’s opinions since he left SAM “have gone, in a lot of cases, completely 180 degrees to the other direction.”

Interesting theory.

Here’s another: Under Trahan, SAM’s third executive director since Smith left four years ago, SAM has migrated steadily to the political right. To wit: Two of the more recent additions to its board are conservative Republican lawmakers Rep. Paul Davis, of Sangerville, who’s now running for the state Senate; and Rep. Dale Crafts, of Lisbon Falls, who’s seeking re-election.

That said, Trahan needs the ghost of George Smith like a Maine black bear needs a strategically placed jelly doughnut.

Smith sounds off in a blog or column, lamented Trahan, “and then my members catch wind of it and I get angry phone calls and people say, ‘I don’t want to be a member of SAM anymore.'”

Not Smith’s problem. And remember, while Smith no longer runs SAM, he’s still a member for life.

“I guess there’s no way to get rid of me,” Smith said. “Legally.”

Now he’s just baiting them.

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