October 16, 2019

Overselling Maine’s Upcoming Deer Harvest Projections

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One has to appreciate the enthusiasm being shown by Maine’s brand new deer biologist, Kyle Ravana, when he states, according to John Holyoke of the Bangor Daily News, “Our harvest has been increasing since the hard winters of 2008 and 2009. For all intents and purposes, I think our population is back to what it was before those winters.”

I fully understand that Maine has to sell hunting licenses to stay in business and really, no really, I would like nothing more than to arrive at hunting camp this fall and actually see deer in the woods and then not closely followed by a pack of coyotes. I also will not argue the fact that from what I saw this summer while in Maine, there are more deer around than in the previous 3 or 4. But that doesn’t spell for a “banner” deer season and a bumper crop, nor does it do much for the future of Maine’s deer herd. It shouldn’t also get hunters’ hopes so high they think all is well with deer management in Maine.

Rookie or not, Ravana, should perhaps scale back his enthusiasm just a tad and cease with the truth stretching or covering up unwanted facts. There’s too many of us old codgers who have hunted the woods for many, many years (many before Mr. Ravana was born) and while some things might be failing, long term memory is usually the last to go.

It was just over a month ago that I first made commentary on statements being made about Maine’s deer herd. Please find that article at this link.

I don’t want to get bogged down in trivial pursuits here but would like to point out a few things. Mr. Ravana states that Maine’s “long-term average” in deer population is 217,000 and his estimate for this year is 203,000. This is mostly guess work based on assumptions. However, it is difficult at best to know whether this information can actually be substantiated because the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) does not make deer population estimates readily available and I have yet to have any of my requests for population data, including fawn recruitment rates and age structure answered.

Ravana also claims that the “long-term average” deer harvest is “around 27,000.” This sort of salesmanship reminds me of the young fisherman who was being taught by his father how to estimate the length of a fish he had caught when relating that story to friends and family. The father said, “If you catch a 9-inch trout, don’t tell anyone you caught a 9-inch trout. Tell them you don’t think it would go over 15 inches.”

Even if that was the “long-term average” and the protected harvest, as is being claimed, will run around 25,000-26,000, that’s a far cry from a banner year. In 1959 hunters took “around” 42,000 deer that year or should I say I wouldn’t think they took more that 60,000?

In my previous article I pointed out that between the years of 1945 and 1965, the average deer harvest was 36,112. In comparison, the past decade has averaged 24,766. If you get “around 27,000” out of that, more power to you.

Also pointed out was that Ravana estimated that the deer herd had recovered to levels “before those winters” [those two infamous back to back severe winters of 2008, 2009]. That’s really nothing to brag about. The five years previous to the two severe winters, the average deer harvest was “around” 29,638. Again, that’s a far, far cry from a banner year.

But the real issue I want to point out here is that even using MDIFW’s excuse (note very little credibility do they place on predator destruction of deer and moose) that it was the severe winters that killed off all the deer, nothing has been done to allow for the next series of bad winters. What I see is MDIFW anxiously selling more and more “Any-Deer” permits, especially in places they shouldn’t be, in order to generate income. Such a move is disastrous to the health of a deer herd, or any other for that matter. Wouldn’t it be prudent to keep population densities higher than “average” and yet still remain within desired deer/sq. mile? Very few places in Maine have achieved population density goals. Evidently selling more tags is more important.

And how do all these numbers add up to what is written in Maine’s Plan for Deer and the current Deer Management Plan? I’ll have to investigate that and report back in.

While it is being reported that the world is flushing $1 billion a day down the toilet “to tackle global warming” don’t hold your breath waiting for Maine’s deer herd to keep on growing. Why? It was during the winters between December of 2007 and March of 2009 that MDIFW claims the deer all died. During this same time frame, Al Gore and his minions where raking in billions of dollars while telling people we were all going to die from a warming planet. I’m actually waiting for global warming. Things are much better when people and wildlife don’t have to suffer severe winters.

And when wildlife management is based on fictitious nonsense about man made global warming, lady luck becomes the wildlife biologist. And, gasp! What will Maine do if the predictions that we are heading into a long people of cooling are true? Another gasp!

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