June 3, 2023

Maine’s Number One Game Animal Getting No Attention

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Below is a graphic that shows the length of time it has taken the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) to release deer harvest data to the public over the past nine years. This includes this year, of which the harvest data has not been released as of this posting. The graphic was put together by a reader.

Many states that have deer and other game animal harvests, provide the public with harvest data, even more complex and containing more and better information in a matter of hours or days from the close of each season. Maine appears to be the slowest of them all.

For some it’s just the number of deer taken that they are interested in. Maine sportsmen don’t even get that in a timely manner. Spring and summer fishing is well underway, with the least of thoughts about the last deer hunting season. Maybe that’s the reason it takes approaching 6 months to get the data. Out of sight and out of mind?

For others, myself included, I like to examine all the data. As a matter of fact, I would like all the data collected on deer and used to calculate population estimates and how many, if any, permits will be issued. For those of us interested in better understanding of what is going on with deer management, things like pre harvest and post harvest information would be helpful. In addition, fawn recruitment rates, age structure, etc.

This year, as of today, sportsmen have been waiting 152 days for deer harvest data. That’s the longest time in the past nine years. The average over the previous 8 years has been 99.75 days. That in and of itself is abysmal, but why 152 days.

In George Smith’s article today in the Bangor Daily News, he says, “The sad fact is that the agency doesn’t know how many deer died this past winter, or how many deer we have in the state. Maine’s #1 game animal isn’t getting the attention and research needed to assure good decisions on harvest, habitat, and other critical issues. The Maine Game Plan for Deer has fallen far short of its goals.”

And maybe this dragging of the feet, while butterflies are counted, is a substantiation of Smith’s frustrated concern. In a state were once simple deer tagging numbers were readily published in the newspapers only hours after a busy hunting weekend, the Maine deer hunter has to wait 152 days…..and counting. I guess this is progress? In a day and age where information is instantaneous, 152 days to wait for deer harvest data? If I did my job that lousy, I would have been fired and would be some surprised if I hadn’t been. And I guess that’s progress too!

The person who developed this graphic used the start date for counting each year as December 15th. The muzzleloader season may end a few days before that. He included weekends and holidays. He used today’s date for the 2013 calculation but the report is not done, so it will likely be greater than 152 days. He used this calculator to do the dates. The dates on the online screens vary by location. If they did not have it proudly displayed he used the document date tag on the webpage.