October 23, 2019

Percentage of Maine’s “Big Bucks” Continues to Decline

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Below is s copy of a chart that is created each year by a good friend of mine. Since 1999 it shows the annual deer harvest, as provided by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The chart makes several comparisons, as you can see.

Once the deer harvest numbers are official, this chart compares the current harvest numbers with past years’ as a percentage of the deer harvest in 1999. The number of “Big Bucks” harvested and reported (200 lb. minimum), as obtained from the Maine Sportsman Magazine, is shown. From there, several comparisons by percentage are shown. These comparisons are based on the 2000 numbers as they are the highest reported during this 15-years span.

As you should be able to tell, the percentage of Big Bucks harvested, compared to the total deer harvest, since 2000, has been mostly on a steady decline. Obviously with a reduced harvest one would expect the total number of Big Bucks to also be reduced. But what is troubling is that the decline of Big Bucks is not proportional to the overall harvest.

But what does that tell us? The obvious would be to state that there appears to be an age structure shift in Maine’s deer herd. And what causes a change in age could be one of several things and/or a combination of them. Without all the data, my ideas would be nothing but guesses. It could be nothing more than a corrective shift downward in age to bring the herd in line with management goals, or it could be at the other end where there are just too many Big Bucks that have been and repeatedly get taken each year…but I doubt that. It is possible that in addition to a reduced overall deer population in Maine, there’s also been a loss in natural foods and nutrients that cause deer to grow large in body mass. Or, the Big Bucks are being harassed by predators prohibiting normal weight gain.

But here’s a question and something to think about. One might wonder if it is a natural phenomenon that during a period when a deer herd is shrinking, the percentage of Big Bucks would not necessarily mirror that of the overall herd? If that were true, then can we surmise that as the herd grows in numbers, the percentage of Big Bucks increases as well? My pea brain logic would tell me the exact opposite. But hell, what do I know?

BigBucks2014

Note: On the above chart please notice that the deer harvest for 2014 is an estimate. When the official number is made available, hopefully this year, I’ll post the correction.

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